LIFE AS CAROLA

1939

‘The book is, as it were, clairvoyant; so clear, so living are the pictures conjured: it reads like an unclouded dream, like something written out of the body and brought back.’
– The Observer

‘Life as Carola was published in 1939. Carola was the illegitimate daughter of an Italian nobleman of the Renaissance. Cast out at an early age, she joined a band of strolling players. Life as Carola was the book that pleased me most. I think it contains my best writing and poetry. It was an incident involving music that inspired the work. One evening, just after coming out of a session of Winged Pharaoh, I listened to a Haydn programme. My husband wondered how Haydn…would relate to Egyptian music. I tried to return to a recall by concentrating once again on my Egyptian experiences. Strangely I could feel the strings of a lute rippling under my fingers. There were no lutes in Egyptian times. “But you weren’t in Egypt”, said my husband. “You were in Italy. Don’t talk. Wait until I have read it back to you. ‘I was born near Perugia in May 1510. My name was Carola di Ludovici. I died when I was twenty seven.”‘
– Joan Grant, quoted from Speaking from the Heart

In her short lifetime Carola gathers harsh experience of poverty, violence and bigotry softened by the friendships she makes on the road: with Petruchio, both jester and sage, with Bernard, the gentle strongman, and Lucia, the harlot who loves him, and with healer Sofia, whose fate warns Carola to keep quiet about her dreams of the Shining One who guides and comforts her.

‘Here is an unusual book that shines with fire and that is packed with incident. It is vivid, dramatic and skilfully put together.’
– New York Times