Clara Sereni was born in 1946 in Rome and lived there until, in 1991, she moved to Perugia where she still lives. Her mother, Xenia Silberberg, was the daughter of two Russian revolutionaries; her father, Emilio Sereni, originally from an upper-class Roman-Jewish family, was a leading member of the Italian Communist Party between the 1930s and the 1970s.
In her twenties, she worked as a secretary, conference organiser and occasional folk singer. Her first novel, Sigma Epsilon (1974), was overlooked by reviewers and readers; her second book, the autobiographical Casalinghitudine (1987) made her known inside and outside Italy (it was translated into English as Keeping House). Many of her subsequent works also contain autobiographical themes related to her being a woman, a Jew and a person committed to social and political change.
Being what she calls the ‘handicapped mother’ of a son who suffers from psychosis led to her becoming, in 1998, one of the founders of La Città del Sole, a non-profit foundation supporting the rights of people with mental health problems, in which she was active until 2009. Her experiences as deputy mayor of Perugia between 1995 and 1997 are described, in a thinly fictionalized account, in the novel Passami il sale (2002). Il gioco dei regni (1993) is a reconstruction of the complex history of her extended family; Le merendanze (2004) is about a group of women involved in a social justice project; the stories in the collections Manicomio primavera (1989), Eppure (1995) and Il lupo mercante (2007) represent various forms of estrangement of vulnerable members of society and envisage tentative possibilities for change. Una storia chiusa (2012), set in a residence for the retired, focuses on the loneliness, disenchantment and stubborn hopes of a group of elderly people.
Sereni has also written on political and social topics for the left-wing newspapers L’Unità and Il manifesto. Some of these articles have been collected in Taccuino di un’ultimista (1998). She edited Si può, a collection of essays on the integration of people with mental illnesses (1996), and Amore caro, a collection of testimonies from well-known Italians who live with disabilities, their own or those of a loved one (2009), and translated French literary works (by Balzac, Stendhal, Madame de La Fayette).
She was awarded the Premio Sociale dei Lettori di Lucca, Premio Marotta, Premio Grinzane-Cavour and Premio Nazionale Letterario Pisa literary prizes.
Compiled by Mirna Cicioni
Sigma Epsilon (Venice/Padua: Marsilio, 1974)
Passami il sale (Milan: Rizzoli, 2002)
Le merendanze (Milan: Rizzoli, 2004)
Una storia chiusa (Milan: Rizzoli, 2012)
Life Writing and Essays
Casalinghitudine (Turin: Einaudi, 1987),
Il gioco dei regni (Florence: Giunti, 1993)
Taccuino di un’ultimista (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1998)
Manicomio primavera (Florence: Giunti, 1989)
Eppure (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1995)
Il lupo mercante (Milan: Rizzoli, 2007)
Si può! (Rome: e/o, 1996)
Amore caro. A filo doppio con persone fragili (Milan: Cairo, 2009)
Translations into English
Giovanna Miceli Jeffries and Susan Briziarelli: Keeping House: A Novel in Recipes (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005)Compiled by Mirna Cicioni
Anderlini D’Onofrio, Serena: ‘Utopias, Metabolized: Queering Communism and Zionism in Clara Sereni’s Testimonial Narratives’ in Contemporary Jewish Writers in Italy: A Generational Approach, ed. by Raniero Speelman, Monica Jansen and Silvia Gaiga (Utrecht: Italianistica Ultraiectina, 2007, pp. 243-259)
Chemello, Adriana: ‘La genealogia riconosciuta di Clara Sereni’ in Parole scolpite: Profili di scrittrici degli anni Novanta, ed. by Adriana Chemello (Padua: Il Poligrafo, 1998, pp. 103-119)
Cicioni, Mirna and Walker, Susan: ‘Picking Up the Pieces: Clara Sereni’s Recipes for Survival’ in Novel Turns Towards 2000: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Narrative Writing from Western Europe, ed. by John Gatt-Rutter (Melbourne: Voz Hispanica, 2000, pp. 35-47)
Cicioni, Mirna: ‘“Better Losers than Lost”: Self, Other and Irony in Clara Sereni’s Autobiographical Macrotext’ in Across Genres, Generations and Borders. Italian Women Writing Lives, ed. by Susanna Scarparo and Rita Wilson (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2004, pp. 86-99)
—: ‘Writing as Jews and Women: Negotiating appartenenze in the Autobiographical Macrotexts of Natalia Ginzburg and Clara Sereni’ in Women’s Writing in Western Europe: Gender, Generation and Legacy, ed. by Adalgisa Giorgio and Julia Waters (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007, pp. 362-374)
—: ‘Speaking “as a” and Speaking “for”: Multiple appartenenze in the Autobiographical Macrotexts of Aldo Zargani and Clara Sereni’ in Contemporary Jewish Writers in Italy: A Generational Approach, ed. by Raniero Speelman, Monica Jansen and Silvia Gaiga (Utrecht: Italianistica Ultraiectina, 2007, pp. 261-275)
—: ‘Il cibo come linguaggio nella narrativa di Clara Sereni’ in Quaderni dell’Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Melbourne 2003-2008, ed. by John Gatt-Rutter and Gerardo Papalia (Melbourne: Italian Australian Institute, 2009, pp. 89-104)
De Angelis, Gabriella: ‘Clara Sereni: la sfida della differenza’ in Contemporary Jewish Writers in Italy: A Generational Approach, ed. by Raniero Speelman, Monica Jansen and Silvia Gaiga (Utrecht: Italianistica Ultraiectina, 2007, pp. 231-242)
—: ‘Clara Sereni: cucinare e scrivere per tenere insieme il mondo’ in Tra storia e immaginazione: gli scrittori ebrei di lingua italiana si raccontano, ed. by Hanna Serkowska (Krakow: Bollettino di studi italiani, collana dell’Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Varsavia, 2008, pp. 237-250)
Del Principe, Davide: ‘Consuming Women and Animals in Clara Sereni’s Casalinghitudine’ (Italica, 76.2, Summer 1999, pp. 205-219)
Kolsky, Stephen: ‘Clara Sereni’s Casalinghitudine: The Politics of Writing. Structure and Intertextuality’ (Italian Quarterly, 133-134, 1997, pp. 47-58)
Marotti, Maria Ornella: ‘Revising the Past: Feminist Historians/Historical Fictions’ in Gendering Italian Fiction:Feminist Revisions of Italian History, ed. by Maria Ornella Marotti and Gabriella Brooke (London: Associated University Presses, 1999, pp. 49-70)
Menozzi, Giuliana: ‘Food and Subjectivity in Clara Sereni’s Casalinghitudine’ (Italica, 71.2, 1994, pp. 217-227)
Miceli Jeffries, Giovanna: ‘Unsigned History: Silent, Micro-“Technologies of Gender” in the Narratives of the Quotidian’ in Gendering Italian Fiction: Feminist Revisions of Italian History, ed. by Maria Ornella Marotti and Gabriella Brooke (London: Associated University Presses, 1999, pp. 71-84)
—: ‘La tensione civile nella narrativa di Clara Sereni’ in Studi in onore di Umberto Mariani: da Verga a Calvino, ed. by Anthony Costantini and Franco Zangrilli (Florence: Cadmo, 2002, pp. 187-198)
Paulicelli, Eugenia and David Ward: ‘Interview with Clara Sereni’ (L’anello che non tiene, 9, 1997, pp. 82-111)
Pellizzi, Federico: ‘Casalinghitudini tra identità e storia: La scrittura pluristratificata di Clara Sereni’ in Contemporary Jewish Writers in Italy: A Generational Approach, ed. by Raniero Speelman, Monica Jansen and Silvia Gaiga (Utrecht: Italianistica Ultraiectina, 2007, pp. 277-292)
Po, Giulia: Scrivere la diversità: Autobiografia e politica in Clara Sereni (Florence: Franco Cesati Editore, 2012)
Properzi Nelsen, Elisabetta: ‘Clara Sereni and Contemporary Italian-Jewish Literature’ in The Most Ancient of Minorities – The Jews of Italy, ed. by Stanislao Pugliese (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2002, pp.157-167)Compiled by Mirna Cicioni