Giovanni Papini  

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Giovanni Papini (9 January 1881 - 8 July 1956) was an Italian writer and philosopher. A controversial literary figure of the early and mid-twentieth century, he was the earliest and most enthusiastic representative and promoter of Italian pragmatism. Papini was admired for his writing style and engaged in heated polemics. Involved with avant-garde movements such as futurism and post-decadentism, he moved from one political and philosophical position to another, always dissatisfied and uneasy: he converted from anti-clericalism and atheism to Catholicism, and went from convinced interventionism – before 1915 – to an aversion to war. In the 1930s, after moving from individualism to conservatism, he finally became a fascist, while maintaining an aversion to Nazism.

As one of the founders of the journals Leonardo (1903) and Lacerba (1913), he conceived literature as "action" and gave his writings an oratory and irreverent tone. Though self-educated, he was an influential iconoclastic editor and writer, with a leading role in Italian futurism and the early literary movements of youth. Working in Florence, he actively participated in foreign literary philosophical and political movements such as the French intuitionism of Bergson and the Anglo-American pragmatism of Peirce and James. Promoting the development of Italian culture and life with an individualistic and dreamy conception of life and art, he acted as a spokesman in Roman Catholic religious beliefs.

Papini's literary success began with "Il Crepuscolo dei Filosofi" ("The Twilight of the Philosophers"), published in 1906, and his 1913 publication of his auto-biographical novel Un Uomo Finito ("A finished man").

Due to his ideological choices, Papini's work was almost forgotten after his death, although it was later re-evaluated and appreciated again: in 1975, the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges called him an "undeservedly forgotten" author.


Early life

Born in Florence as the son of a modest furniture retailer (and former member of Giuseppe Garibaldi's Redshirts) from Borgo degli Albizi, Papini was baptized secretly to avoid the aggressive atheism of his father, and he lived a rustic, lonesome, and precociously introspective childhood. From that time onwards he felt a strong aversion to all beliefs, to all churches, as well as to any form of servitude (which he saw as connected to religion); he also became enchanted with the impossible idea of writing an encyclopedia wherein all cultures would be summarized.

Trained as a schoolteacher, he taught for a few years after 1899, then became a librarian. The literary life attracted Papini, who founded the magazine Il Leonardo, together with Giuseppe Prezzolini, in 1903, then joined Enrico Corradini's group as co-editor of Il Regno. He started publishing short-stories and essays: in 1903, Il tragico quotidiano ("The Tragic Everyday"), in 1907 Il pilota cieco ("The Blind Pilot") and Il crepuscolo dei filosofi ("The Twilight of the Philosophers"). The latter constituted a polemic with established and diverse intellectual figures, such as Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Friedrich Nietzsche - Papini proclaimed to the death of philosophers and the demolition of thinking itself. He briefly flirted with Futurism and other violent and liberating forms of Modernism (Papini is the character in several poems of the period written by Mina Loy).

Before and during World War I

After leaving Il Leonardo in 1907, Giovanni Papini founded Anima together with Giovanni Amendola. His Parole e sangue ("Words and Blood") essay of the period showed his unequivocal atheism, summoned in his advice:

Humans: become atheists each and all!... God will nevertheless welcome you with all [H]is heart!

Furthermore, Papini sought to create scandal by speculating that Jesus and John the Apostle had a homosexual relationship.

He broke off with Prezzolini, co-editor of Anima, and the paper ceased to appear. Papini founded Lacerba, published between 1913 and 1915 (right before Italy's entry into World War I). In 1912, he published his best-known work, the autobiography Un uomo finito (tr.: "The Failure").

His 1915 collection of prose poetry Cento pagine di poesia, followed by Buffonate and Maschilità, and the 1916 Stroncature - Papini faced Giovanni Boccaccio, William Shakespeare, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but also contemporaries such as Benedetto Croce and Giovanni Gentile, and less prominent disciples of Gabriele D'Annunzio. He published verse in 1917, grouped under the title Opera prima. In 1921, Papini announced his newly-found Roman Catholicism, publishing the international bestseller essay Storia di Cristo ("Life of Christ").

Fascism and later years

After further verse works, he published the satire Gog (1931) and the essay Dante vivo (tr. "If Dante Were Alive"; 1933).

He moved towards Fascism, and his beliefs earned him a teaching position at the University of Bologna in 1935 (although his studies only qualified him for primary school teaching); the Fascist authorities confirmed Papini's "impeccable reputation" through the appointment. In 1937, Papini published the first and only volume of his History of Italian Literature, which he dedicated to Benito Mussolini: "to Il Duce, friend of poetry and of the poets", being awarded top positions in academia, especially in the study of Italian Renaissance. An Antisemite, he believed in an international plot of Jews, applauding the racial discrimination laws enforced by Mussolini in 1938.Template:Fact When the Fascist regime crumbled (1943), Papini entered the Franciscan convent in Verna.

Largely discredited at the end of World War II, he was defended by the Catholic political right. His work concentrated on different subjects, including a biography of Michelangelo, while he continued to publish dark and tragic essays. He collaborated with Corriere della Sera, contributing articles that were published as a volume after his death.


  • Un uomo finito (1912)
  • Storia di Cristo (1921)
  • Pane e vino (1926, poems)
  • Gog (1931)
  • Sant’ Agostino (1929)
  • Dante vivo (1933)
  • Storia della letteratura Italiana (1937)
  • Italia mia (1939)
  • Mostra personale (1941)
  • Imitazione del padre (1942)
  • Saggi sul Rinascimento (1942)
  • Cielo e terra (1943)
  • Santi e poeti (1947)
  • Lettere agli uomini del papa Celestino VI. (1947)
  • Passato remoto (1948)
  • Vita di Michelangiolo nella vita del suo tempo (1949, 1951)
  • Le pazzie del poeta (1950)
  • Il libro nero (1952)
  • Il diavolo (1953)
  • Concerto fantastico (1954, stories)
  • Il bel viaggio (1954, together with Enzo Palmieri)
  • La spia del mondo (1955)
  • L’aurora della letteratura italiana (1956)
  • La felicità dell’infelice (1956)

Works in english translation


Short Stories

See also

La grande anthologie du fantastique - Tome 1 (1996) - JACQUES GOIMARD - STRAGLIATI ROLAND

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