For centuries, the stereotypical image of the voluptuous Italian woman has functioned as an object of desire for Western man: from sixteenth-century paintings of Venetian courtesans who modeled for the erotically charged canvases of Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto, to nineteenth-century reports of the beautiful dancer Marie Taglioni, to the twentieth-century cinematic images of Sophia Loren and Dominique Sanda. Now Italian women have turned the tables. With In the Forbidden City, translated from the Italian, acclaimed novelist Maria Rosa Cutrufelli brings together fourteen short erotic stories by contemporary Italian women writers. Well-established voices are juxtaposed with new ones; traditional forms provide a contrast with the experimental. In Sandra Petrignani's dialogue "Body" a women and a former lover engage in a heady debate about desire and indifference; Margherita Ciacobino delivers a tale of lesbian desire, a theme uncommon in Italian literature; Dacia Maraini writes on the literature of eroticism penned by women writers that ingeniously manages to be erotic in its own right; and Rossana Campo, in one of the most entertaining entries, offers a hip-rattling tri-logue on love voiced by some super-cool adolescents. In her introduction, Cutrufelli draws in even more writers such as Jean Baudrillard, Angela Carter, and Georges Bataille in her introductory essay on the theoretical issues of desire and seduction.
Now finally available to English readers, In the Forbidden City constitutes a breakthrough volume in literary erotica by Italian women that is both profound and engaging.