Campo Cristina

Campo Cristina detto Vittoria Guerrini

29 Aprile 1923 - 10 Gennaio 1977

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Vittoria Maria Angelica Marcella Cristina Guerrini was born in Bologna on 29 April 1923, but a few years later her family moved. For a brief period they lived in Parma and then in Florence and finally, in the 1950s, to Rome. As a translator, writer and poet, she worked under a pseodonym. Actually, under many. The one most used and most known was Cristina Campo.

Her father, Guido Guerrini was born in Faenza, in a family originally of farmers, was became owners thanks to the inheritance from the countess Geltrude Abbondanzi, the first wife of his father Pietro. In 1906, in a tight economic situation, the Guerrini family moved to Bologna, where Guido, sixteen years old, pursued a formal musical education and successfully started a career as a teacher and a composer. In 1922 Guido married Emilia Putti. Emilia was from a prominent Bolognese family, a family of sculptors, patriots and doctors related to the Panzacchi and the Respighi families (her mother is Enrico Panzacchi’s sister, while her aunt Ersilia Putti Respighi is the mother of Ottorino Respighi). Emilia’s brother, Vittorio, was the director of the Rizzoli Insitute and an internationally known orthopedic doctor. Her father, Marcello Putti, son of the sculptor Massimiliano Putti, was the head physician at Ospedale Maggiore (Main Hostital) and for many years was a prominent figure in the public administration of the city. Her uncle Emilio started his military career at the age of 19 as a rifleman together with his brother Marcello and fought with him in the battle of Mola di Gaeta in 1860. Emilio died in unclear circumstances in Massaua in 1885, while Emilia’s other uncle, Tullio Putti, died from pachymeningitis caused by a wound recieved when, at only the age of 14, he fought in the battle of Mentana in 1867. Vittoria’s youth was therefore soaked in tales that her mother told about her Putti family. In a letter to Alessandro Spina, she wrote: "How many times (…) have we spoken about Buddenbrooks, then those great families we had behind us, which are the only thing that you want to know, of which you should write. Of these last strips of families- miraculous islands in this horrid world of carnal relations- the last wings of the perfect buildings on which Dominus providebit." (Lettere a un amico lontano, Scheiwiller, Milan, 1998).

But the writings of Cristina Campo were not about her Putti family; only translations, articles, reviews and poems. Even though, according to those who knew her, she was a brilliant conversationalist, she had a reserved character; she had no sympathy for the famous, the worldly salons, the literary prizes and the writers who parade, week after week, on video and on tv programs that ferociously denounced the writers on show (1 Edition. “Il mondo”, 4 September 1962). In a hypothetical biographical note she wrote in third person saying “She has written little and she would have liked to have written less”, a phrase that describes a shy personality who reaches for perfection. Certainly she could have written more, but there was a determining factor in her life that may have prevented her from doing so. Cristina suffered from a congenital heart disease that pained her in many ways, sometimes forcing her to long bouts of rest in bed as entire days would pass by. The disease caused her to leave school in favor of a self-taught education and an isolated childhood; a sickness that certainly shaped her personality and then brought her to death at the age of 53 years old. When she passed away in 1977, Cristina Campo was hardly known and it remained so until the 1990s when books were published containing her articles, her poems and the letters that she wrote to her friends over the years. Critical and biographical studies dedicated to her began to flourish as well as conferences and study days. This is not to summarize her contributions to the Italian literary tradition nor do we want to insist on how she is considered by critics and the wider public.

However, we are interested in a brief autobiographical story of hers that was not published until 1998, under the title “Sotto falso nome” (Under a false name), a collection edited by Monica Farnetti and published by Adelphi. The story was titled “La noce d'oro” and it takes us back to the long summers of her childhood and adoloscence in Bologna at her uncle Vittorio’s villa, inside the park at the Rizzoli Institute and known as Villa Putti. The story, although very brief, evokes the atmosphere of a childhood surrounded by adults and the all of the fascination of Cristina Campo had for the world of fairytales. The magic and the mystery, evoked from the early pages, can be found in the descriptions of the people, the park, the villa Putti and the Certosa of Bologna. The Certosa, she wrote, is a "cemetery unlike any other: a gloomy palace made of grand arcades, corridors, courtyards, similar to a scene of a Spanish tragedy from the era of Alfieri: of demented romance, of subtle, forbidden loves and redemptive wars but always and only for me, a dark fairy palace. From the grand noble chapels opening from two sides of the arcades, in the immense covered passages, from one to the other cloister, from one wing to another, to implore the hands of marble stretched from the mournful monuments on which wreaths are lain, flowers have already died. Hands of white women in tears, wrapped in broken columns, to stone medallions, the head veiled by an arm, by a strip of shroud." It is to the Certosa that each year, for the dead, her mother takes her to the tomb of her grandparents Putti and go to pass through "the great mossy arches of less close relatives, who" -writes Cristina- "I have never known and who had shown themselves in the sciences, in letters and in weapons; under the immense mournful statues- the grief for the broken citern, the 'Piagnoni' (the Mourners) who will purely cry, frozen in drapery, the night time with the hourglass raised (...)- that some had carved." Vittoria Guerrini, better known as Cristina Campo, died in Rome on 10 January 1977. She is buried in the Putti family tomb in the Certosa of Bologna.

Translation from italian language by Holly Bean.

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