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Birth and Death of the Housewife (Nascita e morte della massaia)

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Original Language: Italian | 256 pp. | August 2018

2 Seas Represents: World Excl. French and English rights

Rights sold: USA (SUNY Press, WEL)

English translation available. French translation available soon

German + Italian rights sold, but reverted and available again

LITERARY FICTION | CLASSIC

“The novel’s magisterial combination of forms—from the diary to the drama to the reading journal to the fable—indisputably earns Masino a place in the pantheon of great modernist masters.” — Review of Contemporary Fiction

Paola Masino’s most controversial novel that provoked Fascist censorship for its critical portrayal of marriage and motherhood.

Stepping out of her beloved trunk full of bread crumbs, dust, spider webs, books, and ragged funeral ornaments, the young protagonist of Paola Masino’s most controversial novel realizes that her fate is al- ready sealed. She will have to conform to society’s expectations of a woman: her wild imagination will have to be controlled, her intelligence kept at bay. In short, she will have to become a Housewife.

Subject to Fascist censorship before its first publication in 1945, Birth and Death of the Housewife offers a surrealist criticism of Fascism and the rigid notion of womanhood it promoted. In her depiction of a woman’s struggle to play a role that simply does not correspond to her desires, Masino expresses a frustration and a rebellious instinct rarely found among her contemporaries.

Defying interpretations and standing alone among the heroines of twentieth-century Italian literature, Masino’s Housewife remains an uncomfortable, enigmatic figure whose impudent determination to challenge the bulwarks of traditional female roles reaches beyond historical boundaries and resonates powerfully with contemporary readers.

A versatile intellectual and a remarkable figure in twentieth-century literary and artistic circles, Paola Masino (1908–1989) wrote novels, short stories, poems, librettos, and worked as a translator and as a journalist.