Synopses & Reviews
Godfather to Mussolini, national hero of Italy and the WWI irredentist movement, literary icon of Joyce and Pound, lover of actress Eleonora Duse: here is Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s extraordinary biography of Gabriele d’Annunzio, poet, bon vivant, harbinger of Italian fascism.
Gabriele d’Annunzio was Italy’s premier poet at a time when poetry mattered enough to trigger riots. A brilliant self-publicist in the first age of mass media, he used his fame to sell his work, seduce women, and promote his extreme nationalism. In 1915 d’Annunzio’s incendiary oratory helped drive Italy to enter the First World War, in which he achieved heroic status as an aviator.
In 1919 he led a troop of mutineers into the Croatian port of Fiume and there a delinquent city-state. Futurists, anarchists, communists, and proto-fascists descended on the city. So did literati and thrill seekers, drug dealers, and prostitutes. After fifteen months an Italian gunship brought the regime to an end, but the adventure had its sequel: three years later, the fascists marched on Rome, belting out anthems they’d learned in Fiume, as Mussolini consciously modeled himself after the great poet.
At once an aesthete and a militarist, d’Annunzio wrote with equal enthusiasm about Fortuny gowns and torpedoes, and enjoyed making love on beds strewn with rose petals as much as risking death as an aviator. Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s stunning biography vividly re-creates his flamboyant life and dramatic times, tracing the early twentieth century’s trajectory from Romantic idealism to world war and fascist aggression.
Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction
Winner of the Costa Biography Award
**Washington Post Best Books of 2013**
**Economist Best Books of 2013**
This fascinating life of Gabriele d’Annunzio—the charismatic poet, bon vivant, and virulent nationalist who prefigured Mussolini—traces the early twentieth century’s trajectory from Romantic idealism to Fascist thuggery.
D’Annunzio was Italy’s premier poet at a time when poetry could trigger riots. A brilliant self-publicist, he used his fame to sell his work, seduce women, and promote his extreme nationalism. At once an aesthete and a militarist, he enjoyed risking death no less than making love, and he wrote with equal enthusiasm about Fortuny gowns and torpedoes. In 1915 his incendiary oratory helped drive Italy into the First World War, and in 1919 he led a troop of mutineers into the Croatian port of Fiume, where he established a delinquent utopia. Futurists, anarchists, communists and proto-fascists descended on the place, along with literati and thrill-seekers, drug dealers and prostitutes. Three years later, when the fascists marched on Rome, they belted out anthems they’d learned in Fiume, while Mussolini consciously modeled himself on the great poet. Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s compelling biography is a revelation both of d’Annunzio’s flamboyant life and of the dramatic times he helped to shape.
About the Author
Lucy Hughes-Hallett is an award-winning cultural historian and critic. She is the author of Heroes: A History of Hero Worship and Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams, and Distortions. She has written on books, theater, and television for most of the leading British newspapers. For five years she was the television critic for the Evening Standard and has long been a regular contributor to The Sunday Times (London) Books Section. She has judged a number of literary prizes, and she is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in London.