Gianna Manzini

Gianna Manzini was born in Pistoia, on March 24, 1896. She was the daughter of Leonilda Mazzoncini and of Giuseppe Manzini, whose anarchist politics conflicted with the highly bourgeois values of his wife’s family. The couple separated after her father’s continued bouts with the authorities resulted in his exile in 1921 to nearby Cutigliano. There he was attacked by fascists and died of a heart attack in 1925.

Manzini and her mother moved in with her family in Pistoia until 1916 when they relocated to Florence. There Manzoni finished secondary school and went on to the university, where she prepared for a teaching career. She taught school for only a few months, however, before the first chapter of her novel Tempo inamorato appeared in the Florentine newspaper, La Nazione, in 1924. Eugenio Montale praised the novel, fully published in 1928, for its “intelligence” and “rare sensitivity.”

With her short-story Passeggiata, published in 1929, she began her collaboration with the periodical Solaria, whose mission was to bring to Italian readers the groundbreaking work of writers like Marcel Proust, André Gide, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway. The journal challenged a classical canon that privileged the tradition of Alessandro Manzoni and Giacomo Leopardi.

In 1930 Manzini married Bruno Fallaci, the literary critic of La Nazione, but that marriage soon ended, and Fallaci moved to Milan in 1933 to write for Corriere della sera. Around that time Manzini met Enrico Falqui, a literary critic and editor of Poesie. The new couple moved to Rome. There she edited Prosa from 1945 to 1946 and continued publishing her work in such literary journals as Campo di Marte, Letteratura, Oggi, La Fiera Letteraria, Milano-Sera, and Gazzetta del Popolo.

Manzini turned increasingly to writing novels, winning the Premio Costume (1945) for her Lettera all’editore (Game Plan for a Novel), the Premio Soroptimist (1953) for Valtzer del diavolo, the Viareggio Prize (1956) for La Sparviera, the Premio Marzotto (1961) for Un’altra cosa, the Premio Napoli (1968) for Allegro con disperazione, and the Premio Campiello (1971) for Ritratto in piedi (Full-Length Portrait). Sulla soglia (Threshold) was published in 1973. Always publicly oblique about her personal life, she revealed many of its most intimate details through her writing. Manzini died in Rome on August 31, 1974.

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