Valeria Parella (2016, Mirco Cattelan per Amici di Piero Chiara; WIkimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)
Valeria Parella, 2016 (Photo: Mirco Cattelan per Amici di Piero Chiara via WIkimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)

Born in Torre del Greco, near Naples, in 1974, Valeria Parrella has gained a remarkable place in the Italian cultural landscape during the last decades. In her literary production, Naples, where most of her works are set, is a very significant reality. Parrella made her debut as a writer with a collection of short stories, Mosca più balena (2003), for which she was awarded the Campiello Prize for best new writer and the Amelia Rosselli Prize, among others. The second collection, Per grazia ricevuta (2005), was shortlisted for the prestigious Strega Prize and won two awards: the Renato Fucini Prize and the Zerilli-Marimò.

In 2008 Parrella published her first and most successful novel, Lo spazio bianco. The story problematises the interconnectedness of a woman's identity as both mother and daughter. For the protagonist, becoming a mother entails coming to terms with her own mother and simultaneously interrogating her identity as a daughter in search of the kind of mother she wants to be. The tone of the novel combines a disillusioned observation of the reality experienced by the protagonist with a light touch of humour, as the author confronts life and death, pain and joy, discouragement and hope. The book won the Premio Letterario Basilicata. The complexity of the female protagonist attracted the attention of film director Francesca Comencini, who based her film Lo spazio bianco (2009) on Parrella's novel. The film entered the official competition at the Venice Film Festival in 2009 and was widely appreciated by both critics and the public. It was awarded the Fedic, the Pasinetti and the Pro Life prizes. Other works by Parrella, Il verdetto (2007), Ciao maschio (2009), Ma quale amore (2010) – which was awarded the Tomasi di Lampedusa Prize – and Lettera di dimissioni (2011) also deal with female protagonists at odds with cultural and social conventions.

A significant part of Parrella’s literary production is devoted to theatre: monologues, such as Il verdetto (2007) and Ciao maschio (2009), short plays, such as L’Incognita Mah, published in Tre terzi (written by Parrella with Diego De Silva and Antonio Pascale, 2009), a libretto, Terra, written for the composer Luca Francesconi (2011) and Antigone (2012), a modernised version of the ancient Sophoclean tragedy, produced by the Teatro Stabile di Napoli. Antigone was awarded the Le Maschere del teatro Italiano Prize in 2013. In Assenza: Euridice e Orfeo (2015) Parella returns to focus on classical literature, revisiting with originality the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

In 2015 she contributed to the politically engaged volume La qualità dell’aria. Storie di questo tempo, edited by Nicola La Gioia and Christian Raimo, with the short story ‘Verissimo’. In the same year ‘Memorie di un cieco’ appeared in Quaderni urbinati di cultura classica, and a collection of short stories titled Troppa importanza all’amore was published by Einaudi. In 2016, Parella participated in an anthology of short stories related to the game of tennis: Smash: 15 racconti di tennis. In the following years her novels Enciclopedia della donna. Aggiornamento (2017), Almarina (2019), Quel tipo di donna (2020), and La fortuna (2022) saw the light.

A unifying feature of Parrella's writing is that it portrays the efforts of Italian women to fulfil their desires and ambitions within a society which, in many respects, is still conservative and hostile to them. Enciclopedia della donna offers a playful update of the original version of the encyclopedia who came out in the 1960s, adding information on sex. Almarina tells the story of the bond between two women in a juvenile jail, addressing the topics of freedom and solitude with intimate, political voice. The themes of friendship, bond, and freedom reappear in Quel tipo di donna, which tells the journey of four friends, all women ‘of a certain type’, who grew up with the example of other women who fought, loved, and lived before them. With La fortuna, Parella returns to Naples and to her interest in ancient times and history to retell the story of the destruction of Pompeii in an updated and intimate way.

Parrella has recently returned to writing short stories, the genre that crowned her with success at the beginning of her career, publishing a long short story, L’archeologo (2020, in double version Italian and English), a collection of stories for children titled Favolette (2022) and the collection Piccoli miracoli e altri tradimenti (2024). She has also translated Rumer Godden’s novel, Il fiume (2018), and contributes to a number of newspapers and magazines, including La Repubblica, L’Espresso, and Grazia.

Parrella’s works have been translated into Arabic, Bosnian, Catalan, Czech, French, English, German, Hungarian, Polish, Spanish, and Swedish.

Compiled by Aureliana Di Rollo; Updated by Laura Lazzari (Switzerland)
 

Bibliography

Short stories

Mosca più balena (Rome: Minimum Fax, 2003)

Per grazia ricevuta (Rome: Minimum Fax, 2005)

‘Il premio’ in Roberto Saviano et al.: Sei fuori posto (Turin: Einaudi, 2010)

‘Verissimo’ in La qualità dell’aria. Storie di questo tempo ed. by Nicola La Gioia and Christian Raimo (Rome: Minimum Fax, 2015)

Troppa importanza all’amore (Turin: Einaudi, 2015)

‘Memorie di un cieco’ (Quaderni urbinati di cultura classica, 110:2, 2015, pp. 197-198)

‘La sentinella’ in Sandro Veronesi et al.: Smash: 15 racconti di tennis (Milan: La Nave di Teseo, 2016)

L’archeologo (Neoneli: Comune di Neoneli, 2020)

‘La principessa di Boboli’ in Viola Ardone et al.: Favolette, illustrated by Francesca Carabelli (Milan: Feltrinelli, 2022) 

Piccoli miracoli e altri tradimenti (Milan: Feltrinelli, 2024)

Novels 

Lo spazio bianco (Turin: Einaudi, 2008) 

Ma quale amore (Milan: Rizzoli, 2010)

Lettera di dimissioni (Turin: Einaudi, 2011)

Tempo di imparare (Turin: Einaudi, 2014)

Enciclopedia della donna. Aggiornamento (Turin: Einaudi, 2017)

Almarina (Milan: Mondadori, 2019)

Quel tipo di donna (Milan: HarperCollins, 2020)

La fortuna (Milan: Feltrinelli, 2022)

Plays, Monologues, Librettos

Il verdetto (Milan: Bompiani, 2007)

‘L’Incognita Mah’ in Diego De Silva, Valeria Parrella, and Antonio Pascale, Tre terzi (Turin: Einaudi, 2009)

Ciao maschio (Milan: Bompiani, 2009)

Terra (Milan: Ricordi, 2011) [libretto]

Antigone (Turin: Einaudi, 2012)

Assenza: Euridice e Orfeo (Milan: Bompiani, 2015)

Il segreto del talento. Commedia per musica (Venice: Marsilio, 2023)

Translations by Parrella

Godden, Rumer: Il fiume [Translation of The River, 1946] (Milan: Bompiani, 2018) 
 

Translations into Foreign Languages

Catalan

Lespai blan [Translation of Lo spazio bianco by Sara Serrano] (Manresa: L’Agulla Daurada, 2024)

Chech

Za projevenou milost [Translation of Per grazia ricevuta by Alice Fremrova] (Prague: Paseka, 2012)

English

‘Things I’ve Forgotten’ [Translation by Antony Shugaar] (The Literary Review, 49.1, 2005, p. 8) 

For Grace Received [Translation of Per grazia ricevuta by Anthony Shugaar] (New York: Europa Editions, 2009)

‘Right in the Eyes’ [Translation by C. D. Rose] in ReBerth: Stories from Cities on the Edge ed. by Jim Hinks (Manchester: Comma Press, 2012) 

‘The Prize’ [Translation of ‘Il premio’] in Roberto Saviano et al.: Italian Ousiders Stories (London: Quercus, 2013)

French

Le ventre de Naples [Translation of Mosca più balena by Dominique Vittoz] (Paris: Seuil, 2009)

Le Temps suspendu [Translation of Lo spazio bianco by Dominique Vittoz] (Paris: Seuil, 2010)

German

Die Signora, die ich werden wollte [Translation of Mosca più balena by Constanze Neumann] (Munich: SchirmerGraf Verlag, 2005; Reinbek: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, 2007)

Der erfundene Freund. Vier Erzählungen [Translation of Per grazia ricevuta by Suse Vetterlein] (Berlin: Klaus Wagenbach Verlag, 2006)

Zeit des Wartens [Translation of Lo spazio bianco by Anja Nattefort] (Munich: C. Bertelsmann Verlag, 2009)

Liebe wird überschätzt (und andere Menschliches Geschichten) [Translation of Troppa importanza all'amore by Annette Kopetzki] (Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2017)

Enzyklopädie der Frau [Translation of Enciclopedia della donna by Gudrun Jäger and Catherine Hornung] (Vienna: Folio Verlag, 2018)

Versprechen kann ich nichts [Translation of Mosca più balena by Verena Von Kuskul] (Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2021)

Hungarian

A fehér tér [Translation of Lo spazio bianco by Balkó Ágnes] (Budapest: Helikon, 2010)

Polish

Za otrzymane laski [Translation of Per grazia ricevuta by Katarzyna Skórska] (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Pauza, 2021) 

Spanish

Lo que ya no recuerdo y otros cuentos [Translation of Mosca più balena by Romana Baena Bradaschia] (Madrid: Siruela, 2007)

Swedish

Väntrum [Translation of Lo spazio bianco by Ida Andersen] (Stockholm: Astor Förlag, 2011)

Avskedsbrev [Translation of Lettera di dimissioni by Ida Andersen] (Stockholm: Astor Förlag, 2012) 
 

Criticism

Bellocchio, Maria Letizia: ‘Francesca Comencini’s Single Moms and Italian Family Law’ in Italian Motherhood on Screen ed. by Giovanna Faleschini Lerner and Maria Elena D’Amelio (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, pp. 157-173)

Benchi, Paola: ‘Naming the Child: Entering the Maternal Genealogy in Valeria Parrella’s Lo spazio bianco’ (Aigne, Italian Issue, 3, 2013, pp. 3-15) available online at http://www.ucc.ie/en/aigne/e-issues/volume03italian/

Brighenti, Sonia: ‘Valeria Parrella e il tabù della maternità’ in La trasgressione nella letteratura femminile contemporanea italiana. PhD dissertation (Harvard University, 2012, pp. 102-124)

Consolati, Claudia: ‘Motherhood and Interrogation in Valeria Parrella’s Novel Lo spazio bianco(Italica, 91.3, 2014, pp. 508-522)

Di Rollo, Aureliana: ‘Motherhood and Female Identity in Oriana Fallaci and Valeria Parrella: A Case of Literary Matérnage?’ (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, 2016, pp. 35-46]) available online at http://www.fus.edu/intervalla/special-volume-1-to-be-or-not-to-be-a-mother-choice-refusal-reluctance-and-conflict

Ferrer, María Reyes: ‘La representación de la maternidad en la literatura italiana contemporanéa’ (Romance Quarterly, 67.2, 2020, pp. 86-100)

Iacovella, Anna: ‘Post-Feminism in Valeria Parrella's First Novel Lo spazio bianco’ (Italica, 92.1, 2015, pp. 138-148)

Karagoz, Claudia, ‘Motherhood Revisited in Francesca Comencini’s Lo Spazio Bianco’ in Italian Women Filmmakers and the Gendered Screen ed. by Maristella Cantini (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, pp. 103-119)

Lucamante, Stefania: ‘Almarina di Valeria Parrella fra forma letteraria e rapporti sociali’ (Italian Studies, 78:1, 2023, pp. 123-137)

Marcus, Millicent: ‘Unnatural Child Birth: Naples, the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit, and the Blank Space of Possibility in Francesca Comencini’s Lo Spazio Bianco' in Italian Motherhood on Screen ed. by Giovanna Faleschini Lerner and Maria Elena D’Amelio, Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, pp. 195-209) 

Özler, Peyker: Queering Practices of Women's Temporality: A Reflection on the Selected Works of Elvira Dones, Valeria Parrella, Romana Petri and Simona Vinci. PhD dissertation (University of Exeter, 2022)
 

Interviews/in the Media

D'Alessio, Carla: ‘Una quasi ragazzina che scrive solo storie di donne’, Interview with Valeria Parrella (La Repubblica, 17 December 2007)

La Porta, Flippo: ‘Napoli: Valeria Parrella’ in Uno sguardo sulla città: Gli scrittori italiani contemporanei e i loro luoghi (Rome: Donzelli, 2010, pp. 53-56)

Rittatore Vonwiller, Letizia: ‘Valeria Parrella e il nuovo libro di racconti: “L’erotismo è il mio happy end”. L’intervista’ (Amica, 8 April 2024)