Giovanni Papini, (born January 9, 1881, Florence, Italy--died July 8, 1956, Florence), journalist, critic, poet, and novelist, one of the most outspoken and controversial Italian literary figures of the early and mid-20th century. He was influential first as a fiercely iconoclastic editor and writer, then as a leader of Italian Futurism, and finally as a spokesman for Roman Catholic religious belief.Though largely self-educated, Papini soon became a literary leader in Florence. He was a founder of an influential Florentine literary magazine, Leonardo (1903). During this period he wrote..
Pier Paolo Pasolini, (born March 5, 1922, Bologna, Italy--died Nov. 2, 1975, Ostia, near Rome), Italian motion-picture director, poet, and novelist, noted for his socially critical, stylistically unorthodox films.The son of an Italian army officer, Pasolini was educated in schools of the various cities of northern Italy where his father was successively posted. He attended the University of Bologna, studying art history and literature. Pasolini's stay of refuge among the oppressed peasantry of the Friuli region during World War II led to his later becoming a Marxist, albeit an unorthodox..
Alberto Moravia, pseudonym of Alberto Pincherle, (born Nov. 28, 1907, Rome, Italy--died Sept. 26, 1990, Rome), Italian journalist, short-story writer, and novelist known for his fictional portrayals of social alienation and loveless sexuality. He was a major figure in 20th-century Italian literature.Moravia contracted tuberculosis of the bone (a form of osteomyelitis usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis) at the age of 8, but, during several years in which he was confined to bed and two years in sanatoriums, he studied French, German, and English; read Giovanni Boccaccio, Ludovico..
Dario Fo, (born March 24, 1926, Leggiuno-Sangiano, Italy--died October 13, 2016, Milan), Italian avant-garde playwright, manager-director, and actor-mime who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997 though he often faced government censure as a theatrical caricaturist with a flair for social agitation.Fo's first theatrical experience was collaborating on satirical revues for small cabarets and theatres. He and his wife, the actress Franca Rame, produced (1962) humorous sketches on the television show Canzonissima that soon made them popular public personalities. They..
Salvatore Quasimodo, (born Aug. 20, 1901, Modica, Italy--died June 14, 1968, Naples), Italian poet, critic, and translator. Originally a leader of the Hermetic poets, he became, after World War II, a powerful poet commenting on modern social issues. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1959.Quasimodo was born in Sicily and was the son of a railroad employee. He was first educated near Syracuse and at Messina, studied engineering and mathematics at Palermo, and then left for the north, graduating as an engineer in Rome. He had liked to write even as a child, and, though he spent the next..
Eugenio Montale, (born October 12, 1896, Genoa, Italy--died September 12, 1981, Milan), Italian poet, prose writer, editor, and translator who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1975.As a young man, Montale trained as an opera singer. He was drafted to serve in World War I, and, when the war was over, he resumed his music studies. Increasingly he became involved in literary activity. He was cofounder in 1922 of Primo tempo ("First Time"), a literary journal; worked for the publisher Bemporad (1927-28); served as director of the Gabinetto Vieusseux Library in Florence (1929-38); was a freelance..
Giorgio Vasari, (born July 30, 1511, Arezzo [Italy]--died June 27, 1574, Florence), Italian painter, architect, and writer who is best known for his important biographies of Italian Renaissance artists.When still a child, Vasari was the pupil of Guglielmo de Marcillat, but his decisive training was in Florence, where he enjoyed the friendship and patronage of the Medici family, trained within the circle of Andrea del Sarto, and became a lifelong admirer of Michelangelo. As an artist Vasari was both studious and prolific. His painting is best represented by the fresco cycles in the Palazzo..
Carlo Goldoni, (born Feb. 25, 1707, Venice--died Feb. 6, 1793, Paris), prolific dramatist who renovated the well-established Italian commedia dell'arte dramatic form by replacing its masked stock figures with more realistic characters, its loosely structured and often repetitive action with tightly constructed plots, and its predictable farce with a new spirit of gaiety and spontaneity. For these innovations Goldoni is considered the founder of Italian realistic comedy.The precocious son of a physician, Goldoni read comedies from his father's library when young and ran away from..
Gian Carlo Menotti, (born July 7, 1911, Cadegliano, Italy--died Feb. 1, 2007, Monaco), Italian composer, whose operas gained wider popularity than any others of their time. His realistic operas on his own librettos represent a successful combination of 20th-century dramatic situations with the traditional form of Italian opera. Menotti used largely traditional harmonies, resorting at times to dissonance and polytonality to heighten dramatic effect.Menotti wrote his first opera, The Death of Pierrot, by the age of 11. He studied at the Milan Conservatory and in the late 1920s emigrated..
Giacomo Leopardi, (born June 29, 1798, Recanati, Papal States--died June 14, 1837, Naples), Italian poet, scholar, and philosopher whose outstanding scholarly and philosophical works and superb lyric poetry place him among the great writers of the 19th century.A precocious, congenitally deformed child of noble but apparently insensitive parents, Giacomo quickly exhausted the resources of his tutors. At the age of 16 he independently had mastered Greek, Latin, and several modern languages, had translated many classical works, and had written two tragedies, many Italian poems, and..
Umberto Eco, (born January 5, 1932, Alessandria, Italy--died February 19, 2016, Milan), Italian literary critic, novelist, and semiotician (student of signs and symbols) best known for his novel Il nome della rosa (1980; The Name of the Rose).After receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Turin (1954), Eco worked as a cultural editor for Italian Radio-Television and lectured at the University of Turin (1956-64). He then taught in Florence and Milan and finally, in 1971, assumed a professorial post at the University of Bologna. His initial studies and researches were in aesthetics, his principal..
Torquato Tasso, (born March 11, 1544, Sorrento, Kingdom of Naples [Italy]--died April 25, 1595, Rome), greatest Italian poet of the late Renaissance, celebrated for his heroic epic poem Gerusalemme liberata (1581; "Jerusalem Liberated"), dealing with the capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade.Early life and works.Tasso was the son of Bernardo Tasso, a poet and courtier, and of Porzia de' Rossi. His childhood was overshadowed by family misfortunes: his father followed the prince of Salerno into exile in 1552; the family estates were confiscated; his mother died in 1556; and there..
Luigi Pirandello, (born June 28, 1867, Agrigento, Sicily, Italy--died Dec. 10, 1936, Rome), Italian playwright, novelist, and short-story writer, winner of the 1934 Nobel Prize for Literature. With his invention of the "theatre within the theatre" in the play Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore (1921; Six Characters in Search of an Author), he became an important innovator in modern drama.Pirandello was the son of a sulfur merchant who wanted him to enter commerce. Pirandello, however, was not interested in business; he wanted to study. He first went to Palermo, the capital of Sicily, and, in..
Giuseppe Mazzini, (born June 22, 1805, Genoa [Italy]--died March 10, 1872, Pisa, Italy), Genoese propagandist and revolutionary, founder of the secret revolutionary society Young Italy (1832), and a champion of the movement for Italian unity known as the Risorgimento. An uncompromising republican, he refused to participate in the parliamentary government that was established under the monarchy of the House of Savoy when Italy became unified and independent (1861).Education and exile.Giuseppe Mazzini was a doctor's son; his birthplace, formerly a republic, was annexed to the Kingdom..
Giordano Bruno, original name Filippo Bruno, byname Il Nolano, (born 1548, Nola, near Naples [Italy]--died February 17, 1600, Rome), Italian philosopher, astronomer, mathematician, and occultist whose theories anticipated modern science. The most notable of these were his theories of the infinite universe and the multiplicity of worlds, in which he rejected the traditional geocentric (Earth-centred) astronomy and intuitively went beyond the Copernican heliocentric (Sun-centred) theory, which still maintained a finite universe with a sphere of fixed stars. Bruno is, perhaps,..
Giovanni Boccaccio, (born 1313, Paris, Fr.--died Dec. 21, 1375, Certaldo, Tuscany [Italy]), Italian poet and scholar, best remembered as the author of the earthy tales in the Decameron. With Petrarch he laid the foundations for the humanism of the Renaissance and raised vernacular literature to the level and status of the classics of antiquity.Youth.Boccaccio was the son of a Tuscan merchant, Boccaccio di Chellino (called Boccaccino), and a mother who was probably French. He passed his early childhood rather unhappily in Florence. His father had no sympathy for Boccaccio's literary inclinations..
Petrarch, Italian in full Francesco Petrarca, (born July 20, 1304, Arezzo, Tuscany [Italy]--died July 18/19, 1374, Arqua, near Padua, Carrara), Italian scholar, poet, and humanist whose poems addressed to Laura, an idealized beloved, contributed to the Renaissance flowering of lyric poetry. Petrarch's inquiring mind and love of Classical authors led him to travel, visiting men of learning and searching monastic libraries for Classical manuscripts. He was regarded as the greatest scholar of his age.Education and early poemsPetrarch's father, a lawyer, had been obliged to leave Florence..
Niccolo Machiavelli, (born May 3, 1469, Florence, Italy--died June 21, 1527, Florence), Italian Renaissance political philosopher and statesman, secretary of the Florentine republic, whose most famous work, The Prince (Il Principe), brought him a reputation as an atheist and an immoral cynic.Early life and political careerFrom the 13th century onward, Machiavelli's family was wealthy and prominent, holding on occasion Florence's most important offices. His father, Bernardo, a doctor of laws, was nevertheless among the family's poorest members. Barred from public office in Florence..
Dante, in full Dante Alighieri, (born c. May 21-June 20, 1265, Florence, Italy--died September 13/14, 1321, Ravenna), Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem La commedia, later named La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy).Dante's Divine Comedy, a landmark in Italian literature and among the greatest works of all medieval European literature, is a profound Christian vision of humankind's temporal and eternal destiny. On its most personal level, it draws on Dante's own experience of exile from..
Michelangelo, in full Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, (born March 6, 1475, Caprese, Republic of Florence [Italy]--died February 18, 1564, Rome, Papal States), Italian Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect, and poet who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art.Michelangelo was considered the greatest living artist in his lifetime, and ever since then he has been held to be one of the greatest artists of all time. A number of his works in painting, sculpture, and architecture rank among the most famous in existence. Although the frescoes on the..
Ignazio Silone, pseudonym of Secondo Tranquilli, (born May 1, 1900, Pescina dei Marsi, Italy—died Aug. 22, 1978, Geneva), Italian novelist, short-story writer, and political leader, world famous during World War II for his powerful anti-Fascist novels.Born into a rural family, Silone was educated in the town of his birth until he was 15, when an earthquake killed his mother and left the family in great poverty. (Only one of Silone’s five siblings survived the earthquake and childhood illness.) After drifting for a time, Silone managed to finish secondary school and in 1917 began to work with..
Cesare Pavese, (born Sept. 9, 1908, Santo Stefano Belbo, Italy—died Aug. 27, 1950, Turin), Italian poet, critic, novelist, and translator, who introduced many modern U.S. and English writers to Italy.Born in a small town in which his father, an official, owned property, he moved with his family to Turin, where he attended high school and the university. Denied an outlet for his creative powers by Fascist control of literature, Pavese translated many 20th-century U.S. writers in the 1930s and ’40s: Sherwood Anderson, Gertrude Stein, John Steinbeck, John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway, and..
Oriana Fallaci, Italian journalist and war correspondent (born June 29, 1929, Florence, Italy--died Sept. 15, 2006, Florence), earned international iconic status for her passionate, opinionated writing and for her in-depth, often adversarial interviews with such prominent world figures as Indira Gandhi, Henry Kissinger, Deng Xiaoping, and both the shah of Iran and Ayatollah Khomeini. Fallaci dropped out of medical school at the University of Florence when a part-time newspaper job inspired her love of journalism. After joining the staff of the magazine L'Europeo in the 1950s, she covered..
Persius, in full Aulus Persius Flaccus, (born ad 34, Volaterrae [now Volterra, Italy]--died 62, Campania), Stoic poet whose Latin satires reached a higher moral tone than those of other classical Latin poets (excepting Juvenal).A pupil and friend of the Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Cornutus and a fellow student of the poet Lucan, who admired all he wrote, Persius discovered his vocation as a satirist through reading the 10th book of Lucilius. He wrote painstakingly, and his book of satires was still incomplete at his premature death. The book, edited by his friends Cornutus and Caesius..
Lucius Accius, Accius also spelled Attius, (born 170 bce, Pisaurum, Umbria [Italy]--died c. 86 bce), one of the greatest of the Roman tragic poets, in the view of his contemporaries. His plays (more than 40 titles are known, and about 700 lines survive) were mostly free translations from Greek tragedy, many from Euripides, with violent plots, flamboyant characterizations, and forceful rhetoric. His tragedies were performed until the end of the republic (c. 30 bce). Their themes were those of classical legend, particularly the Troy cycle, but Accius also composed two historical plays, Decius..
Grazia Deledda, (born Sept. 27, 1871, Nuoro, Sardinia, Italy--died Aug. 15, 1936, Rome), novelist who was influenced by the verismo (q.v.; "realism") school in Italian literature. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1926.Deledda married very young and moved to Rome, where she lived quietly, frequently visiting her native Sardinia. With little formal schooling, at age 17 Deledda wrote her first stories, based on sentimental treatment of folklore themes. With Il vecchio della montagna (1900; "The Old Man of the Mountain") she began to write about the tragic effects of temptation..
Ugo Betti, (born Feb. 4, 1892, Camerino, Italy--died June 9, 1953, Rome), the foremost internationally known Italian playwright, after Luigi Pirandello, in the first half of the 20th century.Educated for the law, Betti fought in World War I and while imprisoned (1917-18) by the Germans wrote a volume of poems, Il re pensieroso (1922; "The Thoughtful King"). After the war he became a magistrate in Rome in 1920, rose to a judgeship in 1930, and became librarian at the Ministry of Justice in 1944. His legal career was interspersed with the writing of two more volumes of poetry, three books of short..
Natalia Ginzburg, nee Levi, (born July 14, 1916, Palermo, Italy--died Oct. 7, 1991, Rome), Italian author who dealt unsentimentally with family relationships in her writings.Ginzburg was the widow of the Italian literary figure and patriot Leone Ginzburg, who operated a publishing house for a time, was arrested for antifascist activities, and died in prison in 1944. (She later remarried.) Her literary career began with the publication of short stories in the Florentine periodical Solaria. Her first novella, La strada che va in citta (1942; The Road to the City), is the story of a young peasant..
Renata Adler, (born October 19, 1938, Milan, Italy), Italian-born American journalist, experimental novelist, and film critic best known for her analytic essays and reviews for The New Yorker magazine and for her 1986 book that investigates the news media.Adler was educated at Bryn Mawr (Pennsylvania) College, the Sorbonne, and Harvard University. From 1962 to 1968 and from 1970 to 1982, she was a staff writer-reporter for The New Yorker. Essays and reviews she wrote there are collected and published as Toward a Radical Middle: Fourteen Pieces of Reporting and Criticism (1969). From her..
Pietro Aretino, (born April 20, 1492, Arezzo, Republic of Florence [Italy]--died October 21, 1556, Venice), Italian poet, prose writer, and dramatist celebrated throughout Europe in his time for his bold and insolent literary attacks on the powerful. His fiery letters and dialogues are of great biographical and topical interest.Although Aretino was the son of an Arezzo shoemaker, he later pretended to be the natural son of a nobleman and derived his adopted name ("the Aretine") from that of his native city (his real name is unknown). While still very young, he went to Perugia and painted for..
Italo Calvino, (born October 15, 1923, Santiago de las Vegas, Cuba--died September 19, 1985, Siena, Italy), Italian journalist, short-story writer, and novelist whose whimsical and imaginative fables made him one of the most important Italian fiction writers in the 20th century.Calvino left Cuba for Italy in his youth. He joined the Italian Resistance during World War II and after the war settled in Turin, obtaining his degree in literature while working for the Communist periodical L'Unita and for the publishing house of Einaudi. From 1959 to 1966 he edited, with Elio Vittorini, the left-wing..
Tommaso Campanella, original name Giovanni Domenico Campanella, (born Sept. 5, 1568, Stilo, Kingdom of Naples [Italy]--died May 21, 1639, Paris, France), Italian philosopher and writer who sought to reconcile Renaissance humanism with Roman Catholic theology. He is best remembered for his socialistic work La citta del sole (1602; "The City of the Sun"), written while he was a prisoner of the Spanish crown (1599-1626).Entering the Dominican order in 1583, at which time he adopted the name Tommaso, he was influenced by the work of Italian philosopher Bernardino Telesio, an opponent of Scholastic..