by Miriam Sette
Norman Douglas’ Old Calabria recounts the author’s search for a personal identity, after his failure to meet societal norms has cut him off from his background. In the traces of the civilisation of ancient Greece, Douglas rediscovers his authentic identity in the history, tradition, and rites of the deep south of the Italian peninsula. When he reaches the ‘Greek’ Sila, rich in vestiges of the classical world, his discovery of Orphic rituals allows him to reconcile the differing elements of his polymorphic nature within the embrace of Great Mother Earth, which welcomes all diversities. Douglas’ project in visiting Calabria can thus be read metaphorically as the search for an ideal place of the soul, fueled by the hope of realising his natural impulses; it is also, more widely, a search for a metaspace of sensual liberation, free from the privilege, hypocrisy, and prohibitions of Victorian morality.