Auto/Biography Study Group Monograph

These Barbed Wire Barriers cover image.

Jenifer Nicholson (2020) These Barbed Wire Barriers: Antonio Gramsci and the Schucht Sisters

Jenifer Nicholson has used archival material and Italian texts to reveal the lives and thoughts of the Schucht sisters. They were Eugenia, who loved and was rejected by Gramsci; Giulia who married him, and Tatiana, his loyal friend. All three were important to Antonio, Eugenia and Giulia politically as well as personally, and Tatiana who helped him to survive long enough to produce his masterpiece, The Prison Notebooks, and then spirited them out of prison Yet these women remain peripheral in accounts of Gramsci’s life. Examination of Tatiana's letters (published in Italy), both to Gramsci and to her family in Russia, provided Gramsci with support and vital information about Giulia's predicament in Russia. Giulia's letters and draft letters which remain largely unpublished reveal her as stronger, more loving and vital than the way she is usually depicted. She was as badly affected as Gramsci was by illness and oppressed by surveillance both private and political. The study gives these women form, substance and a voice and also shows a Gramsci who, under the stress of pain, anger and frustration, could be cruel, stubborn and deaf to advice. It highlights the tragedy of two people who, forced apart by political forces are further separated by misunderstanding, patronising, and selfish concerns, as well as misplaced loving interference.

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