Rossana Campo (b. 1963, Naples) is famous — or infamous, depending upon your linguistic perspective — for the use of colloquial language in her prose. Her use of youth jargon, slang and profanity to depict the speech of her characters, most of whom are thirty-something women grappling with identity and relationship issues, has earned her the reputation among literary critics as one of “le ragazzacce (the bad girls)” of Italian literature (Codacci-Pisanelli, L’espresso, 1997).”
Campo’s writing has been associated with a literary movement of the 1990’s known alternately as “Italian Pulp Fiction” and “New Fiction.” This movement was spearheaded by a group of young Italian authors nicknamed the “scrittori cannibali (cannibal writers)” whose work was characterized by linguistic experimentation and transgressive themes. The women of this group, who included Campo, Silvia Ballestra, Simona Vinci, Isabella Santacroce and others, raised eyebrows among the Italian literary establishment for their unapologetic displacement and reappropriation of traditional social and sexual norms.
I first discovered Campo at a Feltrinelli bookstore in Rome in the late 1990’s and immediately found her bold language and raucous themes to be a welcome change from those of the classical Italian literature I had spent years studying as a student. And when I read these opening lines of Campo’s 1995 novel Mai sentita così bene (Never Felt So Good), a story about the romantic misadventures of a group of Italian expatriate women living in Paris, I knew I had found my literary and linguistic soul sister at long last (although I have to admit that I was a little unnerved by her blatant disregard for conventions of punctuation and narration):
Quella paracula della mia amica, la Monica, ne ha combinata un’altra delle sue. Ora nove e tre quarti mattutine e quella tutta isterica e schizzata c’ha già una parlantina da stenderti secca. Io ancora in coma per il risveglio pessimo, bocca impastata, pensieri allucinati, e lei a urlare nella cornetta: Oè, testona, che fine hai fatto? Che stavi facendo, porcate?
Io dico, Niente, due esercizi di danza del dragone…
Ripeto: Danza del dragone.
E lei: Danza del dragone! Adesso si chiama così?
That scammin’ ass friend of mine, Monica, has pulled another one. Time: nine forty-five a.m. and she’s all wired and hysterical, she’s already got a talk going that’d lay you out cold. Me, still in a coma from the brutal awakening, pasty mouth, frazzled thoughts, and she’s yelling into the receiver: So, shithead, what happened to you? Up to some kind of nasty business?
I say, Nothing, a few dance of the dragon exercises…
I repeat: Dance of the dragon.
Her: Dance of the dragon! Is that what we’re calling it these days?
As the above passage illustrates, Campo writes in the vernacular that many women use when talking to their closest friends. The end result is that her language is instantly recognizable to women readers — even to those of us who aren’t native speakers of Italian. This familiar, not to mention extremely appealing quality of her language, regardless of what Italian literary intellectuals may believe, is the mark of a great writer.
In Translation: Mai sentita così bene has been translated into English under the title Never Felt So Good by Adria Frizzi, PhD and Traci Andrighetti, PhD. The above excerpt was taken from this translation, which is as yet unpublished.
On Facebook: Rossana Campo has an extremely lively Facebook page that she set up for the sole purpose of getting to know her readers. She will talk about literally anything — topics of recent posts include literature, the rain in Paris, abortion, love and picnics — so be sure to check it out. You won’t be disappointed!
Personal Note: I would like to sincerely thank Rossana Campo for posting a link from her Facebook page to my blog. Sei un mito, Rossana!