A Guide to Contemporary Italian Literature, from Futurism to Neorealism

By Sergio Pacifici | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Existentialism

The reader who has the slightest acquaintance with Italian letters is well aware that, unlike France, Italy does not have in its roster of writers' names matching those of such novelist-philosophers as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Gabriel Marcel, and the late Albert Camus. It is through the fiction and the philosophical essays of these distinguished writers that existentialism has achieved an unusual popularity in recent years--both in Europe and elsewhere.

In the last decades only a handful of Italian writers have successfully incarnated some of the vital aspects of this philosophy in believable fictitious characters. Similarly, few philosophers of prominence have written sympathetically about a philosophy symptomatic of the anxieties of our century. The distortion to which existentialism has been subjected, and the scorn heaped upon it by Benedetto Croce and Guido de Ruggiero, who once defined it as "a philosophy in the manner of a 'thriller,'" has not prevented intelligent analyses--of both the specialized and popular variety--from appearing in various publications. A typical illustration of the frequent symposia on existentialism appeared in 1955 in the Roman review Nuovi Argomenti with the participation of writers and scholars.

The Italian interest in existentialism is not a postwar phenomenon. Heidegger was translated in the early years of this century, and since then the bibliography of studies on existentialism has grown richer by the year. Paradoxically, however, at a time when in most countries of western

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