"The first time I read Aracoeli
, I found it almost pointlessly disturbing and shocking. On rereading it, I still found it disturbing and shocking, but I have also grown to admire it—perhaps because it is so dark and resists any attempt to classify it. In writing this novel, Morante may have knowingly sacrificed clarity and logic in order to express her vision of a chaotic world." (Lily Tuck, Woman of Rome: A Life of Elsa Morante)
—Elsa Morante’s final novel—is the story of an aging man's attempt to recover the past and get his life on track in the process. The Aracoeli of the title is the narrator's deceased mother, who grew up in a small Spanish town before marrying an upper-class Italian navy ensign. The idyllic years she spends with her only son—Manuel, the narrator of the novel—are shattered when she contracts an incurable disease (probably syphilis)
and becomes a nymphomaniac.
Now, at the age of 43, Manuel, an unattractive, self-loathing, recovering drug addict who works a dead-end job at a small publishing house, decides to travel to her hometown in Spain in order to look for her. Filled with dreams and remembrances the novel creates a Sebaldian landscape of memory out of this painful journey, painting a portrait that is both touching and bleak.
Appearing here for the first time in paperback—the hardcover was published in 1984—Aracoeli is an important, and long-neglected, work in Morante’s oeuvre.