Born in Torre del Greco, near Naples, in 1974, Valeria Parrella has gained a remarkable place in the Italian cultural landscape during the last decade. 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. More short stories appeared in the following years. The collection Per grazia ricevuta (2005) was shortlisted for the prestigious Strega Prize and won two awards: the Renato Fucini Prize and the Zerilli-Marimò Prize. Mosca più balena and Per grazia ricevuta have been translated into Spanish, German and English, while Lo spazio bianco has been translated into French and German.
In 2008 Parrella published her first and most successful novel, Lo spazio bianco. 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 Prize, the Pasinetti Prize and the Pro Life Prize. 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 unifying feature of Parrella's writing is that it portrays how Italian women try to fulfil their desires and ambitions within a society which, in many respects, is still conservative and hostile to women. Lo spazio bianco 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-figure 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.
A significant part of Parrella’s literary production is devoted to the 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.
Parrella also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines, including La Repubblica, L’Espresso and Grazia.
Compiled by Aureliana Di Rollo
Mosca più balena (Rome: Minimum Fax, 2003) [short stories]
Per grazia ricevuta (Rome: Minimum Fax, 2005) [short stories]
Il verdetto (Milan: Bompiani, 2007) [play/monologue]
Lo spazio bianco (Turin: Einaudi, 2008) [novel]
‘L’Incognita Mah’ in Valeria Parrella, Diego De Silva and Antonio Pascale, Tre terzi (Turin: Einaudi, 2009) [play]
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, 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
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)