The Female BeastAuthor: Emanuela Canepa
Unanimously awarded the 30th Calvino Prize, The Female Beast is: “an accomplished, mature novel of exemplary sharpness in its structure and linguistic incisiveness. It is the story of an unsettling game of sexless seduction which, while attentive to male psychology, gives voice, with stringent analytics and to the caustic power of the female psyche”.
An act of honesty takes Rosita to Ludovico Lepore, an elderly lawyer living alone in an elegant villa. Lepore is intrigued by the creature of a sex he so despises, but he hires her as a part-time secretary so that she can finish her studies. An act of kind hearted generosity?
Hardly. The enigmatic Lepore has a plan for Rosita: to make her an instrument of his sadistic pleasure, an experiment. Between one misogynistic outburst and another, Lepore grooms Rosita to complete an act of revenge for an unreciprocated love he suffered fifty years ago, in an era when homosexuality was forbidden, if not illegal.
But Rosita is not as stupid as he thinks. Just when Lepore thinks he has annihilated her, she invents a jolly with the potential to change her life, and perhaps even save his.
The relationship between human beings (even before that of the sexes) is a complex phenomenon, a delicate mechanism that often depends on forms of manipulation that are in various degrees subtle, conscious and cruel (Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Phantom Thread describes it brilliantly).
Emanuela Canepa is aware of this, and her debut novel recounts the complexity of human relationships with an almost shameless naturalness. In The Female Beast (#l’animalefemina, Einaudi Stile Libero) it is paradoxical that the young protagonist Rosita becomes conscious of both others and herself through a manipulative relationship. Power and weakness serve as seesawing dimensions beyond the absolute. Is perceiving yourself as a victim in itself a form of acquiescence? The question is not only valid for Rosita: it is also true for her elder, misogynist Pygmalion. Which is precisely the source of the novel’s originality.
Publisher: Einaudi (Stile Libero – Big)
Publish Date: 2018
Page Count: 260