This Body That Inhabits Me
To speak of the body is to stir up a kind of unease. This is especially true for a woman who gave pride of place to the demands of her ‘political I’ over the principle that ‘everything is sexed’—in friendly discordance with that feminist thought with which she has carried on an uninterrupted dialogue. But it is this subtle unease—the awareness of a gap between her own self and biological immediacy—which here pushes Rossana Rossanda into unaccustomed territory. Having fiercely traversed, against the current, the course of the world, she does not succumb to the indecipherable opacity of the body. As the most fragile season of her life looms, she scrutinizes the body, addresses it directly, if not without diffidence, noting its malfunctions with moderate dismay. ‘From every angle, this body that inhabits me and that I inhabit escapes from and returns to me, as if it were the eel of my consciousness, an eel attached to “me”.’ And while the object of her acute reflections appears to her endowed with ‘as much emotion as a grammar book’, Rossanda manages to infuse it, almost unwittingly, with the rhythm of an enchantment—whether she’s lingering on her splendid hands betrayed by decline, or touching on less intimate questions, like the unattainable canons of beauty flaunted by film stars or the transvestism that allowed certain women in the past to offset their subordination. In this laying bare, however, Rossanda takes her distance from the idea that the body’s knowledge is a feminine prerogative by dint of the symbolic roles assigned to it by motherhood and seduction—this is one of her greater affinities with Lea Melandri, whose journal Lapis originally hosted these articles, and who shares with Rossanda the ‘melancholy of history’s longue durée’.
Praise for Rossana Rossanda:
‘Rossana was a great intellectual, indeed an unprecedented one. She was cultured and refined but, at the same time, a militant to her very core, like any other grassroots comrade.’—Luciana Castellina, il manifesto
Praise for The Comrade from Milan:
‘The Italian Communist leadership of the generation of 1943–45 is exceptional: it has been described with wonderful skill in Rossana Rossanda’s autobiography.’—Eric Hobsbawm, London Review of Books
‘For nearly four decades, Rossanda has been Manifesto’s most individual editorialist and commentator . . . a unique signature in the Italian press.’—New Left Review
‘One of the most interesting works on the legacy of twentieth-century communism. For Rossanda, a partisan and communist to the last, the past was neither to be glorified nor taken as old hat—rather, it had to be understood in all its depth, with a view to the difficulty of real choices and the reasons for the paths not taken.’—David Broder, Jacobin
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