Aldo Palazzeschi

OF ITALY’S major twentieth-century writers, perhaps the least known to the English-speaking world is Aldo Palazzeschi. Aldo Giurlani (Palazzeschi, his nom de plume, was in reality the family name of his maternal grandmother) was born in Florence in 1885, the only child of a well-to-do merchant who owned a chic haberdashery in the elegant Via dei Calzaioli. Following grammar school, the young Aldo attended the Istituto Tecnico where he was trained as a future accountant. But his interests were elsewhere, and while still in his teens, he enrolled in a famous school for acting, soon joining the touring company of Virgilio Talli. After a few performances, however, he gave up the stage and returned to Florence where, at his own expense, he had already published a slim volume of poems, I cavalli bianchi.

From then on, thanks also to the fact that he had an independent income, he dedicated himself to a literary career, which in its early years did not bring him much recognition. Until 1913 he wrote both poetry and prose. In addition to two novels Riflessi and Il codice di Perelà he published his poems in several volumes: Lanterna, Poemi, and L’incendiario.

In this period Palazzeschi associated himself with F.T. Marinetti’s Futurist movement and contributed to avant-garde periodicals and a raging literary polemic. Although a pacifist by nature and persuasion, he served in the Italian army (though never in combat) during World War I. At the war's end, back in Florence he devoted himself to writing novels, short stories, and memoirs in a style that gradually departed from the fantastic inventiveness of his earlier work. It was perhaps also because of this more accessible manner (allegedly “naturalistic”) that he won considerable success, particularly with Stampe dell’800 and Sorelle Materassi.

During the ’20s and ’30s, he spent extended periods in Paris. At the beginning of World War II, Palazzeschi, whose parents had recently died, moved to Rome where, with the exception of stays in Paris and Venice, he lived until his death. His activity as a novelist brought him two coveted literary prizes, one for I fratelli Cuccoli in 1948 and the other for Roma in 1953. The publication of Il Doge in 1967 signaled a prodigious return of youth for the octogenarian author. Not only did he write two more novels (Stefanino and Storia di un’amicizia) in which, as in Il Doge, the uninhibited imagination that characterized his early works triumphs, but after decades of writing exclusively in prose, he astonished the Italian literary world with his rediscovery of poetry: Cuor mio and Via delle cento stelle, and the posthumously published Sinfonie.

Palazzeschi, who had enjoyed excellent health throughout his long life, died in Rome in August 1974 from complications connected with an abscessed tooth. In accordance with his last will, he was buried in Settignano, a small hill town near Florence. His library and papers were bequeathed to the University of Florence.

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