Pierangeli, Rina Faccio (1876–1960)

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Pierangeli, Rina Faccio (1876–1960)

Italian novelist, poet, and essayist. Name variations: Rina Faccio; (pseudonym) Sibilla Aleramo. Born Rina Faccio in Alessandria, Italy, in 1876; died in Rome on January 13, 1960; daughter of Ambrogio Faccio and Ernesta Faccio; attended elementary school; married Ulderico Pierangeli; children: one son (b. 1895).

Selected works:

(novels) Una donna (1906, published in English as A Woman at Bay, 1908), Il passaggio (The Passage, 1919), Transfigurazione (Transfiguration, 1922), Amo, dunque sono (I Love, Therefore I Am, 1927), Il frustino (The Whip, 1932); (prose collections) Andando e stando (Going and Staying, 1921), Gioie d'occasione (Joys on Sale, 1930), Orsa minore (1938), Russia alto paese (Russia, Lofty Country, 1953); (poetry) Momenti (Moments, 1920), Poesie (Poems, 1929), Si alla terra (Yes to the Earth, 1935), Selva d'amore (Forest of Love, 1947), Aiutatemi a dire (Help Me to Say, 1951), Luci della mia sera (Lights of My Evening, 1956).

Rina Faccio Pierangeli was born in Alessandria, Italy, in 1876, one of four daughters of Ernesta Faccio and Ambrogio Faccio, a science teacher. She received her only formal education, elementary school, while growing up in Milan. When Rina was 12, the family moved to Marches, a small town in southern Italy, where Ambrogio managed a glass factory and Rina spent her adolescence. Shortly after their arrival, she was raped by one of her father's employees. Shamed by the rape, she married her attacker Ulderico Pierangeli when she was 16. The following year, her mother was pronounced insane and confined in the Macerata asylum. Rina, who feared taking after her mother, spiralled into depression because of frequent physical assaults from Ulderico. Though Rina's son, born in 1895, was the focal point of her life, she attempted suicide in 1897. She continued to regard suicide as an escape from her husband until she read Guglielmo Ferrero's 1898 book L'Europa giovane, which described the typical Latin marriage as a prison sentence. She saw her own marriage reflected in the book and felt liberated by the feminist ideals she had encountered. Rina began to write and publish her opinions, and in 1899 the family moved to Milan so that she could edit the feminist journal L'Italia Feminile. In the urban environment, and with a new understanding of herself, Rina flourished. But her husband soon forced her to quit the post and return to Marches. In 1902, she left him and their son.

She went to Rome where she began an affair with Giovanni Cena, the director of the literary journal La Nuova Antologia. With Cena, she was to found and direct schools for the Russian countryside's illiterate peasants. Cena encouraged Pierangeli to write her life story, and in 1906 the autobiographical Una donna (A Woman) was published under the pseudonym Sibilla Aleramo. A great success, the work was soon translated into a number of European languages (its importance would be reasserted years later with a reprint in 1973).

In 1910, Pierangeli left Cena and began two decades of travel and affairs throughout Europe (including a romance with Tito Zaniboni, whose attempt on Benito Mussolini's life landed Rina in jail for two days in 1925). She published many works—novels, essays, and poetry—during the first half of the 20th century. Her prose collection Gioie d'occasione (Joys on Sale, 1930) won the Prix de la Latinité in Paris (1933), and her poetry collection Selva d'amore (Forest of Love, 1947) took the Versilia Prize (1948). Pierangeli also wrote two dramas—Endimione (1923) and the unpublished "Francesca Diamante"—and translated works by Marie-Madeleine de La Fayette and Charles Vildrac, in addition to her translations of the love letters of George Sand and Alfred de Musset.

Pierangeli was an active member of the Italian Communist Party from 1946 until her death, talking to groups of workers and farmers and giving poetry readings. Her political beliefs alienated most publishers, and she was sustained in a small attic room in Rome by a pension granted to her by Italy (1933). She had a ten-year affair with a student 40 years younger, but was alone when she died at age 83.


Aleramo, Sibilla. A Woman. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1980.

Bédé, Jean-Albert, and William B. Edgerton, general eds. Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature. NY: Columbia University Press, 1980.

Crista Martin , fiction and freelance writer, Boston, Massachusetts

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Pierangeli, Rina Faccio (1876–1960)

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