Eugenio Montale


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Italian poet, critic, and translator. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1975.

Born in Genoa, Montale lived there or in a nearby town for the first thirty years of his life. Because of poor health, his education was interrupted when he was fourteen and he was mainly self-taught. His distinguished first volume of poems, Ossi di seppia (1925; ‘Cuttlefish Bones’), was starkly unrhetorical compared to the work of other poets fashionable at the time. Montale eventually moved to Florence, where in 1929 he was appointed a director of the lending library Gabinetto Vieusseux. (The first English translation of his work ‘Arsenio’ had been published in Criterion by T. S. Eliot the previous year.) In 1938 Montale lost his job for refusing to join the Fascist Party and his second volume of collected poems, Le occasioni (1939), was attacked for being difficult, a charge he contested. A third volume of collected poems, La bufera (1956), appeared after the war; the title (‘The Storm’) refers to World War II.

In 1948 Montale was appointed literary editor of one of Italy's leading newspapers, Corriere della Sera in Milan. Over the next two decades he published in the newspaper a series of autobiographical pieces that form a commentary on his creative work. These were collected as Farfalla di Dinard (1956; translated as The Butterfly of Dinard, 1971). He subsequently published a book of critical essays, Auto-da-fé (1966), and a volume of important longer critical essays on his own poetic activity, Sulla poesia (1976). He also published his correspondence with Italo Svevo (1861–1928), Montale–Svevo: Lettere (1966). His later collections include Xenia (1966) and Diario de '71 e '72 (1973).

In 1967 Montale was given a life appointment as senator. In addition to his poetry, Montale produced an exceptional body of translations from English that includes works by Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Melville, Mark Twain, O'Neill, Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Eliot.

Subjects: Literature.

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