The simple soul. Sister Joanna of the Cross

“She tried not to live in the world, but she was in the world.

Let’s go back in time, in Naples two centuries ago, and we find ourselves living the story of Sister Giovanna della Croce, in one of the most inauspicious periods of her life.

Cloistered nun of the order of the thirty-three (or with the equally explanatory name of the “buried alive”), together with her sisters she is forced to leave the monastery where their vows lived, due to a government ordinance, to return to the “world” , as defined by the author.

A violence without using violence, with the vulgarity of humiliation and offense to which the nuns cannot rebel, and find themselves after thirty years of seclusion and sixty of age to come to terms with the outside world, symbolically regain possession of her secular name, Luisa Bevilacqua, and confront the past, also buried alive, of her secular life, of relatives still alive (her sister), of those who died (her parents, brother and her ex-betrothed brother-in-law) , and of those he had never known (the grandchildren).

A heartbreakingly topical story (although it was written at the beginning of the twentieth century), and makes us reflect on how much the moods and pettiness and passions of Italians have not changed, perhaps worsened as far as possible.

A range of words and verbal expressions, even obsolete, capable of giving a breath of freshness to the reader’s mind, nowadays suffocated by the simplification of contemporary literature. Are we letting ourselves be carried away by post-reading enthusiasm? We don’t exclude it, but how can you not be so after having found an author and a quality text?

A special mention to the publishing house, small but capable of bringing new life to a gem left to dust for too long, forgotten in some basement where no one had entered for many years, like this book by Matilde Serao. We only recommend changing the graphic proposal, because the cover demeans the text it contains, and indeed could alienate a curious reader.


Matilde Serao, The simple soul. Sister Joanna of the Cross, 13LAB, Milano, 2021 (prima edizione, Treves, 1901) 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *