Dolores Prato


Dolores Prato is a major but sometimes neglected Italian author.

She is perhaps most well-known for Giù la piazza non c’è nessuno (Nobody is in the Square), in which she recounts her childhood in an odd, rich family at the beginning of the twentieth century. The book has a strange history: its first version, published by Einaudi in 1980, was revised and significantly changed by the author Natalia Ginzburg, who reduced it to 300 pages (from the original 700) and removed the novel’s linguistic peculiarities. However, Dolores Prato was not happy with the edit and she rewrote the book (when she was almost ninety). Her version was finally published in 1997.

She also wrote Campane a San Giocondo (Bells in San Giocondo): published in 1963, the novel is about Don Pacì, a revolutionary priest who fights against the reactionary attitudes and inhuman ideas of his fellow clerics.

The short, brilliant Scottature is a good starting point for getting to know this author.

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Scottature (Burnings), Macerata: Quodlibet, 1996

A young girl, the niece of an important cleric, is going back home for a few days from the convent where she studies. She has to face the death of her mother and a secret about her older sister, about both of which the nuns in the convent had always refused to tell her anything. The “burnings” of the title are the difficulties and sorrow of life, from which the convent, she has been told, will protect her. But back from her holidays she decides that she wants those burnings, she wants to live.

When it was published in Italy, it attracted brilliant reviews. The critics all mention Prato’s ability to tell this story with both brutal honesty and irony.


  1. Laura Bennett says:

    I enjoyed Scottature. I hadn’t realised it was autobiographical until I had finished it and was rather surprised. The poetic style put me in mind of Isabel Allende. As a short story it is a tantalising glimpse of convent life. I would have thought it would be more successful in translation in a collection with Prato’s other autobiographical works rather than as a stand alone story.

  2. Monica says:

    To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of Dolores Prato before I ran across this very short story of hers. And, to be even more honest, I’m glad I hadn’t. I believe that, with Dolores Prato, it does happen to you what should be happening with every book, every author you might encounter: you get totally absorbed, completely engrossed in the Word. Your astonishment is only increased by ignoring who’s concealed behind the words you’re reading. Much more than the Fact – which, nonetheless, seems just perfect in its lack of redundancy, in its marvellous, meagre simplicity – the Word, in Dolores Prato’s writing, is just so powerful that you couldn’t believe how an author like this has passed almost totally unnoticed in Italian history of literature. Each single word, phrase and sentence, seem to come out of Dolores Prato at the same time limpid and spontaneous, and yet meticulously planned towards a perfect balance of lightness and seriousness: everything is important, everything is filled with meaning, but you couldn’t recognize any heaviness, not the slightest sign. In many ways, Dolores Prato’s writing reminds me of Virginia Woolf’s pure, intangible greatness.


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