The Mirror of Modernity: Marinetti's Early Criticism between Decadence and "Renaissance Latine": A "French" Poet in Italy: Marinetti and the Anthologie-Revue De France et d'Italie

By Somigli, Luca | The Romanic Review, May-November 2006 | Go to article overview

The Mirror of Modernity: Marinetti's Early Criticism between Decadence and "Renaissance Latine": A "French" Poet in Italy: Marinetti and the Anthologie-Revue De France et d'Italie


Somigli, Luca, The Romanic Review


While the name of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti is indissolubly tied with futurism, the movement which he founded in 1909 and of which he remained the undisputed leader, theorist and impresario until his death in 1944, his pre-futurist poetic production in French has also been the object of a certain amount of critical attention since the beginning of the renaissance of futurist studies in the late 1960s. If Gaetano Mariani's Il primo Marinetti, published in 1970, still remains the fundamental monograph on the subject, more recently several scholars, Brunella Eruli, Giovanni Lista, Cinzia Sartini Blum, Gunter Berghaus, to name only a few, have further articulated both the networks of connections and literary debts linking Marinetti to the "symbolist masters" later repudiated in 1911 in a famous manifesto, (1) and the elements of continuity, ideological as well as thematic, between this initial period of his poetic career and the later avant-gardist phase. On the contrary, the critical and essayistic production that accompanied Marinetti's first poetic exercises has received significantly less attention. In this essay, I am interested in the very beginning of Marinetti's critical and poetological reflection, and in particular in a series of reviews and essays published between 1898 and 1901 in which the artist, entering the debate on the cultural decadence or renaissance of the Latin nations, began to delineate his own theory of modernity.

In his memoir La grande Milano tradizionale e futurista, Marinetti, usually an indefatigable mythographer of his own life and times, recalled with an uncharacteristic tone of self-deprecation the episode that led to his literary debut. Unlike the achievement, in 1898, of the first prize in the poetic competition in the Samedis Populaires organized by Gustave Kahn and Catulle Mendes, which Marinetti identified as the moment of international recognition and consecration of his talent, and which he was fond of recollecting with some choice embellishments, (2) the publication of his first poem is described as having come about almost by chance, on the advice of Emilio Gavirati, an acquaintance from the Circolo Filologico in Milan. Indeed, in Marinetti's account, Gavirati, "impiegato alla Cassa di Risparmio filosofo misogino" [clerk at the Cassa di Risparmio and mysoginist philosopher], appears to have played a fairly important role in introducing the young poet to the intellectual and social life of the city where he had come to reside upon his family's return to Italy from his native Egypt. In exchange for tales of Marinetti's "per nulla positive ma allettanti" [not at all positive but enticing] erotic adventures (Grande Milano 50), Gavirati for instance introduced him to the salon of Anna Kuliscioff, where he met some of the leading figures of Italian Socialism, including Filippo Turati and Claudio Treves. It was also Gavirati who, with an almost offhand remark partly in Milanese dialect, suggested to Marinetti: "Ti che te se anche un poet fraces te devet andar a truve in Via Garibaldi 83 Orland e Lebrun che hanno fondato questa piccola rivista" [you who are also a French poet should go to Via Garibaldi 83 and see Orland and Lebrun who founded this little magazine] (51). The "piccola rivista" was the Anthologie-Revue de France et d'Italie, where Marinetti finally published the sonnet "L'Echanson" [The Cup-Bearer] in the issue of March 1898. (3)

The circumstances surrounding the foundation of the Anthologie-Revue, one of the many literary periodicals to emerge in Italy at the turn of the century, remain rather obscure. Little is known about its two French founders, Edward Sansot-Orland, who held the post of director, and Roger Le Brun. The Catalogue general de la Librairie Francaise reports their place and date of birth--Aignan (Gers), 1868 and Paris, 1877, respectively--but offers no further information. They are described much more vividly by Marinetti himself in La grande Milano tradizionale e futurista, although it is difficult to determine to what extent the scene of his first encounter with them is in fact a post facto romanticization, a kind of Milanese version of the Vie de Boheme:

   [C]onstato la poverta della casetta di Via Garibaldi 83 con la
   sensibilita di un artista parigino e per le scale su su al 7. … 

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