Gente in Aspromonte, by Corrado Alvaro

Corrado Alvaro is the perfect example of many other people who have left their homeland but have remained attached to it.
View from a slit of the Aragonese Castle of Reggio Calabria

Corrado Alvaro was a writer, journalist, poet and screenwriter born in San Luca in 1895. He is one of the most important people born in Calabria in the 20th century. He fought in the 1st World War and began working as editor of the ‘Mondo’ under G. Amendola, later siding with the opponents of fascism. 

The short story series ‘People in Aspromonte’

In 1945, Corrado Alvaro founded the National Writers’ Union and used his stories to describe his contemporaries. However, it was a collection of short stories entitled ‘Gente in Aspromonte’ that made him famous.  

“Life for shepherds in Aspromonte is not easy, in winter, when the torrential streams run bubbling to the sea, and the land seems to sail over the waters. The shepherds live in houses built of branches and mud, and sleep with their flocks. They walk around with long hoods attached to a triangular cape protecting their shoulders, like depictions of some Greek pilgrims and winter gods. These streams have a deafening voice”.

Incipit of ‘People in Aspromonte’ by Corrado Alvaro

This is the beginning of the book containing 13 short stories. All of them describe a magical Aspromonte, where torrents, mountains, and locks seem enveloped in lyricism and poetry. 

Corrado Alvaro, the perfect descriptor of Calabria, is an example of many other people who have left their homeland but have remained uniquely attached to it through memories, colours, scents, and feelings. The book is named after the first longer story, while the other twelve short stories are: La pigiatrice d’uva (The Grape Presser), Il rubino (The Ruby), La zingara (The Gypsy), Coronata, Teresita, Romantica (Romantic), La signora Flavia, Innocenza (Innocence), Vocesana e Primante, Temporale d’autunno (Autumn Thunderstorm), Cata dorme (Cata Sleeps), Ventiquattr’ore (Twenty-Four Hours).

 Corrado Alvaro: singer of the Calabrian tradition

With ‘Gente in Aspromonte’, Corrado Alvaro takes on the role of the singer of Calabria’s tradition. This work was written in a particular period for Italy and the world, the dark  Ventennio – i.e. the twenty years of fascist rule – as Alvaro himself recounts: “I came back from Berlin with Gente in Aspromonte in my pocket. But people were afraid to welcome me, because of my clear stance against fascism, much exaggerated since I was one of the few who had fled the country, and therefore one of the few available targets. In 1931, I was awarded the ‘La Stampa’ Prize – the first great Italian literary prize – despite the hostile criticism of Gente in Aspromonte […]. I was anti-fascist by temperament, culture, character, inclination, nature […]. I do everything to be a free man, and to some fascists I returned the tolerance some of them had for me and which I took advantage of, but for which I’m grateful. Considering their policies towards writers, I could have greatly profited from their benefits. I profited only from their tolerance”.

One of the most beautiful pages of this book of short stories is the one in which its author evokes his homeland through the portrait of Melusina, a female figure who embodies the desolate Aspromonte ignored by history and progress.

“This is the country where Melusina has stayed behind, with her beauty of a life gone, abandoned tradition, and a dull and odourless nature”.

Corrado Alvaro – ‘Gente in Aspromonte’

Tradition and modernity, fascination for and connection with his motherland, his emigrant’s condition and nostalgia linked to his childhood are recurrent themes in this collection of short stories.