Ebe Cagli Seidenberg


Ebe Cagli Seidenberg was born in Ancona, Italy, on the Adriatic Sea, on 23 February 1915, and raised in Rome in a middle-class Jewish family which, like the majority of Italian Jews, considered itself assimilated. Both her parents were well-educated: her father, a businessman who had lost his fortune during World War I, was professor of applied mathematics at a technical institute, while her mother worked as an editor of the International Red Cross publications and published several novels and children’s books under the pseudonym of Fiducia. Ebe was one of five children, three daughters and two sons (one of which, Corrado Cagli, was a noted artist).

She received her education in Rome (including a University degree) and left Italy right after Mussolini’s government passed the 1938 racial laws. In the USA, she was able to attend the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where she obtained her doctoral degree in Romance Languages, and met Abraham Seidenberg, a mathematician who later became her husband and with whom she moved to Berkeley, California, in 1945. In the new setting, she started her literary activity under the supervision of Wallace Stegner, and in 1957 her first novel, Before the Cock Crows, was published by Little, Brown, and Company in English, under the pseudonym of Bettina Postani. Several positive critical reviews that the book received in the USA inspired her to continue writing, but interestingly she chose to write her subsequent works all in Italian. This decision may be partly due to her frequent stays in Italy since the 1960s or earlier, and eventually to her permanent move to Rome after her husband’s death in the late 1980s.  Her work amounts to eight volumes of novels and short stories, five of which make up a ‘cycle’ devoted to the theme of exile (Ciclo dell’esilio obbligato, 1975-91), and are centered on experiences of deracination, marginalization, memory, and identity. Ebe Cagli Seidenberg died in Rome in 2002.

Compiled by Eveljn Ferraro (Brown University)


L’incantatore di serpenti transl. E. Cagli Seidenberg. Foggia: Bastogi, 1984. Transl. of Before the Cock Crows. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1957 (by Bettina Postani, pseudonym of E. C. Seidenberg)

Ciclo dell’esilio obbligato (Cycle of the Forced Exile, 1975-91) includes:

Le sabbie del silenzio (Milan: Union Editore, 1975)

Il Tempo dei Dioscuri (Rome: Edizioni Ca' d'Oro, 1980)

Gente sul Pacifico (Foggia: Bastogi, 1982)

Quando i santi marceranno. Tre storie d’America (Foggia: Bastogi, 1983)

Come ospiti: Eva ed altri (Rome: Carucci,1991)

Casa in vendita. Bologna (Bora, 2001)

Visite d’inverno. Racconti di vari paesi (Bologna: Bora, 2001)

Compiled by Eveljn Ferraro (Brown University)



Ferraro, Eveljn (2009):‘Between Italy and America: Exile and Suspension in Ebe Cagli Seidenberg’s Il Tempo dei Dioscuri’. Carte Italiane 2.5 (2009), pp. 181-98. Web. 24 Jan 2011 http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/8z158439

Salsano, Roberto: ‘Dimora ed esilio nella scrittura narrativa di Ebe Cagli Seidenberg’ (Studi medievali e moderni 2 (2002), pp. 317-33)

—. 'Esilio coatto e solitudine esistenziale nella narrativa di Ebe Cagli Seidenberg‘. Campi immaginabili 26/27, I-II (2002), pp. 154-64

Compiled by Eveljn Ferraro (Brown University)