Two women with the same name, two very distant lives.

Annalena Tonelli is an Italian girl of the 1960s with the future in her hands: beautiful, sharp, the first among her friends to dance the twist, scholarships in Boston and New York, then a law degree. But at nineteen she has already met her calling, “because it is not possible to love the poor, without wanting to be like them.” So she trains her body to sleep four hours a night, to live on very little, she eliminates vanity from her life forever. She does not want anyone to fall in love with her, because she is already burning with love for the last ones of the earth. And this burning feeling drives her far from Forlì, her small hometown in central Italy, to cultivate the flower of humanity in the driest deserts. Enlightened by love for God and by the humanism of Simone Weil, Etty Hillesum, Virginia Woolf, she expresses the maximum of freedom in the maximum of humility. Annalena Tonelli has exercised, by her life and her writings, a most lofty and disruptive thought, with which Annalena Benini is confronted and clashes. This book is a modern and bumpy journey, full of questions and confessions, in an attempt to look, from below, with full awareness of one’s limitations, at the ladder that climbs to the absolute. Arriving at the exciting and complex discovery that the freest and most courageous thought of the twentieth century is a feminine thought.

With a disenchanted gaze, extremely contemporary, Benini confronts Tonelli’s magnetic and shy figure who embodies the fragility and the power of all women, and who keeps telling her: and what about you?

“She was the disproportion in everything, but life is also missing something, not succeeding in something, not filling the measure to the brim”.

Annalena Tonelli, hair in the wind, darts on her bicycle at dawn through the streets of Forlí: she runs to the needy, to the last ones. She will do it all her life. Until she founds a mission in Africa, to give up everything, until she is killed because she is a woman, she is white, she doesn’t have a man by her side and she has no fear. Annalena Benini has always known this story, Annalena Tonelli is part of her family. But now something has happened, and that name identical to hers chases her like a question, like a goad: can she get to understand everything about that extreme, free, courageous woman? There is a mystery that remains. A very personal and deep journey inside the heart of feminine strength, between dedication and power, greatness and sense of limit, talent and vocation.

Details +

Publication date: 18.04.2023
Publisher: Einaudi
Number of Pages: 152
Country: Italy

Press +
Editions +
Annalena - audiobook Emons
8 September 2023
Foreign rights +

Foreign rights sold in

Brazil: Âyiné

By the same author +
I racconti delle donne Einaudi

5 March 2015

Rosaria Carpinelli
Consulenze Editoriali

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