Adriana Brown, L’AMORE ASSENTE

Subtitle: Gramsci e le sorelle Schucht. Turin, CET, 2002.

With reference to Gramsci’s private life, he maintained relations from prison with his original family in Sardinia as well as with his Russian wife Giulia (Julka) Schucht, who had lived in Italy in her early youth, and after they married she went to Italy briefly with him and left for Russia again the same year when Gramsci was arrested. The couple had two children. Giulia, due to weak health and the difficult political situation in Italy, rarely wrote to Gramsci. His sister in law Tatiana, who was living in Italy, kept contact with Gramsci regularly during the prison period, and she is the person who was entrusted with his Prison Notebooks.

Useful and first-hand information on this is found in particular in Gramsci’s Letters from Prison. Among his biographers, Fiori appears still reliable to the present writer [1].

Some suggestion have been made in historical and biographical accounts that Gramsci’s detention drove Giulia (his wife) sick, and Tatiana might be more than just loyal to him as brother in law, and probably also in ways sentimentally concerned [2]. According to Gramsci’s grandson, Tatiana was simply the best choice, due to her personality and education, as mediator between Gramsci and his family, and Gramsci and the PCI [3].

Brown would appear to base some of her information on Fiori as well as on primary sources, but she also considers a private correspondence between Nilde Perilli and Tatiana as well as her elder sister Eugenia (Ghenja).

In L’amore assente, the main point made is that all three sister fell in love with Gramsci, Eugenia followed by Giulia and finally by Tatiana.

Paradoxically perhaps the least certain about her sentiments for Gramsci was Giulia, and we find a dialogue in the novel to the effect of “Lo ami ancora?”, “Non lo so” – she replies that she does not know whether she is still in love with him. In a previous passage, she is depicted as writing to him rather for “senso del dovere” (or a sense of duty) than for deep sentimental reasons. In fact, in his letters, Gramsci seems rather sad about Giulia’s sporadic communications from Russia.

Eugenia and Gramsci, in Brown’s reconstruction, actually had a love story.

Brown’s Tatiana is definitely in love with Gramsci who is described as “l’amore della sua vita” (the real love of her life).

According to this novel, Tatiana was not a communist, and this would have been the reason for her to remain in Italy whereas her family had gone back to Russia to participate in the revolution.

The novel seems founded upon the permanent curiosity about the three sisters Schucht in relation to Gramsci.

The hypotheses made by Brown are just as valid as any hypothesis that cannot be substantiated but it legitimately exists in a narrative plot as we find in this book.

What we find somehow not very satisfactory, though, is the dialogues made more contemporary than the time when they were written, and strangely lacking in the perhaps even surprising warmth that Gramsci put in his letters to Giulia and Tatiana and to his original family by contrast with his lucid and rational approach to essay-writing.

[1] G. Fiori, Vita di Gramsci, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 1966.
[2] See C. Comencini, L’Unità 1-10-2012

[Roberto Bertoni]  

[1] G. Fiori, Vita di Gramsci, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 1966.
[2] See C. Comencini, L’Unità1-10-2012