Alba de Céspedes was born in Rome on March 11th, 1911. Her father, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada, was the Cuban Ambassador in Italy, while her mother, Laura Bertini, belonged to a Roman upper-middle class family. Alba de Céspedes' family was actively engaged in politics and antifascist movements, and growin up de Céspedes made this engagement her own, to the point of actively taking part in the Italian Resistence — in 1944 she reached Bari, and under the pseudonym of Clorinda she aired on the radio to support Allied troops. In September 1944 she founded the magazine «Mercurio. Mensile di politica, arte e scienza» in a Rome that had recently been cleared of Nazi forces. In the magazine civil passion and literary interests blended and several notable literary personalities contributed to each issue — the Italians Alberto Moravia, Eugenio Montale, Natalia Ginzburg and Giuseppe Ungaretti, and the foreigners Jean-Paul Sartre and Ernest Hemingway, to name a few. The magazine was issued until the end of 1948, during which time de Céspedes began to work for the weekly magazine «Epoca». In the magazine she was in charge of the column "Dalla parte di lei" — the column would later provide the baseline for the novel of the same name, published by Mondadori in 1949. In 1948 Alba de Céspedes moved to Washington with her second husband Franco Bounous, an Italian diplomat she married in 1945. In the following years de Céspedes would travel between Rome, Havana and Washington — where the husband was posted to the Italian Embassy as First Secretary — and while in Washington she would contribute to a number of American newspapers and regularly correspond with Italian intellectuals.
The first de Céspedes' novel to be translated into English was Nessuno torna indietro (There's No Turning Back), published in Italy in 1938 and in London 1941 by the publishing house Jarrolds in the translation of Jan Noble. There's No Turning Back was the first of a long series of translations that would meet the favours of readers both in Europe and in the United States — the same success was met by the novels Dalla parte di lei (The Best of Husbands, 1952), Quaderno proibito (1952; The Secret, 1957), and Il rimorso (1963; Remorse, 1967). During her stay in the U.S., Alba de Céspedes followed with great interest the work of translation of Frances Frenaye for the novel The Best of Husbands, published by the Macmillan Company in 1952. The American editors would make requests to the Céspedes to simplify and ease the book plot in order to reach a wider audience — those requests would not always be met, but they would be taken into consideration for the writing of later novels, and of The Secret in particular. In the U.S., de Céspedes came into contact with a more dynamic and advanced cultural industry when compared to Italy, as it was an industry that was already thinking in terms of a mass audience. In addition, literary reviews published in the U.S. praised de Céspedes' writing style and highlighted the focus that de Céspedes gave to the role of women in society.
In the 1960s Alba de Céspedes moved to Paris, and the move would mark her permanent return to Europe. It was there in Paris that at the beginning of the 1970s she started working on a novel with a strong autobiographical pull, titles Con Gran Amor. The novel remained unfinished due to de Céspedes' death in 1997, but it was published posthumously in 2011.
Poet, Writer, Translator
Arnoldo Mondadori Editore
Natalia Danesi Murray
Book editor, publishing executive, radio broadcaster
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