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Giovanni Papini (1881-1956)    

Journalist, polemical critic, poet, and novelist, whose avant-garde polemics made him one of the most controversial Italian literary figures in the early and mid-20th century. His ideological development was full of paradoxes: he was first an anti-nationalist, then a staunch nationalist; first an agnostic, but then turned to Roman Catholicism. Papini published over eighty books on philosophy, theory and literary criticism, as well as novels and short stories. Giovanni Papini was born in Florence of lower middle class parents. From an early age he devoted himself to literature. He read widely from his grandfather's library and at the age of 15 started to write an encyclopedia. Although Papini adopted militaristic views, he was exempted from military service on grounds of health. In an essay of 1906 (Il Leonardo, August), he urged the establishing in Rome of a new world power, and the abandonment of the 'politics of meditation'. At the age of 22 Papini's writing aspirations led him into contact with other young writers and artists. He founded and managed with Giuseppe Prezzolini the influential but short-lived Florentine magazine Leonardo (1903-07) and La Voce. It attempted to modernize Italian culture, introduced significant French, British, and American ideas, and attacked such traditionalist writers as D'Annunzio. In Leonardo Papini boldly argued that one must write badly, meaning that the artistic form is secondary to the idea. Among his other targets was the positivist philosophy which was gaining ground in Italy. He also collaborated in writing La Cultura Italiana (1906) and Vecchio e Nuovo Nazionalismo (1914). In the 1910s he joined the Futurist artistic movement, which admired the dynamic energy of modern machines, and founded the periodical Lacerba (1913) to further its aims. However, later Papini turned against the movement.
He gained international fame with his religious novel Storia di Cristo (1921).It draws a portrait of a restless intellectual and his deep dissatisfaction with contemporary philosophical debate and intellectual mediocrity. In the 1930s Papini supported Mussolini. His loyalty was recognized officially in 1939 when he was honored with the title "Accademico d'Italia." A few years earlier Papini had published Storia della Letteratura Italiana (1937) which was dedicated 'To the Duce, friend of poetry and poets'. The ambitious literary history dealt with the 13th and 14th centuries and never proceeded further. Papini's interest not only in contemporary affairs was already seen in L'uomo Carducci (1918), a sympathetic portrait of the poet-critic Giosuè Carducci (1835-1907). While the Jews in Italy's popular literature of the 1930s lost any potentially positive traits, Papini developed a vision of the world Jewish conspiracy. In 1935 he was appointed as a professor at the University of Bologna. From 1938 he published the magazine La Rinascita. After WW II Papini founded with Silvano Gianelli and Adolfo Oxilia the avant-garde Catholic review L'Ultima. Papini died rather suddenly in 1956.

quantas vidas numa vida, quantos homens num homem