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Famous Like Me > Writer > D > Gabriele D'Annunzio

Profile of Gabriele D'Annunzio on Famous Like Me

Name: Gabriele D'Annunzio  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 12th March 1863
Place of Birth: Pescara, Italy
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Gabriele D'Annunzio (12 March 1863 – 1 March 1938) was an Italian poet, writer, novelist, dramatist, daredevil and war hero, who went on to have a controversial role in politics as a precursor of the fascist movement.


Gabriele D'Annunzio was of Dalmatian extraction. He was born in Pescara (Abruzzi), the son of a wealthy landowner and mayor of the town whose name was originally Francesco Rapagnetta, to which he legally added d'Annunzio. His precocious talent was recognised early in life, and he was sent to school at the Liceo Cicognini in Prato, Tuscany. He published his first poetry while still at school at the age of sixteen with a small volume of verses called Primo Vere (1879), influenced by Giosuè Carducci's Odi barbare, in which, side by side with some almost brutal imitations of Lorenzo Stecchetti, the then fashionable poet of Postuma, were some translations from the Latin, distinguished by such agile grace that Giuseppe Chiarini on reading them brought the unknown youth before the public in an enthusiastic article. In 1881 he entered the University of Rome La Sapienza, where he became a member of various literary groups, including Cronaca Bizantina (see Carducci) and wrote articles and criticism for local newspapers. Here he published Canto Nuovo (1882), Terra Vergine (1882), L'Intermezzo di Rime (1883), Il Libro delle Vergini (1884), and the greater part of the short stories that were afterwards collected under the general title of San Pantaleone (1886). In Canto Nuovo we have admirable poems full of pulsating youth and the promise of power, some descriptive of the sea and some of the Abruzzi landscape, commented on and completed in prose by Terra Vergine, the latter a collection of short stories dealing in radiant language with the peasant life of the author's native province. With the Intermezzo di Rime we have the beginning of d'Annunzio's second and characteristic manner. His conception of style was new, and he chose to express all the most subtle vibrations of voluptuous life. Both style and contents began to startle his critics; some who had greeted him as an enfant prodige--Chiarini amongst others--rejected him as a perverter of public morals, whilst others hailed him as one bringing a current of fresh air and the impulse of a new vitality into the somewhat prim, lifeless work hitherto produced.

Meanwhile the Review of Angelo Sommaruga perished in the midst of scandal, and his group of young authors found itself dispersed. Some entered the teaching career and were lost to literature, others threw themselves into journalism. Gabriele d'Annunzio took this latter course, and joined the staff of the Tribuna. For this paper, under the pseudonym of "Duca Minimo,"he did some of his most brilliant work, and the articles he wrote during that period of originality and exuberance would well repay being collected. To this period of greater maturity and deeper culture belongs Il Libro d' Isotta (1886), a love poem, in which for the first time he drew inspiration adapted to modern sentiments and passions from the rich colours of the Renaissance. Il Libro d' Isotta is interesting also, because in it we find most of the germs of his future work, just as in Intermezzo melico and in certain ballads and sonnets we find descriptions and emotions which later went to form the aesthetic contents of Il Piacere, Il Trionfo della Morte, and Elegie Romane (1892).

D' Annunzio's first novel Il Piacere (l889)--translated into English as The Child of Pleasure--was followed in 1891 by L' Innocente (The Intruder), and in 1892 by Giovanni Episcopo. These three novels created a profound impression. L' Innocente, admirably translated into French by Georges Herelle, brought its author the notice and applause of foreign critics. His next work, Il Trionfo della Morte (The Triumph of Death) (1894), was followed at a short distance by La Vergini della Roccio (1896) and Il Fuoco (1900), which in its descriptions of Venice is perhaps the most ardent glorification of a city existing in any language.

D' Annunzio's poetic work of this period, in most respects his finest, is represented by Il Poema Paradisiaco (1893), the Odi Navali (1893), a superb attempt at civic poetry, and Laudi (1900).

A later phase of d' Annunzio's work is his dramatic production, represented by Il Sogno di un mattino di primavera (1897), a lyrical fantasia in one act; his Cilia Morta (1898), written for Sarah Bernhardt, which is certainly among the most daring and original of modern tragedies, and the only one which by its unity, persistent purpose, and sense of fate seems to continue in a measure the traditions of the Greek theatre. In 1898 he wrote his Sogno di un Pomeriggio d' Autunno and La Gioconda; in the succeeding year La Gloria, an attempt at contemporary political tragedy which met with no success, probably through the audacity of the personal and political allusions in some of its scenes; and then Francesca da Rimini (1901), a perfect reconstruction of medieval atmosphere and emotion, magnificent in style, and declared by one of the most authoritative Italian critics--Edoardo Boutet--to be the first real although not perfect tragedy which has ever been given to the Italian theatre.

In 1883 d'Annunzio married Maria Hardouin di Gallese, and had three sons, but the marriage ended in 1891. In 1894 he began a love affair with the famous actress Eleonora Duse which became a cause célèbre. He provided leading roles for her in his plays of the time such as La Città morta (The dead city) (1898) and Francesca da Rimini (1901), but the tempestuous relationship finally ended in 1910.

In 1897 D'Annunzio was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for a three-year term, where he sat as an independent. By 1910 his daredevil lifestyle had forced him into debt, and he fled to France to escape his creditors. There he collaborated with composer Claude Debussy on a musical play Le martyre de Saint Sébastien (The Martyrdom of St Sebastian, 1911).

After the start of World War I, D'Annunzio returned to Italy and made public speeches in favor of Italy's entry on the side of the Allies. He then volunteered and achieved further celebrity as a fighter pilot, losing the sight of an eye in a flying accident. On 9 August 1918, as commander of the 87th fighter squadron "La Serenissima", he organized one of the great feats of the war, leading 9 planes in a 700 mile round trip to drop propaganda leaflets on Vienna.

D'Annunzio as Duce of Fiume

The War stengthened his nationalistic views, and he campaigned widely for Italy to assume a role alongside her wartime Allies as a first-rate European power. Angered by the proposed handing over of the city of Fiume (now Rijeka in Croatia) at the Paris Peace Conference, on 12 September 1919, he led the seizure by Italian nationalist irregulars of the city, forcing the withdrawal of the inter-Allied (American, British and French) occupying forces. The plotters sought to have Italy annex Fiume, but were denied. Instead, Italy initiated a blockade of Fiume while demanding that the plotters surrender. D'Annunzio then declared Fiume an independent state (the "Italian Regency of Carnaro") with a constitution foreshadowing much of the later Italian Fascist system, with himself as "Duce" (dictator). He attempted to organize an alternative to the League of Nations for (selected) oppressed nations of the world (such as the Italians of Fiume), and sought to make alliances with various separatist groups throughout the Balkans (especially groups of Italians, though also some Slavic groups as well), although without much success. D'Annunzio ignored the Treaty of Rapallo and declared war on Italy itself, only finally surrendering the city in December 1920 after a bombardment by the Italian navy.

D'Annunzio on a postage stamp of Fiume, 1920

After the Fiume incident, D'Annunzio retired to his home on Lake Garda and spent his latter years writing and campaigning. Although D'Annunzio had a strong influence on the ideology of Benito Mussolini, he never became directly involved in fascist government politics in Italy.

In 1924 he was created Prince of Monte Nevoso and in 1937 he was made a president of the Italian Royal Academy. D'Annunzio died of a stroke at his home on 1 March 1938. He was given a state funeral by Mussolini and interred at Il Vittoriale degli Italiani.


D'Annunzio (right) with Benito Mussolini

D'Annunzio is often seen as a precursor of the ideals and techniques of Italian fascism. His own explicit political ideals emerged in Fiume when he coauthored with anarcho-syndicalist Alceste de Ambris the Carta del Carnaro, a Constitution of Fiume. De Ambris provided the legal and political framework, to which D'Annunzio added his skills as a poet. De Ambris was the leader of a group of Italian seamen who had mutinied and then given their vessel to the service of D'Annunzio. The constitution established a corporatist state, with nine corporations to represent the different sectors of the economy (workers, employers, professionals), and a tenth (D'Annunzio's invention) to represent the "superior" human beings (heroes, poets, prophets, supermen). The Carta also declared that music was the fundamental principle of the state.

It was rather the culture of dictatorship that Benito Mussolini imitated and learned from D'Annunzio; his method of government in Fiume, the economics of the corporate state; stage tricks; large emotive nationalistic public rituals; the Roman salute; rhetorical questions to the crowd; blackshirted followers, the Arditi, with their disciplined, bestial responses and strongarm repression of dissent. (1)

D'Annunzio was said to have originated the practice of forcibly dosing opponents with large amounts of castor oil to humiliate, disable or kill them. This practice became a common tool of Mussolini's blackshirts.

D'Annunzio advocated an expansionist Italian foreign policy and applauded the invasion of Ethiopia.


At the height of his success, D'Annunzio' was celebrated for the originality, power and decadence of his writing. Although his work had immense impact across Europe, and influenced generations of Italian writers, his fin de siècle works are now little known, and his literary reputation has always been clouded by his fascist associations.

A prolific writer, his novels in Italian include Il Piacere (The Child of Pleasure, 1889), Trionfo della Morte (The Triumph of Death, 1894), and Le Vergine delle Rocce (The Virgin of the Rocks, 1896). He wrote the screenplay to the early motion picture Cabiria based on episodes from the Second Punic War. D'Annunzio's literary creations were strongly influenced by the French Symbolist school, and contain episodes of striking violence and depictions of abnormal mental states interspersed with gorgeously imagined scenes. One of D'Annunzio's most significant novels, scandalous in its day, is Il Fuoco (The Flame of Life) of 1900, in which he portrays himself as the Nietzschean 'superman' Stelio Effrena, in a fictionalized account of his love affair with Eleonora Duse. His short stories showed the influence of Guy de Maupassant.

The work of d' Annunzio, although by many of the younger generation injudiciously and extravagantly admired, is almost the most important literary work given to Italy since the days when the great classics welded her varying dialects into a fixed language. The psychological inspiration of his novels has come to him from many sources--French, Russian, Scandinavian, German--and in much of his earlier work there is little fundamental originality. His creative power is intense and searching, but narrow and personal; his heroes and heroines are little more than one same type monotonously facing a different problem at a different phase of life. But the faultlessness of his style and the wealth of his language have been approached by none of his contemporaries, whom his genius has somewhat paralysed. In his later work, when he begins drawing his inspiration from the traditions of bygone Italy in her glorious centuries, a current of real life seems to run through the veins of his personages. And the lasting merit of d'Annunzio, his real value to the literature of his country, consists precisely in that he opened up the closed mine of its former life as a source of inspiration for the present and of hope for the future, and created a language, neither pompous nor vulgar, drawn from every source and district suited to the requirements of modern thought, yet absolutely classical, borrowed from none, and, independently of the thought it may be used to express, a thing of intrinsic beauty. As his sight became clearer and his purpose strengthened, as exaggerations, affectations, and moods dropped away from his conceptions, his work became more and more typical Latin work, upheld by the ideal of an Italian Renaissance.


The life and work of D'Annunzio is commemmorated in a museum called Il Vittoriale degli Italiani. He planned and developed this himself, adjacent to his villa at Gardone Riviera on the southwest bank of Lake Garda, between 1923 and his death. Now a national monument, it is a complex mixture of military museum, library, literary and historical archive, theatre, war memorial and mausoleum. The museum also preserves his torpedo boat MAS 96 and the SVA-5 aircraft he flew over Vienna.

His birthplace is also open to the public as a musueum, the "Casa Natale di Gabriele d'Annunzio" in Pescara.

Works translated into English

  • The Book of the Virgins (ISBN 1843910527)
  • The Child of Pleasure
  • Daughter of Jorio: A Pastoral Tragedy (ISBN 0837100054)
  • The Flame of Life: A Novel
  • The Flame (ISBN 0941419894)
  • Francesca Da Rimini (ISBN 0865273855)
  • International Naval Disarmament Conference at Washington and Geneva, November 1921-April 1922 ISBN 0913298581
  • Gioconda
  • L'Innocente
  • The Maidens of the Rocks
  • Nocturne and Five Tales of Love and Death (ISBN 0910395411)
  • Tales of My Native Town (ISBN 074264376X, ISBN 0837100569)
  • Il Piacere: The Pleasure (ISBN 1587212102)
  • The Triumph of Death
  • Halcyon (ISBN 0415967457)

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Gabriele D'Annunzio