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Erica Jong Is Back!

Novembre 2006
Sono passati più di 30 anni dal suo primo scandaloso best-seller, Paura di Volare. Cosa è cambiato da allora nella vita delle donne? Tutto e niente, secondo  Erica Jong.

di Francesca Del Rosso

File audio:

Erica Jong
Erica Jong

Speaker: Chuck Rolando (Standard American accent)

When Erica Jong first published her novel Fear of Flying in 1973, Henry Miller predicted that “This book will make literary history... because of it women are going to find their own voice and give us great sagas of sex, life, joy, and adventure.” Miller was right: the book rapidly established itself as a “classic” and it has now sold an estimated 18 million copies worldwide.


Jong has since published seven other novels as well as volumes of poetry and a number of non-fictional works that include a study of witches and one of the afore-mentioned Henry Miller. Her latest book is called Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life, which has been published in Italian by Bompiani as Sedurre il demonio. In it she looks back on a writing career that has produced 20 books, not to mention four marriages. When Erica Jong met with Speak Up, we asked her about the amazing success of Fear of Flying:

Erica Jong (Standard American accent):

When a literary book sells 18 million copies around the world, it’s not because of literature, it’s because, in some way, it was timed right for the moment that people found themselves in and… like The Catcher in the Rye or Portnoy’s Complaint or many other books about growing up and becoming an adult, one hopes. But it really became a bestseller for the wrong reason. Any literary book that becomes a bestseller, it’s usually for the wrong reason. Either everybody’s interested in that particular nationality at that moment in time or, you know, we’re very interested in India right now and China, so Indian writers and Chinese writers always win the prizes and we’re very interested in Afghanistan and Iran, so probably you can predict that the Booker Prize and the Campiello and whatever will be won by somebody from these countries. It’s natural, but it’s never for a literary reason, a purely literary reason.


She was then asked how the life of women had changed since Fear of Flying’s publication:

Eric Jong:

Many women were very liberated by Fear of Flying, many women felt that they… people used to say to me all the time, “I learned that I wasn’t crazy, that I wasn’t the only person who ever had these thoughts and feelings.” And it was quite comforting to know that you weren’t crazy! Now we’re – what? – 33 years later and women have learned to be free, to have a lot of plastic surgery, to have artificial breasts, to throw up a good meal. Somehow something terrible has happened, not because of my book, or feminism, but because, once again, we’re in a period or retrenchment.


My daughter’s generation, which has been completely liberated to do whatever they want, to go to medical school, to go to law school, to be writers, to be engineers, computer experts, you name it, they realise, I guess, that the world still belongs to men and they might as well marry a rich man and have babies and then do what they want to do. So the pendulum has swung back. It’s not like… I’m quite horrified, in a way, by this. I never even... well, you know, I got married a lot, but I never thought of marrying anyone with money, I thought that was disgusting, women who marry men with money. My daughter’s generation is very pragmatic. They say, “OK, we can do whatever we want if we have a nanny during the week and a nanny on the weekend” and for that you have to marry someone with money.

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worldwide - in tutto il mondo.

non-fictional works - opere di saggistica.     

witches - streghe.

it was timed right... people found them-selves in - è uscito al momento giusto rispetto ai tempi.

The Catcher in the Rye - Il Giovane Holden, di J.D. Salinger (1951).

Portnoy’s Complaint - Lamento di Portnoy, di Philip Roth (1969).

I learned that I wasn’t crazy - ho capito che non ero pazza.

plastic surgery - chirurgia plastica.

breasts - seni.

to throw up a good meal - vomitare un buon pasto.

retrenchment - riflusso.

you name it - qualsiasi cosa.

the pendulum has swung back - il pendolo è oscillato dalla parte opposta.