Michela Rossi Sebastiano (Università degli Studi di Siena)


I am a PhD student in “Filologia e Critica” at the University of Siena, in partnership with the Université Paris-Nanterre (as a member of the “CRIX”, Centre de Recherche Italiennes).My project focuses on the study of narrative structures in the Italian novel of the 1930s. I am editor of «L’Ellisse. Studi storici di letteratura italiana». My work is mainly dedicated to Italian Modernism and Italian Neorealism. My last publications include: Perché leggere Pavese oggi: il caso del Taccuino segreto, «Allegoria», XXXIII, 84, giugno/dicembre 2021; La funzione Joyce nel dibattito letterario degli anni Venti,in La funzione Joyce nel romanzo italiano, a cura di M. Tortora e A. Volpone, Ledizioni, 2022; Tozzi in Francia: ricezione critica e traduzioni, in Tozzi fuori d’Italia 1920-2020, a cura di A. Benucci, R. Castellanae I. de Seta, Prospero, 2022.


Carlo Bernari’s Tre operai: The Modernist Structure of a Neorealist Novel

Carlo Bernari’s first novel (Tre operai, 1934) is considered an antecedent of Italian Neorealism. The main reason depends on the political content of the representation. Inf act, the story is about three working-class characters and the novel’s milieu corresponds to the contemporary Italian context (in particular, the novel is set in Naples and in its surrounding industrial areas); Tre operai also represents the “biennio rosso”, which was a two-year period, between 1919 and 1920, of intense social conflict. However, the narrative techniques are closer to the modernist tradition and the novel does not have the ideological stability that should characterize the Italian neorealist novels (according to the main critics). The first version of the novel (which remained unpublished until 1994) is entitled Gli stracci and presents a naturalist configuration. In 1934 Bernari modified the novel project using narrative techniques that enlighten both the assimilation and the elaboration of a typical modernist grammar. The paper focuses on the change from Gli stracci to Tre operai, to demonstrate how Bernari modifies the original project according to narrative techniques strongly connected to a modernist approach. The point is to analyse the construction of the narrator’s voice in relation to the characters’ point of view. Specifically, the contribution will show how the use of the present tense induces the “presentification” of the verbsystem, affecting–and denying–the objective constitution of the representation. The modernist influence also involves the plot: in fact, Bernari creates a picaresque-way plot, but the progressive effects of the characters’ Bildung are regressive; therefore, the narrative evolution is completely nullified. In this prospective, the paper will also illustrate in which ways the novel reworks the model of Berlin Alexanderplatz and reverses the ideologically constructive outcomes of Döblin’s novel. In this direction, it is possible to interpret Tre operai within the influence of modernist techniques (including the subjectivation of the point of view and the regressive plot construction) and downsized his political meaning.