Salvioni, Emilia (1895-1968)

Portrait     Biographic Details     Editions of Works      Biography in Italian

Emilia Salvioni was born in Bologna on April 2, 1895. Her mother, Rosa Schiratti, was originally from Pieve di Soligo and was the sister-in-law of writer and intellectual Giuseppe Toniolo. Emilia's father, Giovanni Battista Salvioni, was a professor of statistics at the University of Bologna. After her mother's death when she was less than two years old and her older sister Anna's subsequent departure for boarding school, young Emilia continued to live in isolation with her father. In an atmosphere of forced solitude she cultivated her naturally exuberant imagination and sharpened her observational skills, all the while immersed in a melancholy that was to dominate her life and literary production. She learned to read at only three years of age, her early favorite being Carlo Collodi's classic Adventures of Pinocchio. Books, her only solace, took the place of playmates, and in writing she found the easiest and most natural way to express herself and construct her inner world.

Raised in an atmosphere of deep Catholic conviction, she ended her studies after completing grammar school in order to pursue the education considered proper to bourgeois young women, including a certificate in piano playing and the study of classical and modern languages. Despite her lack of formal schooling, daily contact with her father's extensive learning instilled in Emilia a vast and profound erudition. She also devoted herself to painting, especially during the summers that she spent with her beloved sister Anna in the house acquired by their father in Pieve di Soligo, where they were surrounded by numerous relatives from their mother's side of the family. In Emilia's spiritual geography, Bologna was the locus of learning and work and Pieve di Soligo, the small village of her ancestry, was a place of affection and belonging that made her feel "one hundred percent Veneta" (from the Veneto region).

Emilia Salvioni's literary activity began in 1918 with the publication of her first short stories. Then, under the pseudonym Marina Vallauri, she published her first two novels in the journal L'avvenire d'Italia (The Future of Italy); these novels were entitled Prima che ritorni il sole (Before the Sun Returns, 1922) and Quella che aspettavo sei tu (You Are What I Was Waiting for, 1923).

After her father's death, she found herself in need of employment. Dissuaded by her sister from accepting a teaching job in England, in 1927 she became a librarian for the law school at the University of Bologna, remaining dedicated to this job for forty years and devoting all her free time to writing. In the twenties she began writing literature for children and adolescents, publishing stories and poems in the journal Corrierino (The Little Courier). In 1926 she published her first novel for adolescents, entitled Marialù e i suoi amici (Mary Lou and Her Friends), and a year later her second novel of this genre, entitled Oreste Grantesta burattino (Oreste Grantesta the Marionette). Her diversified literary activity was soon noticed by her contemporaries and by critics, and in 1932 she received a mention of distinction from the Mondadori Academy (connected to the large Mondadori publishing house) for her play La casa nuova (The New House). Another mention of distinction in 1933, this time for the novel Danaro (Money), convinced Mondadori to publish the work the following year, opening the doors to a large reading audience for Emilia. An intense and steady production of novels followed, and in 1939 she won a contest called "La Scuola Italiana Moderna" (The Modern Italian School) with her novel Lavorare per vivere (Working to Live). In 1941 she received an honorable mention in the contest "Giornale d'Italia" (Italian Journal) for the novel Carlotta Varzi S.A. (Her Highness Carlotta Varzi). Finally, in 1953 a jury made up of the noted authors Aldo Palazzeschi and Marino Moretti awarded her second prize in the "Concorso UECI, premio A. Manzoni"(Alessandro Manzoni Prize) for her novel E intanto Erminina ... (And in the Meantime, Erminia ...).

After World War II, Salvioni founded and directed a biweekly women's journal, Serena, and she was frequently a member of juries in contests for theatrical and narrative literature. From 1952 to 1963 she also edited the Cappelli publishing house's "Collana Azzura" (Blue Series), which released novels for young women and met with remarkable public success.

She died in Bologna on June 4, 1968; her grave is in Pieve di Soligo in the family mausoleum. On her tombstone, her earthly journey is described in a synthesis achievable only through the poetry of Andrea Zanzotto:

THE LOVE OF WRITING / IN WHICH SHE WAS ABLE TO TRANSFUSE / HER OPEN, CHRISTIAN HUMANITY / ACHIEVING THE VIRTUES OF ART / THE LOVE OF BOOKS / TO WHICH SHE DEDICATED HER CONSTANT CARE / AS A LIBRARIAN OF THE INSTITUTE / OF JURISPRUDENCE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF BOLOGNA / RENDERED HER LIFE HUMBLY, HIGHLY / OFFERED TO THE LIGHT OF THE SPIRIT.
A versatile fiction writer with a multitude of interests, Emilia Salvioni was able to express the best aspects of the twentieth-century Catholic pedagogy so active in northeastern Italy. She fluidly passed through various literary genres and registers, moving from the novel of social analysis and psychological introspection (Danaro, I nostri anni migliori [Our Best Years]), to the mystery novel (Gli uomini sono cattivi [Men Are Bad]); from the investigation of women's social condition in a rapidly changing world (Lavorare per vivere, Carlotta Varzi S.A.) to sentimental novels appealing to an audience of young female readers (Sette belle ragazze [Seven Beautiful Girls]). Her passion for historical studies and research allowed her to establish herself in the genre of biography as well with the works Padre Matteo Ricci (Father Matteo Ricci) and La grande avventura di Francesco Saverio (Francesco Saverio's Great Adventure). She also dedicated a good part of her creative energy to young people's literature, and her constant hard work was rewarded by the numerous editions of her books. Despite having opinions that often ran counter to the militant cultural norms of her time, Emilia skillfully managed to establish ties to the world of journalism, constantly contributing to magazines, periodicals, and newspapers. In the course of her lifetime, her signature appeared in more than thirty different publications, to which she contributed articles on art, social customs, literature, cinema, and theater, in addition to her copious production of short stories. Through these wide-ranging contributions, Salvioni elegantly and authentically reflected her many interests. She also actively participated in the social life of her city, always engaged in cultural and charitable activities. In addition, she was a popular public speaker appreciated for her brilliant and witty style in treating an array of fascinating subjects. Finally, she always maintained lively relations with the literary world, with the circle of female writers contemporary to her, and with the Bolognese intellectuals who met every Saturday at her home, which even after her death remained an important symbol of women's contribution to the Italian Catholic activist culture of her time.

Submitted by Carlo Caporossi [carlo.caporossi@katamail.com] and Amalia Corrà, 2005
Translated into English by Lisa Barca, 2006.


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