Welcome to our blog!

It's better than a bat in the eye with a burnt stick!

This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

And make sure to visit The Arnold Bennett Society for expert information and comment on all aspects of the life and work of AB.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

On d'Annunzio

Thursday, August 24th., Fulham Park Gardens, London.

Twice lately I have got ignominiously "stuck" in novels, and in each case I particularly regretted the sad breakdown. Gabriele d'Annunzio's "Forse che si forse che no" has been my undoing. I began it in the French version by Donatella Cross (Calmann-Levy, 3 fr. 50), and I began it with joy and hope. The translation, by the way, is very good. Whatever mountebank tricks d'Annunzio may play as a human being, he has undoubtedly written some very great works. He is an intensely original artist. You may sometimes think him silly, foppish, extravagant, or even caddish (as in "Il Fuoco"), but you have to admit that the English notions of what constitutes extravagance or caddishness are by no means universally held. And anyhow you have to admit that here is a man who really holds an attitude towards life, who is steeped in the sense of style, and who has a superb passion for beauty. Some of d'Annunzio's novels were a revelation, dazzling. And who that began even "Il Fuoco" could resist it? How adult, how subtle, how (in the proper signification) refined, seems the sexuality of d'Annunzio after the timid, gawky, infantile, barbaric sexuality of our "island story"! People are not far wrong on the Continent when they say, as they do say, that English novelists cannot deal with an Englishwoman--or could not up till a few years ago. They never get into the same room with her. They peep like schoolboys through the crack of the door. D'Annunzio can deal with an Italian woman. He does so in the first part of "Forse che si forse che no." She is only one sort of woman, but she is one sort - and that's something! He has not done many things better than the long scene in the Mantuan palace. There is nothing to modern British taste positively immoral in this first part, but it is tremendously sexual. It contains a description of a kiss - just a kiss and nothing more - that is magnificent and overwhelming. You may say that you don't want a magnificent and overwhelming description of a kiss in your fiction. To that I reply that I do want it. Unfortunately d'Annunzio leaves the old palace and goes out on to the aviation ground, and, for me, gradually becomes unreadable. The agonies that I suffered night after night fighting against the wild tedium of d'Annunzio's airmanship, and determined that I would find out what he was after or perish, and in the end perishing--in sleep! To this hour I don't know for sure what he was driving at - what is the theme of the book! But if his theme is what I dimly guess it to be, then the less said about it the better in Britain.

In an article of mine on d'Annunzio in last week's Academy, there is a passage which seems to me, now, such beautiful English that I can't help repeating it over and over, in my mind. Perhaps in ten years' time I may come to despise it in favour of a more severe ascetic style. Here it is:

"These rare creatures, sad with the melancholy of a race about to decay, radiant with the final splendour which precedes dissolution, wistful by reason of a destiny never to be satisfied, move through the drama with a feminine perfection of bodily and spiritual elegance seldom equalled and certainly never surpassed in any previous prose fiction."

Gabriele D'Annunzio (1863 – 1938), Prince of Montenevoso, was an Italian writer, poet, journalist, playwright and soldier during World War I. He occupied a prominent place in Italian literature from 1889 to 1910 and after that in political life from 1914 to 1924. D'Annunzio was associated with the Decadent movement in his literary works, which interplayed closely with French Symbolism and British Aestheticism. Such works represented a turn against the naturalism of the preceding romantics and was both sensuous and mystical. His affairs with several women, including Eleonora Duse and Luisa Casati, received public attention. During the First World War, the perception of D'Annunzio in Italy would be transformed from literary figure into a national war hero. He was associated with the elite Arditi storm troops of the Italian Army and took part in actions such as the Flight over Vienna. As part of an Italian nationalist reaction against the Paris Peace Conference, he set up the short-lived Italian Regency of Carnaro in Fiume with himself as Duce. The constitution made "music" the fundamental principle of the state and was corporatist in nature. Some of the ideas and aesthetics influenced Italian fascism and the style of Benito Mussolini.

No comments:

Post a Comment