Ebe Cagli Seidenberg_photo_vdecola S (1)
Ebe Cagli Seidenberg (photo courtesy of Valery DeCola)

Ebe Cagli Seidenberg was born in Ancona, Italy, on the Adriatic Sea, on 23 February 1915. She was raised in Rome in a middle-class Jewish family which, like the majority of Italian Jews, considered itself assimilated. Both her parents were well educated: her father, a businessman who had lost his fortune during World War I, taught applied mathematics in a technical high school, while her mother worked as an editor of the International Red Cross publications and published several novels and children’s books under the pseudonym of Fiducia. Ebe was one of five children, three daughters and two sons. One of her siblings, Corrado Cagli, was a well-known artist.

She received her formal education in Rome (including a university degree) and left Italy for the United States right after Mussolini’s government passed the 1938 racial laws. In the US, she obtained her doctoral degree in Romance Languages at Johns Hopkins University. There she met her future husband Abraham Seidenberg, a mathematician with whom she moved to Berkeley, California, in 1945. In her new setting, she started her literary activity under the supervision of Wallace Stegner, and in 1957 published her first novel, Before the Cock Crows, with Little, Brown and Company, in English, under the pseudonym of Bettina Postani. Several positive critical reviews of this book inspired her to continue writing, but interestingly she chose to write all her subsequent works in Italian. After her husband’s death in the late 1980s, she moved back to Rome permanently. Her published work amounts to nine volumes of novels and short stories, five of which make up a ‘cycle’ devoted to the theme of exile, Ciclo dell’esilio obbligato (1975-1991; Cycle of the Forced Exile), and are centred on experiences of deracination, liminality, memory, and identity. Ebe Cagli Seidenberg died in Rome in 2002.

Compiled by Evelyn Ferraro (Santa Clara, CA)


Before the Cock Crows (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1957) [under the pseudonym of Bettina Postani]

L’incantatore di serpenti (Foggia: Bastogi, 1984)

Ciclo dell’esilio obbligato (1975-1991) includes:

  • Le sabbie del silenzio (Milan: Union Editore, 1975; repr. Bologna: Bora, 1998)
  • Il tempo dei Dioscuri (Rome: Edizioni Ca’ d'Oro, 1980; repr. Bologna: Bora, 1996)
  • Gente sul Pacifico (Foggia: Bastogi, 1982; repr. Bologna: Bora, 1998)
  • Quando i santi marcerannoTre storie d’America (Foggia: Bastogi, 1983; repr. Bologna: Bora, 1997)
  • Come ospiti: Eva ed altri (Rome: Carucci, 1991; repr. Bologna: Bora, 1996)

Casa in vendita: un’esperienza personale (Bologna: Bora, 2001)


Bedarida, Raffaele: Corrado Cagli. La pittura, l'esilio, l'America (1938-1947) (Rome: Donzelli, 2018)

Di Genova, Giorgio: Cagli: La collezione Ebe Cagli Seidenberg (Bologna: Bora, 1987)

Ferraro, Eveljn: ‘Between Italy and America: Exile and Suspension in Ebe Cagli Seidenberg’s Il Tempo dei Dioscuri’ (Carte Italiane, 2.5, 2009, pp. 181-198) available online at http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/8z158439

—: ‘Drawing Testimony, Coming to Writing: Ebe Cagli Seidenberg’s Le sabbie del silenzio and Il Tempo dei Dioscuri’ (NeMLA Italian Studies. Special Issue: The Jewish Experience in Contemporary Italy, 37, 2015, pp. 140-164) available online at https://works.bepress.com/eveljn-ferraro/5/

—: ‘Jewish Refugee Women, Transnational Coalition Politics, and Affect in Ebe Cagli Seidenberg’s Come ospiti: Eva ed altri’ (California Italian Studies. Special Issue: Italia Senza Frontiere/Borderless Italy, 9.1, 2019) available online at https://escholarship.org/uc/item/0p82z5nn

Gissi, Alessandra: ‘Migranti, esiliate o rifugiate? Le italiane nell’“intellectual wave” (Italia-Stati Uniti, 1938-1943)’ in Lontane da casa: Donne italiane e diaspora globale dall’inizio del Novecento a oggi ed. by Stefano Luconi and Mario Varricchio (Turin: Accademia University Press, 2015, pp. 97-113) available online at https://books.openedition.org/aaccademia/895?lang=en

Klein, Shira: Italy’s Jews from Emancipation to Fascism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), especially Chapter 5, ‘Imagining Italy: Italian Jewish Refugees in the United States’ (pp. 131-155)

Lettieri, Michael and Rocco Mario Morano: Ritratto d’artista: Ebe Cagli Seidenberg tra realtà della vita e realtà estetica (Ottawa, Canada: Legas Publishing, 2021)

Lucamante, Stefania: Forging Shoah Memories: Italian Women Writers, Jewish Identity, and the Holocaust (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)

Luconi, Stefano: La faglia dell’antisemitismo: italiani ed ebrei negli Stati Uniti, 1920-1941 (Viterbo: Sette Città, 2007)

Pontecorboli, Gianna: America, nuova terra promessa: storie di ebrei italiani in fuga dal Fascismo (Milano: Brioschi, 2013)

Salsano, Roberto: ‘Dimora ed esilio nella scrittura narrativa di Ebe Cagli Seidenberg’ (Studi medievali e moderni, 2, 2002, pp. 317-333)

—: ‘Esilio coatto e solitudine esistenziale nella narrativa di Ebe Cagli Seidenberg’ (Campi immaginabili, 26-27.I-II, 2002, pp. 154-164)