On Rejecting Motherhood: The Stone Baby by Laudomia Bonanni
Sara Teardo, Princeton University
Published in 1979 by Bompiani, Laudomia Bonanni’s novel Il bambino di pietra (The Stone Baby) is written in the form of a childless woman’s diary. The title refers to a recurrent image in the book that represents a rare clinical malformation called lithopedion. The powerful image illustrates the fact that the child is perceived as an intrusive element, a growing mass alien to the maternal womb; thus, maternity becomes a frightening condition, a monstrous damnation that positions the mother between the impossibility of regaining her unified identity and the inability to expel the foreign body. In this essay, informed by philosopher Luisa Muraro’s seminal work L’ordine simbolico della madre (1991), I investigate how Bonanni’s exploration of the maternal figure empowers the female subject, bringing about its symbolic independence. In this process of self-discovery, the protagonist faces her internal block, projected in the lithopedion, by conducting an intense and merciless self-analysis that leads her to revisit the role of the/her mother and of women in general. At the same time, she comes to envision a different type of motherhood: a symbolic one, based not on sacrifice and traditional conventions, but rather on a transmission of knowledge and confidence.
Keywords: Laudomia Bonanni, Il bambino di pietra, motherhood, entrustment, Italian Feminism