Kay Clay

Literary correspondence


With her deep interest in Italian literature, it was natural for Kay to get into personal contact with authors. On what may have been her first visit to Italy, in 1933, she met the Roman dialect writer Trilussa: he gave her a copy of one of his books, Pulviscolo: Aneddoti Trilussiani (Formiggini, 1931), and inscribed it allamabilissima Caterina ("to the very sweet  Katharine"). Trilussa also gave her an authorisation to translate and publish those of his poems which would be submitted to him. He added a note (perhaps in jest) that she should translate them "in dialetto cockney" (“in Cockney dialect”).

Soon after arriving in Sicily in 1946, she bought a copy of the novel by the modernist Sicilian writer Elio Vittorini: Conversazione in Sicilia (Conversation in Sicily), for which he had been jailed by the fascists when it was first published in 1941. She was soon in touch with Vittorini who was now editing the journal Il Politechnico in Milan.

Among Kay's papers is a very full autobiographical account which he wrote at Kay’s request. She had sent a list of questions to Vittorini about his life and work, intending to use the answers in an article about him. Vittorini read her article and approved of it but there is no surviving record of where it was published.

Kay visited Vittorini and his wife several times and attempted to arrange with the London publisher Lindsay Drummond for the translation of  Conversazione in Sicilia. (It was published in 1948 but with a different translator). Vittorini sent her books in Palermo, both his own and others’. In a copy of Romano Bilenchi, Conservatorio di Santa Teresa (1940), he wrote conosce questo libro? E gia piuttosto vecchio ma io lo trovo sempre molto buono ("Do you know this book? It's already quite old but I think it's very good").

At some later stage Kay was in touch with Alberto Moravia, who provided her with a brief sketch of his life.

The books referred to above, together with others from her large collection of modern Italian novels and poetry, and a typescript copy of Vittorini’s autobiography, have been given to the library of Girton College, Cambridge. 


Enter supporting content here