Thrilling, stylish essays about everything from flying carpets and Doctor Zhivago to God and Shakespeare, by a rediscovered Italian writer.
Christina Campo published only two short collections of essays in her lifetime: Fairy Tale and Mystery (1962) and The Flute and the Carpet (1971). The Unforgivable and Other Writings brings together both volumes, along with a selection of essays on literature and an autobiographical short story, offering readers of English the first full-length portrait of a writer who has long been admired in Italy and abroad.
Campo's subjects range from the canonical to the esoteric. She writes stylishly about Shakespeare and Doctor Zhivago, as well as flying carpets, sprezzatura, and the theophagic origins of the Latin liturgy. Her passion for Marianne Moore and T. S. Eliot makes her a modernist, but like these American counterparts she is a modernist preoccupied by the deep past and by her desire to escape from personality through sustained attention to form. For Campo, writing was a spiritual discipline, and her sentences are at once wonderfully and wildly alive and serenely self-effacing. "I have written little," she once said, "and would like to have written less."
About the Author
Cristina Campo (1923–1977) was born in Bologna and brought up in Florence. A congenital heart malformation kept Campo out of school and social life for much of her childhood, forcing her into a reclusion enlivened by her reading. A bona fide autodidact, she had by her teens begun to read deeply in Italian, French, German, Spanish, and English literature. After World War II, Campo moved to Rome, where she became acquainted with Eugenio Montale, Curzio Malaparte, and Roberto Bazlen, among others. Intensely private, she almost always published under pseudonyms (Cristina Campo being one of them) and translated—Simone Weil, Katherine Mansfield, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf—far more than she wrote. Although she had always been a Catholic, in the 1960s Campo’s faith became more fervent; she spent long periods in convents and strongly opposed the Second Vatican Council’s relinquishment of the Latin liturgy. Her heart continued to cause her serious trouble throughout her life, and she died in Rome at the age of fifty-three.
Alex Andriesse was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1985. His stories, essays, and poems have appeared in Granta, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Prodigal, and Literary Imagination. He has translated several works from Italian and French, including Bernardo Zannoni’s My Stupid Intentions, available from New York Review Books, and the first two parts of François-René de Chateaubriand's Memoirs from Beyond the Grave. He is an associate editor at New York Review Books.
Kathryn Davis is the author of eight novels, most recently The Silk Road, and a memoir, Aurelia Aurélia. She is the senior fiction writer on the faculty of the writing program at Washington University.
"Christina Campo was an anchorite with worldly manners [and] the face of a fifteenth-century Tuscan statue. She lived amid contradictions, between hope and despair, passion and scorn, gentleness and rage. She had a sovereign sense of limits and frontiers, but her soul was immoderate. She longed for the unknown homeland, the God hidden behind the visible gods." —Pietro Citati
"Campo's creativity was a vocation in the truest sense; always at a remove, indifferent to attention or success....Perfection was her theme, aesthetic as well as moral." —Jhumpa Lahiri