Academic journal article Italica

Narrative Plenitude in Limited Space: Dacia Maraini's "Il Calciatore Di Bilbao"

Academic journal article Italica

Narrative Plenitude in Limited Space: Dacia Maraini's "Il Calciatore Di Bilbao"

Article excerpt

Abstract: Dacia Maraini's short story includes the various recurring themes we have witnessed throughout literary history: love, fiction vs. reality, gender, and migration in less than 3,000 words.

Keywords: Dacia Maraini, theater, love, soccer, self-reflexivity, short story, narrative.


I am always fascinated by the short story, how a writer is able to communicate the necessary aspects of the narrative within a limited word count and page numbers. The writer, as we all know, must grab our attention, offer up enough information for us to remain interested, and, all the while, make it a complete narrative in its own right.

"Il calciatore di Bilbao" is all that. In it, Dacia Mariaini has succeeded in offering up a gripping tale of approximately 3,000 words. In so doing, she has dialogued with literary history (Pedro Calderon de la Barca's La vida es sueno), nuanced self-reflexivity, and, flirted with, to use the more current term, mobility. Like Calderon's famous play, "Il calciatore di Bilbao" is about love, migration, and free will. In addition, we have an added discussion on the protagonist's cultural preferences between literature, cinema, and theater, this last being the most privileged and, with regard to the storyline, the most significant.

Our protagonist, "l'uomo dalle labbra scure", is a man in love with an actress whom he had seen innumerable times in Calderon's play, in the role of Rosaura. Thus, the dialogue with literary history, specifically theater, is apparent from the first part of the story. And there follows the heart-wrenching tale of his love story with Rosaura / Concha.

This love story, further still, is rooted in mobility to a significant degree; our athlete is, in fact, sold from one soccer team to another and must thus literally cross the ocean from Brazil to Spain, a trip not dissimilar to many other "pellegrini" who have and continue to do, and sometimes dangerously, on a "nave in tempesta" (as the bumpy plane ride is described by our female narrator) as well.

As is the case with many love stories, our tale is befallen with challenges that originate in outside forces (a most popular trope, for sure, during Calderon's time): Concha is tied to a theater contract and cannot follow her beloved athlete; and our "calciatore", in turn, is a bartered athlete who is sold once more from one team to another and thus separated from his beloved. …

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