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La Dolce Vita
Contemporary Italian Erotica by Women
Edited by Maxim Jakubowski
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Format:ebook $7.99 $9.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 2, 2013. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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As much as any of us is fascinated by the imagined private lives of others, we are similarly intrigued by the veil of discretion often drawn across the sexuality of strangers, and even more so when it comes to the world of desire beyond our knowledge and understanding.
Until recently, this was a curiosity we kept concealed for fear of attracting disapproval, but since the success of the Fifty Shades of Grey erotic book series, the secret is now out in the open and it has become almost acceptable to admit to an attraction to matters sexual on the page, if one considers the millions of readers all over the world who lapped up the romantic, if steamy saga.
This is of course nothing new for me, since I have been both writing and editing erotica for a couple of decades and am highly aware of the underground current of interest in the subject. But until now it was a guilty pleasure, which I had to share with a minority. So a great vote of thanks to E. L. James for, despite her clunky style and cumbersome clichés, making erotic writing acceptable again.
In many foreign countries though, the acceptance of literary erotica has never been in doubt, and it has represented a strong intellectual tradition for a long time. Some twelve years ago I assembled the Mammoth Book of International Erotica in which I offered examples of outstanding erotica translated from more than fifteen languages, and the volume has gone through numerous printings, a couple of editions, and is still in print and selling steadily still.
In Europe they have a different and healthier attitude toward writing about sex, and in Ooh La La!, which I edited with French editor Franck Spengler over five years ago, I presented a compendium of modern French erotica by women writers, which proved provocative, eye-opening, and compelling. These were the granddaughters of the Marquis de Sade, the successors to a healthy strand of libertine and surrealist writers of the French past, and a collection of authors who felt no shame writing explicitly to arouse and entertain. But then you would have expected no less from France!
But writing erotica is not just a French tradition, as the present volume I think ably demonstrates. I have been fortunate to live for several years in Italy and return there frequently, and as a result I have learned the language, which has given me the opportunity to discover much of Italian literature that is still unknown to the exclusively English-reading public. And yet again, we find there is a fine heritage of erotica: Ovid, Boccacio, the Decameron, Casanova, and so much more . . . so is it any wonder that, to this day, the art and practice of literary erotica is particularly strong in Italy? And that many of its finest practitioners also happen to be women.
Many of the contributors to this anthology are celebrated in Italy and, in addition to their short stories, have countless novels to their credit. Indeed, I was sadly unable to include authors like Isabella Santacroce, Melissa P., Simona Vinci, and Tenera Valse, because they seldom write at shorter length in the erotic genre, but I urge you to investigate them at the first possible opportunity.
Some are also active in other genres: Barbara Baraldi, Claudia Salvatori, and Maria Tronca are well known for their crime thrillers and even horror; Georgia Gironi is known for her science fiction; Sofia Natella and Cristiana Formetta are leading bloggers and journalists; Francesca Mazzucato and Valeria Parrella are recognized as some of Italy's most challenging literary authors, and some even write for young adults, erotica being just one of their many talents.
To contradict our title, not all the stories are even sweet or upbeat, but how could we not tip our hat to Fellini and the Italian cinema, which has also been a fertile field for the unique accents of Italian-style erotica over the decades: Pasolini, Tinto Brass, early Dario Argento are all echoed here in subtle ways.
We of course already knew how beautiful many Italian women were: from Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, and Claudia Cardinale onward, Italian actresses have illuminated the silver screen with their sensuality and effervescence. But now is the time to recognize that when it comes to celebrating the giddy whirlpools of sex and sensations, Italian female erotica writers are in world of their own.
To which you have a passport in the pages of this book.
I am in the dark in the car park behind the supermarket. I am waiting for him. I'm wearing a black silk slip dress, as light as the merest hint of a caress. I'm shut inside. My car is a shell and I'm a pearl with opalescent skin. I look around nervously.
The sense of fear is mild but it gets stronger with every minute that passes. The feeling will fade as soon as I see the headlights of his car cutting through the darkness and lighting up the inside of mine with two quick bursts on full beam, the signal we agreed. Then my nervousness will dissolve in a rush of desire. Not now. Not yet. My body is rigid, my muscles tense from waiting. My hands are manicured, the nails varnished—rouge noir—the color Fernando likes best. I use the same color on my full lips. I have light-colored eyes, sparkling and full of promise. Because of this, I have never believed that they are the mirror of the soul. So clear, as bright as splinters from a diamond, they definitely don't resemble the clouded well that is my soul. All seven deadly sins are there, one on top of another, one fighting against the other to gain supremacy in an oasis of suppressed virtue. There's Lust, undisputed mistress in the Garden of Eden of my vice. I have called it Love to disguise it and keep at bay any sense of guilt. And then there's Pride, which makes me believe that I deserve all the pleasure I can get, even if to get it I have to trample on the feelings of other people. And finally there's Wrath, domineering and dazzling, which flares up every time I think about the woman who holds the official position by Fernando's side. She occupies his bed while I get toilets in public places, the backseat or the hood of the car, the desk in his office—but only occasionally, otherwise his secretaries might become suspicious. And more: hotel rooms rented by the hour, and once a park bench. And how could I forget New Year's Eve: our first time, biting cold, he and I on the terrace, him on top of me, inside me.
I remember the lavish apartment, crowded with people I didn't know. Friends of Simona, the girl I used to go around with at the time. That night Fernando and I noticed each other. A first lingering gaze, the sort of gaze you could lose yourself in, then quicker looks to find each other again, to follow each other. I danced in front of him in the living room. I heated up the atmosphere by rubbing up against Simona: blonde, boob job, and perfect body. Me: brunette, naturally seductive, wearing a red dress, slit up to here at the side, and silver sandals with vertiginous heels.
I did nothing more than follow the rhythm, careful not to lose contact with the grey eyes of the stranger with the salt-and-pepper hair, so elegant and apparently full of confidence. And he was always there, every time I looked up.
"It's just like you," he said shortly afterward, finally speaking to me. "Your hair, I mean. Every sinuous twist of your curls is an invitation." I smiled, kissed a lock of my hair, and held it up to his lips. He took me by the arm in the midst of the chaos, a grasp that was firm but gentle at the same time. A few minutes before the countdown to the new year, we reached the bedroom at the end of the corridor through the steady stream of people trying to get to the living room or the kitchen for the midnight toast.
I let him do it. I was a bit tipsy, incapable of putting up any resistance to his will, which crushed any moral resolve I might have had. His taste was unusual, slightly spicy. The strong aftertaste was because of the cigars he smoked, as I found out later. His hand travelled over the curves of my body, more and more persistent. It slipped through the slit in my dress and up to my pleasure point. When my knees gave way, I had to lean heavily against the railing. He whirled me around and took possession of me.
The headlights cut through the darkness, two quick bursts on full beam. I am in the supermarket parking lot. And he, at last, has arrived. I grip my thighs and try to control my excitement.
Excuses. Excuses yet again. He can't leave her, it's a bad time. I have to understand, put myself in his shoes. But he doesn't even think about trying mine: too uncomfortable. A wardrobe of figure-hugging dresses, low-cut tops, short skirts, sky-high slits and stiletto heels; just as Fernando likes me. That's how he cheers himself up. It's the norm for me to always be perfect and smiling and flawless. A sexy Lolita, Venus made flesh, the woman of your dreams, but also understanding and rational when needed.
Lovers have to be perfect. Men already have imperfect wives.
"I can't now, sweetie. You know it's a crucial time at work. I can't possibly cope with a divorce and all the stress it would cause." As I think over what he said I increase the speed on the display of the treadmill. I run, fists clenched, the sweat runs down and washes away with it all the tears I don't want to cry.
I knew what I was letting myself in for, going out with a married man. I knew I would always come second, that I would spend the holidays alone and that I would have to smile at his tomorrows. Tomorrow is another day, I repeat to myself. Another day.
I am the lover, she is the wife. Sara: I hate her without even knowing her.
When I try to picture her I give her the worst faults of the entire female gender. Is it possible that she hasn't noticed anything in all this time? I would realize if my man were screwing another woman. But Sara is the fragile woman; Sara who is devoted to her family; Sara who needs him; Sara who lost a son two years ago; Sara who has suffered so much and hasn't yet gotten over it.
"Don't worry, sweetie, she and I haven't touched each other for ages now. We're like brother and sister. I have to stay with her for now, but as soon as she's back to normal I'll talk to her and then it'll be just you and me." Promises. I'm tired of promises and I increase the speed another level.
Now we'll do things my way. I smile, determined.
A Crazy Idea
It was exciting asking for the morning off and lying in wait in front of the house where my man lives. I waited; I saw him leave the house in a hurry, handsome and sure of himself, as always.
I'm waiting for Sara, his wife. Today I'll put a face to the name. I'll follow her and then we'll see what happens. Perhaps it will be enough for me just to see her, homely and pale, to stop myself worrying. Or perhaps I'll speak to her to hear what her voice sounds like; I'll smell her skin as I pass close by her like the subtle touch of the autumn wind. I want to know. I have to know.
There she is, her movements as light as a butterfly. She glides from one aisle to the next in the supermarket, leaning against the shopping cart. She buys ten items at the most. I follow her for three days; she thrives on routine.
Sara is blonde. Her ash blonde hair tamed by a ponytail. She is tall and slim. She has small blue eyes that swim in a perfectly oval, pale face. Sara dresses simply. She isn't flashy; she looks like she doesn't need to be. She seems to glide through the air as she walks along and she doesn't make a noise.
Sara has small breasts; she doesn't confine them in a bra. So, in the refrigerated aisle her nipples get hard and lift the cotton jersey of her T-shirt, a touch of femininity that annoyed me. To start with I found her insignificant, then nice.
Today Sara is beautiful, beautiful enough to give me a twinge of pain in the pit of my stomach.
I have lost sight of her. Where can she have gone? I'm tired, and I realize that only now, lost in this labyrinth of canned food and promises printed on colored cartons.
I've been off work for days; not a problem, there's not much to do and I can take my time off when I want. Anyway, a holiday with Fernando is something I can only dream about. Holidays are for wives.
My body feels warm, a sign that I'm ill.
I swing around a corner to get to another aisle. Frozen food. The collision is inevitable and violent. The shopping basket falls from my hands; two apples in a bag, a small tin of peas, and tuna chunks in brine scatter across the polished floor.
"Excuse me, I'm very sorry," a soft, caressing voice.
"Don't worry. I was miles away. I'm the one who ought to apologize. Did I hurt you?" I say and look up. I recognize her nipples outlined by the light cotton of a white T-shirt. I melt like snow in the sunshine, my knees give way, and so I bend down to pick up my shopping.
"Leave it. I'll help," she smiles, and her eyes light up for a moment.
"No, please don't bother," I say firmly.
"It's no bother." She is polite but clear about what she means to do.
Her hands around the apples. Eve versus Eve in the supermarket. My shopping is returned to its basket, and she gets up and holds out her hand to help me stand. My legs feel heavy. I accept her help even though the voice in my head is whispering that I shouldn't touch her.
A warm hand, a reassuring touch, not a trace of sweat. Mine, on the other hand, is clammy with embarrassment. I snatch it back and wipe my palm on my denim miniskirt that shows off my slim thighs, elongated by the four-inch heels of my silver-colored sandals that accompany me during these days spent tailing her.
"Let's not be formal. I'm Sara," she says.
"Mimma. Pleased to meet you."
It's strange. Now I don't know exactly what I feel any more. Confusion perhaps; that's all that's left. Everything happened so quickly. Sara is no longer the personification of my fears. Sara has a face, and together with the face I have caught her very essence, the color of her hair, of her eyes and of her skin, and now I can add the tone of her voice, the softness of her hands. I am intrigued by Sara. Sara the wife, Sara the saint sent by heaven, Sara the fragile woman, Sara devoted to her family, Sara who needs him because she lost a son two years ago, the woman who has suffered so much and hasn't yet got over it.
"I've finished my shopping. If you like, could we get a coffee together?" I ask without being conscious of doing so.
"Of course," and she smiles. Now I've done it, I think to myself. I can't turn back now, the cogs have started to turn, the gears are screeching. I try to convince myself that there's no harm in it. Fernando will never know, and anyway I have the advantage. I know things that she doesn't. Better to know one's enemy, it makes you stronger. I am the perfect lover, and I am weaving my web.
We sit opposite each other at a table outside the bar next to the supermarket. The stillness of her features is a calm pool matched by the low, even tone of her voice. She is the opposite of me, everything that I am not and could never be. I am fire, impulsive, and sensual. I am earth, skin that tans easily and is hot like the summer air at noon. She is air and water, cold hands, proud and with a look of detachment. But fragile at the same time; a delicate and regal swan on that pool of stillness that rules her face.
We chat for an hour or so. At the start, to break the tension, I bombarded her with a mass of information, true and false, all mixed together: I go to the gym four times a week, I don't use sunbeds because they give you wrinkles, I'm lazy and prefer to lie in the sun like a lizard. It's true: it's contradictory to be lazy and to go to the gym so often. I like to please myself and, why not, also to give pleasure. I work part time as a receptionist in an office on Via Amendola. I'm originally from Puglia. No, I don't believe that everyone from Puglia has dark hair and eyes as blue as the sea. I even ended up talking about my mother, too much like me for us to get on. She listened to me attentively, her small, light-colored eyes always on mine. I look down at my hands, and I'm amazed how natural it is to be here, together. For now, there's no sense of guilt, nor of hate or jealousy, just curiosity and an intense desire to know more about her. I realize that I have hardly let her say a word and now she is looking at her watch. Damn!
"It's getting late, I have to go. I'm meeting someone for lunch," she says with an apologetic look.
I can't miss the chance to see her again. I have to know what sort of a relationship she has with my man, if it's true they haven't touched each other for ages, or if she really loves him. Or perhaps there's more. Morbid curiosity, I tell myself, and I grab my chance: "Why don't we have lunch together one of these days? I'd like that. And anyway, I did all the talking today, I feel terribly guilty," I splutter, biting my lip. I always do that when I'm embarrassed.
"I'd love to. Is tomorrow okay for you?"
We swap mobile numbers and as I'm saying good-bye my cell phone vibrates. It's a message from Fernando: see you this evening at the usual place.
I'm wearing a pair of wide-legged white trousers and a matching blouse with the last three buttons strategically undone. I wanted to arrange the meeting with him in a village on the Via Aemilia, not far from Bologna but far enough to avoid meeting anyone we know. We are strolling along a tree-lined avenue, he has his arm around my shoulder and seems, for the first time since we met, surprised. I haven't behaved how he would have expected me to.
"I want to go for a walk," I told him. I got the urge to have an ice cream and then walk some more. I didn't wait for him to suggest something; I didn't passively go along with what he wanted. For once the perfect lover, always ready to welcome him with her red-hot body and her fixed smile, has chosen instead of letting someone choose for her.
He stops and pulls me closer. He embraces me under the leaves of the trees that hide the face of the moon. I lose myself in his smell and I feel his desire growing. Our tongues intertwine; they speak the language of seduction and prepare our bodies for the battle of love. He rests his hands on my buttocks and then moves them up my body to the breasts that are bursting from my tight-fitting blouse. He can't resist the lure of my body, he shudders and I feel powerful as never before.
I want to make him desire me for a while longer, so I move out of his grasp.
"It's hot, isn't it?" I say with a mischievous smile.
We walk in silence to the car. I sway my hips, breathing deeply the flower-scented air of midsummer. He opens the car with the remote but I still want to take a bit more advantage from the situation.
"Will you buy me a coffee?" I ask in a deliberately indifferent tone of voice. There is a bar right in front of the parking space.
He waits, uncomplaining, as my lips settle on the small cup. I drink slowly, keeping my eyes fastened on his. The first sip of scalding coffee makes me jump. I put the cup down and run my finger over the lipstick-stained rim.
"Are we going?" he asks with a grimace. He never asks—I have to deduce, but not today.
I drink the last mouthful of coffee and I head for the car, following a step behind him.
I don't have time to sit down before he locks the car doors, looks around feverishly—it's eleven o'clock on Thursday, and there's no one around. He practically jumps on me; our breath is a heavy blanket that envelops us and muffles the sound of the bells ringing in the distance, of the occasional car speeding past on the nearby road. He bites my lip, he licks me and seeks out my flesh under my clothes. In an instant I find myself with my trousers and panties pulled down; there's no room for foreplay. He enters me as if he wants to punish me, without realizing that he's actually giving me power. He hammers down on me to destroy my arrogant femininity; he drives forward with regular thrusts and groans more than usual. My cries merge with his. I feel an earthy pleasure. After a few seconds he's out. He withdraws just in time, staining my blouse with a spurt. I smile.
I have dressed with care: I see myself as being different. The old clothes don't go well with the new woman who has risen from the ashes of my old instincts. The vain phoenix looks at herself in the mirror and asks: "Was it meeting Sara that has changed you so thoroughly?"
The reflected image is motionless and observes the black satin pencil skirt, the voile blouse and the black leather court shoes with high heels. Elegance and femininity. Minimal make-up, a bit of mascara and a touch of lip gloss. Natural-looking hair, a mass of dark curls that fall onto my shoulders: a total weapon of seduction.
"I don't think Sara has anything to do with it. She's just a drop in this ocean of ambition. The change germinated inside me and came out all at once," the reflected image finally replies.
It always happens all at once. The meeting with Fernando knocked the old equilibrium off balance. In an instant I became the lover. The one who says yes.
What sort of a wife could Sara be? Today I'll find out.
I drive, lost in thought, and find myself in front of the salmon-colored house that looks out onto a well-kept garden. Today I will immerse myself in their world. I sense a new awareness inside me; I don't know where this game will lead us, but I'm the one directing it.
I ring the bell. Sara looks out of the window and then materializes in front of the door. She is wearing a simple yellow cotton dress and a pair of matching ballet flats. They say that blondes don't look good in sunshine yellow, but she is the exception. Her hair is tied back, as always, in a ponytail that leaves her aristocratic face bare. She seems happy to see me, perhaps she doesn't have many friends. I was surprised that she invited me to her house rather than to a bar for a quick snack. She said we would be more relaxed this way. "And anyway, it's no bother," she let me know. "I'll do a rice salad."
She shows me into a room and says: "Make yourself comfortable. We'll sit in the living room. I've made a fruit cocktail." The voice has that soft, low tone that sets her apart.
"Thanks," I smile and look around.
The living room is decorated tastefully, with lots of light. It looks as if it has come straight off the cover of one of those magazines that show the most stylish houses. Nothing has been left to chance.
"What a lovely room. Did you decorate it?" I ask.
"No, we left it all to an architect from Milan. A friend of Fernando, my husband."
Fernando controls things and loves to be in charge at home, too, it would seem. The sudden thought of him makes me wince. My body still bears the traces of his anger, bruises and the odd scratch.
"Cheers!" says Sara and raises her crystal glass.
"To our meeting and to a new friendship," I reply and drink it all in one go.
We eat in the kitchen with plastic plates and cutlery. "For me, this is an act of total anarchy, and you're my accomplice," she says, trying to catch my eye.
"What do you mean?"
"My husband would never let us eat like this. Disposable plates, a single quick course. He says mealtimes are sacred. He insists on me laying the big table in the dining room and that everything's perfect, even when we're alone. Just imagine if he knew I'd entertained a guest like this."
I don't find it hard to believe, but to get her to talk I prompt her with a "Really?"
She smiles and her whole being lights up. Today Sara is incredibly beautiful. Her beauty isn't a showy beauty; you wouldn't notice it unless you stopped to look at her. I continue pouring red wine into our glasses and I intoxicate her with chatter. I talk about the man I've been seeing for more than a year. I feel the need to broach the subject even if it's in an indirect way. I mention the fact that we never have much time to see each other and that he loves to be in charge and keep everything under control. I confide in her that I've always liked this. I used to find it reassuring, perhaps because, in contrast, I grew up with an absent father.
"I feel I've changed lately and as a result the relationship is evolving. Even if I don't know yet if it's moving in the right direction," I add.
"To changes!" she says and lifts her glass with a strange light in her eyes.
Sara takes off her shoes and makes coffee. As light as a butterfly, she moves silently. When she puts down the steaming cup in front of me I find myself saying: "You're very beautiful, Sara."
"Thank you. You're stunning. I'm largely insignificant, just pretty. My husband is a handsome man, you should see him. If you see us as a couple, he's the one who stands out."
I fight off a rush of annoyance. It isn't because Sara has talked about them as a couple; I feel a strange, insane desire to reassure her, to make her realize that the husband she admires so much is after all just a . . .
A what? A man who made me completely lose my head and who took me to bed. In fact, someone who fucked me against a railing, the first time we met. Should I tell her that? And perhaps I should add that our relationship is based on a multitude of uncomfortable and decidedly unusual places where he has taken me, anytime and anywhere. I've only ever needed to have him, to smell and taste his odor of tobacco and aftershave on my skin and in my mouth and to let myself be taken in by his promises.
"You're an extremely beautiful woman, Sara. The incredible thing is that you're gorgeous without make-up, without flashy clothes," I say, pushing behind her ear a lock of blonde hair that has escaped from her ponytail. My grandmother used to do it when I was a child, after I'd tried to tame my hair by plaiting it or putting it in pigtails, but the mass of curls would rebel and try to escape.
- On Sale
- Apr 2, 2013
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Running Press