Italy Literature Part I

According to, the most significant change that the literary panorama of the last decade presents compared to the previous one concerns poetry. The hermeticism which at the time, while showing that it was close to exhausting its cycle, nevertheless held the field, has now yielded to the experiences or experiments of the young poetic generation (the so-called “fourth generation”): which is moved by that need of new contents and new forms, adhering to the human and social condition of today, which, in terms of fiction, had found, or believed to find, its outlet in neorealism right from the postwar period. But strictly speaking, this post-hermetic poetic experimentalism cannot be said to be neorealistic, because that interest in the life of relationship, in “dialogue” (as opposed to individualistic isolation of hermeticism), and therefore for a language that is above all “communication”, has developed in several directions: from the realistic-social, or populist and Marxist, inclined to the “document” or “denunciation”; to “protest” (and it is the only one to which this definition could apply), to the mystical-religious one, both deeply Catholic and non-denominational. And although some of these directions, and in particular the first, have taken a strongly polemical attitude towards hermeticism, to the point of claiming to completely disregard it, in fact the hermetic inheritance is noticeable in it no less than in those that, like the religious mystical, they instead recognize its value and significance. Which is quite natural, as hermeticism.

However, however different or conflicting their positions may be, the post-hermetic poets appear united in the commitment to leave rarefied analogism, from visionary and magical subjectivism, to tend towards a poetry which, restoring logical and syntactic connections, both as the resolution of the lyrical verticalism of their predecessors in the horizontality and continuity of a “discourse” which, without forgetting the reasons not only for the rhythm but for the song, describes and narrates. A development, this, already begun or attempted, of course, by the major exponents of hermeticism, from Ungaretti del Dolore to the most recent Montale, to Quasimodo, above all, day after dayLife is not a dreamThe incomparable land ; and already in place in those poets of the “third” generation, from Mario Luzi to Giorgio Caproni, from Alessandro Parronchi to Vittorio Sereni, to Vittorio Bodini, who originally suffered most from hermeticism. But it is a development that the younger ones aim to lead much further, articulating that discourse in the forms of a poem or even a poetic tale, out of any subjection, indeed in full rebellion against the aesthetic principle, dominant up to all hermeticism, according to which poetry would identify with only the lyric genre. (Hence their gazing sympathetically at crepuscular, or at Pavese from Lavorare tired, certainly more narrator than lyric, or lyric-narrator). Undoubtedly a difficult undertaking, because it is not easy to accord in intimate unity the suggestions of the chronicle and the yeasts of memory: of that redemptive memory of all immediacy, which is one of the most precious conquests (or reconquests) of hermeticism. The same drive towards a subdued, “spoken” language, on the other hand necessary for such a speech at a tone that wants to be medium or low, brings with it the snare of prose, the danger of a “translation style”. Just as the voices of the new poem often end up confusing themselves in the impersonality of a choir because they try their hand at similar motifs or try the same notes. But it is also true that some already stand out, clear, among others (such as those of Franco Matacotta, Margherita Guidacci,

As for the narrative, of the two main tendencies into which, immediately after the war, neorealism appeared divided: the memorialistic one, which, due to its links with the “prose of art” and with the “poetic aura” of the evocative writers, retained, even in the crudest forms, a lyrical background (Vittorini, Pavese); and the moral or moralistic one, of criticism or satire of society and customs, and therefore alien to any lyricism (Moravia, Brancati); it is the latter that over the years has taken over, especially by the writers of the new generations, in whom social demands are very much alive, often coinciding (as we have seen for poets) with certain political ideologies.

They have come mostly by focusing their attention on the social classes and environments or even on the squalid human agglomerations on the outskirts of the big cities, on the underclass of the suburbs: whose existence, dominated by instincts, often the most violent, they portray with an objectivity extreme, from visual angles at the level of the characters, indeed of the speakers (the narration is frequent of dialogues, almost “dramatic”); and sometimes (as in Pasolini) with a mimesis pushed up to the adoption of the dialect or jargon. In which, however, together with the transformation or degeneration of neo-realism into neo-positivism, there is a residue of the decadent taste for prominence and verbal play (the word chosen is replaced by the “bad word”, no less precious as a sound). A new rhetoric’s therefore insinuates into new issues and problems; while the experimentation of the most elaborate and refined techniques fails to conceal, in many cases, the inadequacy of the narrative breath to the extent of the novel, confirming that of the story (albeit “long”) the most suitable for our writers. However, several of the new narrators, more or less young, now appear to be freed from this phase of research and passing away; and with such certainty or happiness of manners, to be placed, in the context of contemporary literature, in the foreground: from Carlo Cassola to Natalia Ginzburg, from Italo Calvino to Lalla Romano, from Giorgio Bassani to Giovanni Arpino, from Beppe Fenoglio to Giovanni Testori, from Domenico Rea to Michele Prisco, from Carlo Montella to Leonardo Sciascia, from Laudomia Bonanni to Dante Troisi, from Giuseppe Berto to Mario Pomilio, from Nello Sàito to Renzo Rosso. (Nor should Silvio D’Arzo [pseudonym of Ezio Comparoni, 1920-1952] be forgotten, although he died at a very young age, especially for the beautiful story House of others).

This does not mean that the most artistically valid results of the last decade are to be sought among the narrators of the “middle” generation who have revealed themselves, or have already established themselves – with the exception of Carlo Levi – in the decade preceding the Second World War; and who, precursors of one or the other trend of neorealism, or not belonging to any of them as they are linked to the various experiences of the period between the two wars, have not allowed themselves to be tempted by fashions, but have kept fidelity to their own nature and one’s world, just by making sure to clarify or dig it out.

Italy Literature 1

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