Luigi Malerba

Ithaca forever : Penelope speaks

University of California press

Berkeley, 2019
bibliothèque insulaire
des femmes et des îles

parutions 2019

Ithaca forever : Penelope speaks / Luigi Malerba ; translated by Douglas Grant Heise ; introduction by Emily Hauser. - Berkeley : University of California press, 2019. - 184 p. ; 21 cm.
ISBN 978-0-520-30368-3
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS : After twenty years, Odysseus finally returns to Ithaca, but instead of receiving the homecoming he had hoped for finds himself caught in an intense battle of wills with his faithful and long-suffering wife Penelope. When Penelope recognizes him under the guise of a beggar, she becomes furious with him for not trusting her enough to include her in his plans for ridding the palace of the Suitors.  As a result, she plays her own game of fictions to make him suffer for this lack of faith, inspiring jealousy, self-doubt, and misgivings in her husband, the legendary Homeric hero.

In this captivating retelling of the Odyssey, Penelope rises as a major force with whom to be reckoned. Shifting between first-person reflections, Ithaca Forever reveals the deeply personal and powerful perspectives of both wife and husband as they struggle for respect and supremacy within a marriage that has been on hold for twenty years. Translated by PEN award-winner Douglas Grant Heise, Luigi Malerba’s novel gives us a remarkable version of this greatest work of western literature: Odysseus as a man full of doubts and Penelope as a woman of great depth and strength.
Luigi Malerba (Luigi Bonardi, 1927–2008) was a major twentieth-century Italian novelist, screenwriter, and short story writer. He was one of the most prominent writers of the Italian avant-garde literary movement, Gruppo 63, along with founding member Umberto Eco. Among other awards and honors, he was awarded the inaugural Prix Médicis étranger in 1970 and the Premio Grinzane Cavour in 1988.
Douglas Grant Heise is a literary translator who lives and works in Levanto, on the Italian Riviera. He is the recipient of the 2017 PEN Grant for the English Translation of Italian Literature award.

Dans son roman, Malerba ne prend en compte ni les aventures d’Ulysse ni celles de Télémaque pour se concentrer sur le moment clé du retour d’Ulysse (chapitre 13 de l’Odyssée), celui de la reconnaissance (chapitre 23) et surtout sur la figure de Pénélope dont il fera le cœur du roman. Une Pénélope plus rusée que son mari et qui use la mètis à des fins particulières.

Si Malerba choisit de réécrire une partie de l’Odyssée, c’est d’une part pour croiser le plaisir d’une relecture d’un classique avec le goût de la variation mais aussi pour donner une nouvelle dimension au personnage de Pénélope, la sage et fidèle épouse qu’il veut rendre moins passive, pour créer une nouvelle voie/voix en donnant la parole aux deux personnages (Pénélope et Ulysse qui sont les deux narrateurs) et enfin pour réfléchir et inciter à réfléchir sur le rapport entre fiction et réalité, vérité et mensonge, vie et écriture et enfin sur la notion d’identité. Autrement dit, sa Pénélope métissée qui tient entre ses doigts le destin de son Ulysse vagabond, est l’occasion pour Malerba de revisiter, depuis un point de vue autre, à travers la reprise d’un texte éternel, des obsessions personnelles.


« La Pénélope métissée de Luigi Malerba », Cahiers d'études romaines | 27 | 2013 [en ligne]

I still don’t know if this land is my native Ithaca, or some other little island adrift in the ocean, or simply some unknown coastline. I don’t know if this land is inhabited by hospitable men or by giants with a single eye in the middle of their foreheads. I look around but still don’t know if I am home.

I ask myself how this arid and wild land can be the homeland that I dreamed about for nine long years of war and another 10 years of treacherous and adventure-filled voyages. I know that the memory of home can be unreliable indeed. During the years I was away and in times of danger, I imagined my rocky island to be as green and full of flowers as a garden, though in truth it is only good for nourishing flocks of sheep and goats that graze on dry grasses growing between hard rocks, and for herds of pigs that grow fat on the acorns that fall in the wooded highlands. I have finally learned that you should never try to make dreams match up with reality.

But I am not telling the whole truth when I say that the years under the walls of Troy were long for me; in truth, they were the fastest years I have ever lived. Hard, happy years. And I can even boast of how I personally was decisive for the victory of the Achaeans. I call it a victory, but who knows if victory is the right word for the destruction of a city and the atrocious events that took place beneath its walls, and which I myself have recounted as moments of glory a hundred times during the stops on my long voyage back.

I left dressed in the robes of the king of Ithaca, and now I’m going to re-enter my house dressed in the rags of a beggar that I found in this cave at the edge of the sea, and which will allow me to observe secretly–and, thus, truthfully–what has been going on during my absence. To learn if what I have heard is true, that my house is full of admirers vying for the hand of Penelope, hoping to take my place in my palace and in my bed. How Penelope behaves with these admirers. How Telemachus has grown since I left him behind as a baby. What condition my lands are in. How the servants and handmaidens have been acting in my absence.


 extrait cité par le traducteur, Douglas Grant Heise — Pen America | September 2017 [en ligne]
  • « Itaca per sempre », Milano : Mondadori, 1997
  • « Itaca per sempre » introduzione di Marco Corsi, Milano : Mondadori, 2016
  • Homère, « Odyssée » éd. présentée et annotée par Philippe Brunet, trad. de Victor Bérard, Paris : Gallimard (Folio classique, 3235), 2003
→ « From Ithaca forever by Luigi Malerba », Pen America | September 2017 [en ligne]
→ Judith Obert, « La Pénélope métissée de Luigi Malerba », Cahiers d'études romaines | 27 | 2013 [en ligne]

mise-à-jour : 2 juillet 2019
Luigi Malerba : Ithaca forever