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Fausta Cialente's Natalia: Representing Transgressive Female Formation During Fascism


This essay uses the conceptual lens of the novel of formation to examine the representation of subversive female behavior in Fausta Cialente’s Natalia (1930), which narrates the development of the title character from a twelve-year-old child to a young woman who appears to content herself with a life in wedlock. Between the beginning and endpoint of her formation is a series of episodes showing a profoundly nonconformist female whose transgression of expectations regarding female behavior is especially surprising given the political and cultural climate in which the novel was published. The exploration of transgression in Natalia is twofold. First is a consideration of aesthetic properties of the text, specifically Cialente’s incorporation of elements of Magical Realism. Her unique prose style can be deemed a form of transgression and is appropriate for the narration of Natalia’s unorthodox formation. Second is a discussion of the protagonist’s sexual development that describes how self-fashioning and the violation of gender norms feature prominently in her process of maturation. Though Natalia cycles through many distinct identities, the focus is on those that best demonstrate the degree to which her conduct is subversive: the one she assumes while in a sexual relationship with another woman and those associated with different phases of her relationship with a soldier, her eventual husband. Natalia’s treatment of both romantic partners reflects her willingness to deceive in order to maintain a position of power, and her experiences and actions, particularly the manner in which she alters her identity and manipulates others, are important to Cialente’s protest against fascist myths of women and motherhood.

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