Notes for a twentieth century: “Passing through” D’Annunzio
17/04/2015 blog

Beginning of the century

We are used to remember the first years of the century with the expression “Giolitti era”. In fact, Giovanni Giolitti was Prime Minister without interruption, from 1903 to 1914.

On the political field it is a contradictory period. However, on the social level, illiteracy decreases and the layer of petty-bourgeois intellectuals expands. It is an important fact. The latter are mostly public school teachers and state employees. They constitute a new audience for literature – the popular one and that one of the great poetic models as well.


Before the bridge. The French symbolism.

The Risorgimento has turned Italy – a set of states and statelets – into a nation. Giosuè Carducci perfectly represents the idea of poetry of this period. However, what most affect the literature of the next century is in France, with the symbolism. In particular, with the experience of Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Mallarme.


Under the bridge. D’Annunzio.

D’Annunzio export the symbolist experience in Italy and the Italian poets know the Symbolists especially thanks to D’Annunzio – at least until 1911, when Soffici publish a courageous monograph on Rimbaud.

The symbolist poetry has influenced continuously the Italian twentieth century. Consequently the shadow of D’Annunzio would have risked to mark the entire poetic experience of the century. That just in case the other poets had not done, right away, a necessary step: the crossing of D’Annunzio.

Eugenio Montale was the first to use this fitting expression, while was talking about Guido Gozzano.

“…naturally D’Annunziano, even more naturally disgusted by D’Annunzio, he was the first of the poets of the twentieth century that tried (as it was needed and how it probably was after him) to cross D’Annunzio in order to arrive at its territory.”


Under the bridge. Pascoli.

Detesting D’Annunzio, the twentieth century would have to love Pascoli. This has not been.

Pascoli, as D’Annunzio, is almost totally immersed in the culture of the nineteenth century, and, in some ways, he is still tied to the worst part of it, as nationalism and imperialism.

The poets of the twentieth century also repudiate the deep emotion operating in the Pascoli’s production as an essential element. They are committed to desecralise the emotional state, being open, instead, to irony and, in any case, to a lowering of the pathos.


On the other side of the bridge.

After have crossed D’Annunzio and Pascoli, the other side of the bridge is the twentieth century, which begins with an act of insubordination: the vanguard of Lucini, Govoni and Palazzeschi.

We are already at 1910. The beginning of the poetic century seems to coincide with that one marked by Hobsbwan, in “The Short Century”. It is no coincidence. The history and the literature, always, inevitably, communicate among themselves.



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