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THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARIA CALLAS,
A NOVEL .
On the 16th of September, 1977, I was surprised to receive
Dr. Alma H. Bond
Dear Dr. Bond:
We have never met, but you may well have heard of me. My name is Maria Callas. I am an opera singer.
I am taking the liberty of writing to you because a friend of mine who is your patient says you are a wonderful psychoanalyst. I must confess for a time I considered coming to you for treatment, and indeed, if I lived permanently in the United States I may well have done so. Also, friends who are better versed in literary matters than I admire the understanding of human nature evident in your writing. They particularly like your biography of Virginia Woolf, which they say is a sensitive, insightful portrait of a misunderstood woman. They believe you understood Woolf’s relationship with her mother as no other writer has. Lord knows, my relationship with my mother could use some insight!
I have investigated your background, and appreciate that you are my age, and, like me, grew up in a large city in the United States. Under other circumstances, we could easily have sat side by side in elementary school. You will understand the times I grew up in and the difficulties that faced a struggling artist of our day.
I, like Woolf, am misunderstood, though many biographies and newspaper articles proclaiming to expose the "real Callas" have been published. My mother has written one (Lord help me), as has my sister, my ex-husband, Giovanni Battista Meneghini, and even my cousin Steven Linakis whom I only met once and hardly even talked to. I am especially annoyed by those, and there are many, who speculate publicly on the source of my "genius." How could they know? Most of them have never even met me. Not a one has understood me or the wellsprings of my art. I do not like being called "La Divina." I am only a woman. That is the source of my art.
I have kept a sort of a diary of my life since I was a child. I did it to make sense out of a confusing and often disorganized life. No one but me has ever seen it. Like me, the diary is in scraps and pieces, but for the astute psychoanalyst you are, it will tell the true story of Callas, the woman and the artist.
I have sorted the material into four piles. Since my rejection of my mother mystifies everyone including the press, the first heap of papers tells of our relationship from the moment I was born to the present day. I am angry with her for many reasons, but most of all because she took over my childhood and kept me from knowing who I am. It has been said I am a singer with a thousand voices. I think I am a soul with a thousand selves. Hopefully, this potpourri of paper will cast some light on why I feel so nonexistent, except when I am on the stage.
The second group of memoirs deals with my marriage to the "old man," Giovanni Battista Meneghini and how he nurtured me and helped launch the development of my incredible career. People wonder why I married a man so much older than I, but they fail to realize that without him I never could have become Maria Callas.
The third selection chronicles the rise and fall of my operatic career, of my triumphs and heartbreaks. It tells about my mentors, the marvelous conductor Tullio Serafin, and how he shaped my talent and my art, and Luchino Visconti, the famous producer and screen director, who expanded my musical horizons at the same time he introduced me to a whole new way of life. Sometimes I think Maria Callas was born under the tutelage of these remarkable men.
The fourth and most important assortment divulges how I lost my identity when I lost my voice. It gives the details of my affair with Aristotle Onassis, and illustrates how I found a whole new identity as his mistress. I trust you will understand this kind of connection and not be offended by the graphic details of our love life. Such a description is necessary if one is to understand my obsession with him. This section also discusses the manner in which I dealt with his marriage to Jackie Kennedy, and how his death affected me as nothing else in my life.
Last of all, Dr. Bond, I am writing to ask you to set straight to the world the real nature of my relationship with Onassis, and to clear him of the charge that he destroyed my career. I am sending you the diary because I want to make sure the book is edited and presented to the public by someone who can understand the psychology behind our relationship.
Why didn’t I write the book myself, you may ask? I have never been able to communicate well through words. You might say my communications for the most part were sung rather than spoken. And in particular, I have always disliked writing, perhaps because I do not feel I am an educated woman. But I do wish to be understood, and now when it is almost too late, this is the only way I know to do it.
Will you take these fragments of my life and turn them into an autobiography, in order to set to rest for once and for all who I am? Please?
As you may have heard by now, I am....unavailable for conferences or corrections. Nor will I ever be again. But I have always trusted my instincts, and they tell me that in you I have made the right choice.
are Unanimous in their Praise for The Autobiography of Maria Callas, a