The Art of Joy by Goliarda Sapienza
A Novel

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Though long and sometimes slow moving, the book has considerable merit, particularly for students of women’s literature of the past century.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

The tumultuous twentieth century, told through the life of a single extraordinary woman

Rejected by a series of publishers, abandoned in a chest for twenty years, Goliarda Sapienza's masterpiece, The Art of Joy, survived a turbulent path to publication. It wasn't until 2005, when it was released in France, that this novel received the recognition it deserves. At last, Sapienza's remarkable book is available in English, in a brilliant translation by Anne Milano Appel and with an illuminating introduction by Angelo Pellegrino.
The Art of Joy centers on Modesta, a Sicilian woman born on January 1, 1900, whose strength and character are an affront to conventional morality. Impoverished as a child, Modesta believes she is destined for a better life. She is able, through grace and intelligence, to secure marriage to an aristocrat—without compromising her own deeply felt values. Friend, mother, lover—Modesta revels in upsetting the rules of her fascist, patriarchal society.
This is the history of the twentieth century, transfigured by the perspective of one extraordinary woman. Sapienza, an intriguing figure in her own right—her father homeschooled her so she wouldn't be exposed to fascist influences—was a respected actress and writer who drew on her own struggles to craft this powerful epic. A fictionalized memoir, a book of romance and adventure, a feminist text, a bildungsroman—this novel is ultimately undefinable but deeply necessary; its genius will leave readers breathless.

 

About Goliarda Sapienza

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Goliarda Sapienza (1924–1996) was born in the Sicilian city of Catania, into a staunchly anti-fascist family. At sixteen, she moved to Rome to study at the Academy of Dramatic Arts, and during the 1950s and '60s she was an actress in both films and the theater. She wrote several novels, though her most important work, The Art of Joy, remained unpublished until after her death. Anne Milano Appel, PhD, a former library director and language teacher, has been translating professionally for more than fifteen years and is a member of ALTA, ATA, NCTA, and PEN. Many of her book-length translations have been published, and shorter works that she has authored or translated have appeared in other professional and literary venues.
 
Published July 30, 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 705 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Art of Joy
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

NPR

Excellent
Reviewed by Maria Russo on Jul 31 2013

Sapienza's prose is breathless throughout, urgent, driven forward by the twin engines of sex and history.

Read Full Review of The Art of Joy: A Novel | See more reviews from NPR

Kirkus

Above average
on Jul 07 2013

Though long and sometimes slow moving, the book has considerable merit, particularly for students of women’s literature of the past century.

Read Full Review of The Art of Joy: A Novel | See more reviews from Kirkus

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65%

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