The story of Tennessee Williams, rarely seen in Italy after World War II

New York – For Tennessee Williams, Rome has been a long-standing relationship, a “capital of my heart” with a “stainless blue” sky and a “golden light” cathedral dome.

From time to time he was worried about how the Romans felt in return.

World-renowned as a playwright, Williams has also written dozens of short stories. The rarely seen work “The Summer Woman” set in Italy will be featured in the autumn issue of The Strand Magazine, a quarterly literary magazine this week.

“Summer Woman” was written in the early 1950s and is an American scholar who frequently visits Rome and wants to reunite with an Italian lover he meets, “a very young president of the English department of an important southern university. ”. He was financially supporting her “on the street”, hoping to keep her away “from the street”.

“In Europe, mainly in Italy, he had his other life, a coveted presence in his heart: bohemian, sensual, not academic at all, or at least not modest,” Williams said. Is writing. “He had never found another life through a powerful and vast genius against it. It was handed to him by someone else, a Roman girl named Rosa. She gave him him. I took him with my cold and nervous fingers, took him to the country, and immediately sent him home. “


Originally from Mississippi, who set up “A Streetcar Named Desire” and other plays in the southern United States, Williams saw Italy as an escape from blame and faced his own unwavering “guilt” in the United States. As a gay man. He has lived in Italy many times in the years following World War II, with the play “Rose Tattoo”, the novel “Mrs. Stone’s Roman Fountain”, or the short story “The Man Takes This to the Road”.

Robert Bray, founding director of Tennessee Williams Annual Review, said Williams’ attachment to Rome has become very personal. His partner, Frank Merlot, is a descendant of Sicily and has made intimate friendships with the Italian actress Anna Magnini, who starred in the movie version. “The Rose Tattoo,” Bray said, Williams is “engaged in the sexuality of young Italian men and the ease of relationships between men than going home in the more constrained United States. “.


But “Summer Women” is a snapshot of a country that is still recovering from the war and no longer welcomes Americans. The protagonist remembers hearing the friendly scream of “Hello Joe”, but this time he is greeted by the call “Coco”. This is a slur that refers to Cocobatils, a biological weapon rumored to have been used by Americans in the war with North Korea. He wonders what happened to those who seemed “sweeter” than in other countries.

“This is an aspect of Williams that most readers don’t think they knew very much,” says Strand’s editor-in-chief Andrew Galli. “We consider Tennessee Williams to be a recorder of declined grandeur, anxiety, and weakness, but his travels and interactions are about how he saw American foreign policy around the world. It shows that he was a versatile observer. “

In the draft “Summer Woman” manuscript, Williams had another tentative title, “Marshall Plan.” It refers to the large-scale aid program that the United States has set up for European countries. In a letter to the New York Times theater critic Brooks Atkinson in 1948, Williams expressed concern about the dire living conditions of the Italians and could have easily applied them to modern Afghanistan.


“Honestly, 70% of Italy’s population is prostitutes and prostitutes, and families appear to live in the roofless shells of buildings in bombed cities such as Naples,” he told Atkinson. wrote.

“I feel that the communists would have been unattractive if we had made a true sacrificial effort to relieve the pain of Europe. As it is, their true misery. People in the situation are embarrassed by the swaying puppet government led by weak, bland opportunists who are not rooted in defined parties, policies or philosophies, and are the natural and easy prey of radicals. “


Strand Mystery Magazine: Home Page

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The story of Tennessee Williams, rarely seen in Italy after World War II

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