Balestrini, Nanni 1935–

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Balestrini, Nanni 1935–

PERSONAL: Born July 2, 1935, in Milan, Italy. Education: Attended Università Cattolicà, Milan, Italy.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Baldini & Castoldi, vi Crocefisso 21/A, 21121, Milan, Italy.

CAREER: Poet, journalist, and novelist. Quindici (journal), founder, 1967–69; Potere operaio (worker's rights political action group), founder, c. 1968; Marsilio (publishers), Milan, Italy, member of staff, c. 1972; Arena (magazine), cofounder, c. 1977; Gallimard (publisher), Paris, France, member of staff, beginning late 1970s; Change International (journal), founder, 1983; Compagni (magazine), founder. Organizer of poetry festivals, including Veneziea Poesia II: Festival della Parola, 1997. Exhibitions: Creator of computer-generated art exhibited in galleries in Italy, including Galleria Emilio Mezzoli, Modena, 2002.

AWARDS, HONORS: Nominated chevalier, Order of Arts and Letters, 1996.


Il sasso appeso, Scheiwiller (Milan, Italy), 1961.

Come si agisce (poetry; title means "How to Act"), Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1963.

Altri procedimenti 1964–1965, Scheiwiller (Milan, Italy), 1965.

Tristano (novel), Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1966.

Ma noi facciamone un'altra: poesie 1964–1968, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1968.

Prendiamoci tutto. Conferenza per un romanzo. Letteratura e lotta di classe (pamphlet), Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1972.

Vogliamo tutto (novel; also see below), Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1973, preface by Franco Berardi, Derive Approdi (Rome, Italy), 2004.

(With Dario Argento) Le cinque giornate (screenplay; title means "The Five Days"), Bompiani (Milan, Italy), 1974.

Ballates distese (poems), Geiger (Turin, Italy), 1975.

(With Dario Argento) Profondo Thrilling (screenplay), Sonzongno (Milan, Italy), 1975.

La violenza illustrata (novel; title means "Violence Illustrated"), Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1976.

Poesie pratiche 1954–1969, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1976.

Ballate della signorina Richmond: primo libro (poetry), Cooperativa Scrittori (Rome, Italy), 1977.

Blackout (poetry), Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1980.

Ipocalisse: 49 sonetti, Provenza 1980–1983 (poetry), Scheiwiller (Milan, Italy), 1986.

Gli invisibili (novel; also see below), Bompiani (Milan, Italy), 1987, translated by Liz Heron as The Unseen, Verso (London, England), 1989.

Il ritorno della signorina Richmond: terzo libro, 1984–1986 (poetry), Becco Giallo (Treviso, Italy), 1987.

La signorina Richmond se ne va: secondo libro (poetry), Corpo 10 (Milan, Italy), 1988.

Osservazioni sul volo degli uccelli. Poesie 1954–1956, Scheiwiller (Milan, Italy), 1988.

(With Primo Moroni) L'orda d'oro 1968–1977; la grande ondata riboluzionaria e creativa, politica ed esistenziale, SugarCo (Milan, Italy), 1988.

L'editore (novel; also see below), Bompiani (Milan, Italy), 1989.

Il pubblico del labirinto: quarto libro della signorina Richmond, 1985–1989, Scheiwiller (Milan, Italy), 1992.

I furiosi, Bompiani (Milan, Italy), 1994.

Estremi rimedi, Piero Manni (Lecce), 1995.

Una mattina ci siam svegliati, Baldini & Castoldi (Milan, Italy), 1995.

(Translator) I novissimi: Poetry for the Sixties, Sun & Moon Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1995.

Le avventure complete della signorina Richmond, Testo & Immagine (Turin, Italy), 1999.

La grande Rivolta (contains Vogliamo tutto, Gli invisibili and L'editore), Bompiani (Milan, Italy), 1999.

L'ombelico del mondo (television script), RAI, 2000.

Elettra: operapoesia (recording), Luca Sossella (Rome, Italy), 2001.

(Editor, with Alfredo Giuliani) Grupo 63: l'antologia, Teston & Immagine (Turin, Italy), 2002.

Parma 22: una resistenza antifascista, edited by Margherita Becchetti, Giovanni Ronchini, and Andrea Zini, Derive Approdi (Rome, Italy), 2002.

Sfinimondo, preface by Pietro Cataldi, Bibliopolis (Naples, Italy), 2003.

Sandokan: storia di camorra, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 2004.

Contributor to Mutazioni: balletto in 6 quadri, Suvini Zerboni (Milan, Italy), 1964; Lucio Fontana. Foto, photos: Ugo Mulas, A. Mauri (Milan, Italy), c. 1968; Vivere a Milano: 15 documenti fotografici per la presentazione di 15 manifesti, by Aldo Vito Bonasia, C.S.-A.P.P. (Milan, Italy), 1976; Sulla neoavanguardia, Bastogi (Foggia, Italy), 1983; Ut pictura poesis: "com la pintura, aizi és la poesia," Fundacio Cazio de Pensions (Barcelona, Spain), 1988; and Sottotiro: 48 stroncature, by Enzo Golino, Manni (Lecce), 2002. Also contributor to anthologies, including Critica e teoria edited by Renato Barilli and Angelo Guglielmi, 1976; I poeti per Montale, Bozzi (Genoa, Italy), c. 1978; Teatro italiano (dramas), Sampietro (Bologna, Italy), 1983; and The Quality of Light: Modern Italian Short Stories, Serpent's Tail (New York, NY), 1993. Also contributor of poems/lyrics to sound recording The Condor, Soul Note (Milan, Italy), 1986. Member of editorial board, Il Verri, c. 1958.

SIDELIGHTS: Part of the Italian "novissimi" movements of the second half of the twentieth century, poet and novelist Nanni Balestrini was the youngest member of "Gruppo 63," the avant-garde group whose members were born in Milan under Luciano Aneschi's auspices. In work representative of the post-World War II Neo-avant-garde movement that swept through Italian literature in the 1960s, Balestrini "strives to revive language" and "seeks to affirm language as the object of artistic expression," wrote a contributor to the Dictionary of Literary Biography. In the company of such writers as Umberto Eco and Eduardo Sanguineti, Balestrini immersed himself in this expression. He served on the editorial board of Il Verri, a journal founded by Aneschi, organized meetings and conferences of writers, and was considered articulate in expressing his own ideological position.

Inspired to write experimental works, Balestrini published Come si agisce, a collection of poems. Following his compulsion to break established "rules," he then wrote Tristano, a novel based on the Germanic myth that does not have a traditional plot or characters. According to the Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor, it was within the text of Tristano that Balestrini began to employ a "collage effect" called laisses, in which "various stylistic devices converge in the creation of a deranged structure." Ronald Bottrall, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, called Balestrini "the most persistently experimental of all contemporary Italian poets." Concerning Ideologia e linguaggio, Balestrini once stated, "The structures of [poetry], already tottering, proliferate in an unforeseen manner in unexpected directions." Bottrall, in reviewing Balestrini's Ma noi facciamone un'altra: poesie 1964–1968, called the writer a "powerful and impressive poet." According to Michael Caesar and Peter Hainsworth in Writers & Society in Contemporary Italy, Balestrini's collected work "constitute[s] a complete rejection of conventional language."

During the 1960s and 1970s, Balestrini actively participated in the political left in Italy, and his writing became highly politicized. To help promote his political, as well as literary, ideology, he founded the journal Quindici, which suspended publication after three years of operation. He also founded Compagni, a magazine tied to the workers' political movement. His concern for the working classes is also seen in the novel Vogliamo tutto, which is about the Fiat auto plant strikes of 1969. A reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement called Vogliamo tutto an "energetic, talented book every line of which tingles with heat and feeling." By the mid-1970s his political activism had become so problematic for the state that a warrant was issued for his arrest and the writer was forced to flee to Paris.

During the 1980s, Balestrini continued to write and be involved in political and cultural events. Living in Paris and working for the publishing firm of Gallimard, he founded the journal Change International and helped organize an international poetry festival at Cogolin. Returning to the use of collage and laisses, he wrote Gli invisibili, later translated as The Unseen. Gabrielle Barfoot, reviewing the book in World Literature Today, noted that because the novel "is written entirely without punctuation," it "is at first rather disconcerting, but the reader soon falls into the rhythm of the words." Gilbert Reid, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, commented that in The Unseen Balestrini "succeeds in conveying the heedlessness, the brutality and the stupidity" of the "Autonomy" movement of Italy during the 1970s. In the same review, Reid called Balestrini's style of narrative in the 1989 novel L'editore "breathless and unpunctuated." Times Educational Supplement reviewer Frances Spalding noted that Balestrini's "short unpunctuated paragraphs tell the story" in The Unseen and that "the segmented text operates like a series of vivid slides."

In more recent years, which included a stay in Berlin, Germany, during the late 1980s, Balestrini has continued to pursue his avant-garde philosophy with regard to the art of words. During the 1990s he began to create computer-generated artwork, such as faxing collages of newspaper headlines, and was increasingly active in poetry workshops and public readings. He also expanded into scriptwriting with L'ombelico del mondo, a television special produced on the French network RAI in 2000. His 2002 joint editorship, with Alfredo Giuliani, of Grupo 63: l'antologia, collects the work of Balestrini and many of his literary colleagues from the 1960s.



Caesar, Michael, and Peter Hainsworth, editors, Writers and Society in Contemporary Italy, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1984, pp. 36-61.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 128: Twentieth-Century Italian Poets, 1993, Volume 196: Italian Novelists since World War II, 1965–1995, 1999.

Esposito, Roberto, Le ideologie della neoavanguardia, Liguori Editore (Naples, Italy), 1976.

L'invenzione della realtà: conversazioni su la letterature e altro, A. Guida (Naples, Italy), 1994.


Arts, September, 1991, Robert Mahoney, "Take Over," p. 85.

Booklist, Emilie L. Perillo, review of Vogliamo tutto, p. 511.

Lingua e Stile, 1977, Niva Lorenzini, "L'itinerario realistico del materiale verbale nella poesia di Balestrini," pp. 481-511.

Times Educational Supplement, February 2, 1990, Frances Spalding, review of The Unseen, p. 27.

Times Literary Supplement, September 25, 1969, Ronald Bottrall, "Escaping from the Morass," p. 1100; September 29, 1972, "Life in Turin," p. 1139; October 5, 1990, Gilbert Reid, "A Brutal Time Recalled," p. 1074.

World Literature Today, spring, 1988, Gabrielle Barfoot, review of Gli invisibili, p. 261.


Nanni Balestrini Home Page, (May 4, 2001).

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Balestrini, Nanni 1935–

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