D'Annunzio, Gabriele

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

D'Annunzio, Gabriele

Gabriele D'Annunzio (gäbrēĕ´lā dän-nōōn´tsyō) 1863–1938, Italian poet, novelist, dramatist, and soldier, b. Pescara. He went to Rome in 1881 and there began his literary career. Considered by some to be the greatest Italian poet since Dante, he expressed in many of his works the desire to live in a more heroic age, an age that he attempted to create in the events of his life. The richly sensuous imagery of even his early poetry—Le primavere della mala pianta [the springtime of the evil plant] (1880) and Canto nuovo [new song] (1882)—displayed his unrivaled literary craftsmanship. His novels—Il piacere (1889, tr. The Child of Pleasure, 1898), in which he expresses his hero's and his own credo that a person's life should be made a work of art; L'innocente (1892, tr. The Intruder, 1898, and The Victim, 1914); Giovanni Episcopo (1892, tr. Episcopo & Company, 1896); Il trionfo della morte (1894, tr. The Triumph of Death, 1896); and Alcione (1904)—show the same creative handling of the Italian language, but many of these works are regarded as shallow and theatrical. D'Annunzio was also a prolific journalist and a relentless self-promoter.

The outbreak of World War I found him in France, where he had lived since 1910. He returned to Italy, where his extreme nationalist oratory had much to do with persuading Italy to join the Allies, and he fought with spectacular daring in the air force. In Sept., 1919, he led an expedition (known as the march on Ronchi) against Fiume, where he established a rule opposed by both the Italian government and the rest of Europe, which lasted until Jan., 1921. D'Annunzio, one of the few writers to be courted by Mussolini, was an early exponent of fascism, and his troops in the Fiume raid introduced the black shirt that became the uniform of the fascists.

His book Notturrno (1921) is a moving analysis of sensations and memories during weeks of blindness from which he partially recovered. He added little in later life to the long list of his works. His plays include Il sogno d'un mattino di primavera (1897, tr. The Dream of a Spring Morning, 1902), Il sogno d'un tramonto d'autunno (1898, tr. The Dream of an Autumn Sunset, 1904), La città morta (1898, tr. The Dead City, 1902), and Francesca (1902, tr. Francesca da Rimini, 1902). Most of these were written during the time of his love affair with Eleonora Duse, which he described with cruel candor in the novel Il fuoco (1900; tr. The Flame of Life, 1900). Mussolini appointed him (1937) president of the Royal Italian Academy, but he died before taking office.

See biographies by G. Griffin (1935, repr. 1970), C. Klopp (1988), J. Woodhouse (2001), and L. Hughes-Hallett (2013); studies by A. Rhodes (1960), G. Gullace (1966), R. Forcella (4 vol., 1926–37, repr. 1973), and M. Ledeen (1977) and (2001).

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