Eleonora Mazzoni was born in 1965 in Forlì and currently lives in Rome. An Italian actress and writer, she completed a degree in Modern Literatures at the University of Bologna under the supervision of Ezio Raimondi and graduated in acting from the Scuola di Teatro in Bologna under Alessandra Galante Garrone’s supervision.
She made her stage debut as the lead in I due gemelli veneziani (1995) directed by Franco Branciaroli. She played roles in several plays such as Troilo e Cressida (2000) directed by Maurizio Panici, L’impresario delle Smirne (2002), La cuoca (awarded the Diego Fabbri prize, 2005) by Augusto Zucchi with whom she had also worked in Il Decamerone (1999), and Niente sesso, siamo inglesi (2008).
Her first cinema role was with Citto Maselli in Cronache del terzo millennio (Venice Film Festival, 1996) with whom she also worked in Il compagno (1998). She starred in Tutta la conoscenza del mondo by Eros Puglielli (Berlin Film Festival, 2001), Volevo solo dormirle addosso by Eugenio Cappuccio (Venice Film Festival, 2004), Il compleanno by Marco Filiberti (Venice Film Festival, 2009) and L’uomo che verrà by Giorgio Diritti (Rome Film Festival, 2009), winner of the David di Donatello award for Best Film in 2010, among others. Mazzoni also starred in TV dramas such as Elisa di Rivombrosa (2002 and 2004), Il giudice Mastrangelo (2004), Il bambino sull’acqua (2005), Colpi di sole (2007), and Il commissario Manara (2007).
She debuted as a writer with the novel Le difettose in 2012, which was partially inspired by personal events and drew on her knowledge of assisted reproductive technologies (ART): she experienced fertility issues and turned to IVF before giving birth to twins. Narrating in the first person, 39-year-old Carla tells of her obsessive pursuit of motherhood through IVF. The difficulties she encounters are increased by the fact that she lives in Italy, a country which boasts the most restrictive laws in the field of assisted reproduction, the so-called ‘Law 40’, and where the Catholic Church condemns these procedures. The dramatic tone of Carla’s quest is softened by the smart use of irony and recourse to the teachings of classical literature. The novel was a longseller and was reprinted in 2021. The play based on it met with the same interest and success: Le difettose – directed by Serena Sinigaglia and starring Emanuela Grimalda – debuted at the ‘Festival della mente’ in Sarzana in 2014 and then toured Italy. The play was also staged in Germany. The author’s interest in the topics of fertility, ART, and IVF has not been limited to creative writing: in 2016 Mazzoni published a popular essay on assisted reproduction, In becco alla cicogna!, with an afterword by Italian gynecologist Carlo Flamigni (1933-2020), internationally renowned in the field of assisted reproduction.
The novel’s French translation, Les Fivettes (2018), was the only Italian book translated into French presented at the 33rd edition of the ‘Comédie du Livre’ in Montpellier. Excerpts from Le difettose were read in the Italian original by Mazzoni and in English translation at the third workshop of the CCWW AHRC-funded Motherhood in post-1968 European Literature Network on ‘Changing Models of Motherhood’ (18 January 2013). The excerpts in English were later published in the online supplement of creative contributions to the volume Trauma and Motherhood in Contemporary Literature and Culture, edited by Lazzari and Ségeral (2021), together with an essay written by Mazzoni specially for the occasion and an interview with her conducted by the editors.
Mazzoni’s output subsequently expanded to other genres and topics. In December 2013 her short story ‘Un Natale come tanti altri’ was published in Racconti di Natale together with an unpublished work by Carlo Collodi. Her second novel Gli ipocriti appeared in 2015. Pursuing her personal obsessions, Mazzoni investigates the Catholic religion and its effects on people and their conscience. At the heart of this novel are Manu, a 15 year-old girl, and her Italian Catholic family, who belong to one of the most intransigent and fundamentalist religious movements on the national scene. After discovering her father’s duplicitous life, the protagonist begins questioning and challenging her family and environment. 2016 saw the publication of a biography of Saint John the Evangelist titled La testa sul tuo petto. Sulle tracce di San Giovanni, which was part of a series of 13 books commissioned to different authors by the publisher Edizioni San Paolo. Other texts followed: the script of the play Schiaparelli life on Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, which opened at the ‘Festival del Teatro Napoli’ in 2019, directed by Carlo Bruni and interpreted by Nunzia Antonino; a story for the anthology In vino fabula (Ristampa Edizioni, 2019) on wine production in the Lazio region; Caterina, una di noi, a text performed by Iaia Forte at the ‘Festival Caterina Sforza di Forlì’ in 2020; and a short story in 30 minuti. Fotogrammi di storie, a collection of 30 one-minute stories inspired by films and originally published in the cinema magazine 8½, edited by Cristiana Paternò (Istituto Luce Cinecittà, 2020).
Mazzoni’s writings portray either fictional characters in search of their identity or the lives of strong and remarkable historical figures. In Le difettose Carla renegotiates normality and comes to terms with her female identity after IVF fails; in Gli ipocriti a teenage girl in search of identity expresses doubts and rebels against her hypocritical religious family. Her biographies retrace the extraordinary lives of Saint John the Evangelist, the anti-conformist Italian stylist Elsa Schiaparelli, and the Renaissance noblewoman Caterina Sforza.
She was appointed Artistic Director of the Festival Caterina Sforza di Forlì for 2022.
Compiled by Laura Lazzari (Bellinzona)
Novels and Short Stories
Le difettose (Turin: Einaudi, 2012; 2021)
‘Un Natale come tanti altri’ in Carlo Collodi and Eleonora Mazzoni: Racconti di Natale (Perugia: Graphe.it Edizioni, 2013) [short story]
Gli ipocriti (Milan: Chiarelettere, 2015)
La testa sul tuo petto. Sulle tracce di San Giovanni (Cinisello Balsamo: San Paolo, 2016)
‘Le difettose’ in Lo straniero che ci abita ed. by Marisa Fiumanò (Rome: Castelvecchi, 2021, pp. 63-71) [excerpt from Le difettose]
‘Le donne difettose che chiedono un figlio alla scienza sappiano che cosa le aspetta’ (Panorama, 11 April 2012, pp. 107-108)
In becco alla cicogna! La procreazione assistita: istruzioni per l’uso (Milan: Biglia Blu, 2016)
Translations into Foreign Languages
‘The Defectives’ [Translation of excerpts from Le difettose by Adalgisa Giorgio and Eliana Maestri] in Trauma and Motherhood in Contemporary Literature and Culture: Creative Part, Online Supplement, ed. by Laura Lazzari and Nathalie Ségeral (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021, pp. 14-22)
Les Fivettes [Translation of Le difettose by Paola Casadei] (Montpellier: Chèvre-feuille étoilée, 2018)
La Porta, Filippo: ‘Mazzoni, rinascere dalla provetta’ (Il Messaggero, 26 June 2012, p. 19)
Lazzari, Laura: ‘Quando la scienza fallisce: Maternità negata e ridefinizione della “normalità”’ (Intervalla: Platform for Intellectual Exchange, Special issue: To Be or Not to Be a Mother: Choice, Refusal, Reluctance and Conflict. Motherhood and Female Identity in Italian Literature and Culture – Essere o non essere madre: Scelta, rifiuto, avversione e conflitto. Maternità e identità femminile nella letteratura e cultura italiane, ed. by Laura Lazzari and Joy Charnley, pp. 61-73) available online at https://www.fus.edu/intervalla/special-volume-1-to-be-or-not-to-be-a-mother-choice-refusal-reluctance-and-conflict
Reyes Ferrer, María: ‘La maternidad a través de la literatura italiana contemporánea: breves consideraciones acerca de la ciencia y la generación de la vida’ (Lectora, 26, 2020, pp. 151-165)
Lalli, Chiara: ‘Le difettose: un figlio a tutti i costi’ (Il Mucchio, May 2012, pp. 58-59)
Lazzari, Laura and Nathalie Ségeral: ‘In conversation with Eleonora Mazzoni’ in Trauma and Motherhood in Contemporary Literature and Culture: Creative Part, Online Supplement ed. by Laura Lazzari and Nathalie Ségeral (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021, pp. 23-26)