A Girl Named Carla: Growing means losing a part of oneself

Who knows what does weakness mean
strength, in people, backbone.
Who knows what they know the ones who know
what they want, who carry on the certainty
of being, as if they’d always been
men, and forever will be.

La ragazza Carla / A Girl named Carla is a long prose-poem written between 1954 and 1957 set in Milan just after the Second World War. The theme explored in this coming-of-age story is the adaptation to life and, according to author Elio Pagliarani who is following Carla’s journey, this can only happen violently because growing up means losing a part of yourself. Pagliarani decided to extract some snapshots, moments of the encounter, or rather clash, between the young girl and the city and assembled them one next to the other combining different elements metrically, narratively, structurally and linguistically.

The seventeen-year-old Carla Ambrogio has to familiarize with the habits of the hard-working city of Milan and she approaches this change with an extremely fearful heart but also with courage and intelligence. Habits help us to accept life as it is but managing to get inside the habits and rhythms of a capitalist city carries the risk of falling under a cruel rhythm that requires a lot of sacrifices. Those who live in this city have absorbed its rhythm into their skin and have no awareness of their lives. They do not realize how safe they are with their routines: if they step out of the passivity of daily life, they risk their lives. Eventually, through various rites of passage, the young woman will learn how to cope with life becoming part of the anonymous flow of the city and she will learn that life is a survival challenge that takes meaning in the relationship with the other.

Source translated extracts:


Francesca Politi



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