Bernari, Carlo 1909–1992

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Bernari, Carlo 1909–1992

PERSONAL: Born Carlo Bernard, October 13, 1909, in Naples, Italy; died October 22, 1992; son of Eugenio (a dry cleaner and dyer) and Emma (Cacace) Bernard; married Marcella Palange, 1939; children: three sons.

CAREER: Novelist, publisher, and screenwriter. Worked for Mondadori (publisher), Milan, Italy; rare book dealer. Founder, with Cesare Zavattini, of Tempo (magazine); founder, with Vasco Pratolini, of La settimana (magazine). Military service: Italian army; served during World War II; awarded War Cross.

AWARDS, HONORS: Viareggio prize, 1950, for Speranzella; Strega prize nomination, 1988, for Il grande letto.


(With Paolo Ricci and Guglielmo Pierce) Manifesto U.D.A. (essay), 1929.

Tre operai, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1934.

Quasi un secolo, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1940.

Il pedaggio si paga all'altra sponda, Edizioni di Lettere d'Oggi (Rome, Italy), 1943.

Napoli pace e guerra, Sandron (Rome, Italy), 1946.

Tre casi sospetti, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1946.

Prologo alle tenebre (novel), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1947.

Speranzella (novel), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1949.

Siamo tutti bambini, Vallecchi (Florence, Italy), 1951.

Inchiesta sul neorealismo, edited by Carlo Bo, Radio Italiana (Turin, Italy), 1951.

Vesuvio e pane, Vallecchi (Florence, Italy), 1952.

Domani e poi domani, Vallecchi (Florence, Italy), 1957.

(Editor) Omaggio a Corrado Alvaro, [Rome, Italy], 1957.

Il gigante Cina, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1957.

Amore amaro, Vallecchi (Florence, Italy), 1958.

Bibbia napoletana, Vallecchi (Florence, Italy), 1960.

L'effetto corporeo della sacra unzione degli infermi nella dottrina dei teologi, [Rome, Italy], 1962.

Era l'anno del sole quieto, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1964.

Per cause imprecisate, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1965.

Le radiose giornate, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1969.

Alberone eroe, e altri racconti non esemplari, Bietti (Milan, Italy), 1971.

Un foro nel parabrezza (novel), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1971.

Non gettate via la scala, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1973.

(Editor, with Vasco Pratolini) Giandomenico Giagni, Il confine, Basilicata (Rome, Italy), 1976.

Tanto la rivoluzione non scoppierà (novel), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1976.

Napoli, silenzio e grida, Editori Riuniti (Rome, Italy), 1977.

26 cose in versi, Schweiller (Milan, Italy), 1977.

Dall'Etna al Vesuvio, Gremese (Rome, Italy), 1978.

Il cronista giudizioso, Quaderni di Piazza Navona (Rome, Italy), 1979.

Dal Tevere al Po, Gremese (Rome, Italy), 1980.

Il giorno degli assassinii (novel), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1980.

(With others) La violenza inesplosa, Edizioni Lerici (Cosenza, Italy), 1980.

Era l'anno del sole quieto (novel), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1982.

L'Italia dei grandi viaggiatori, Abete (Rome, Italy), 1986.

Via Raselli non passa per via Fano, E & A (Rome, Italy), 1987.

Il grande letto (novel), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1989.

(Editor and author of introduction) Luigi Capuana, Istinti e peccati, Lucarini (Rome, Italy), 1989.

Non invidiate la loro sorte, Nuova ERI (Turin, Italy), 1992.

L'ombra del suicidio: lo strano conserti, Newton Gompton (Rome, Italy), 1993.

(With Enrico Bernard) Gli stracci, Menichelli (Rome, Italy), 1994.

Screenwriter for films, including, with others, The Climax, 1967.

ADAPTATIONS: Tre operai, Amore amaro, and Un foro nel parabrazza were adapted for film.

SIDELIGHTS: Carlo Bernari was ranked by critics as one of the three great figures in the Italian neorealism movement of the mid-twentieth century. Along with Corrado Alvero and Francisco Jovine, Bernari helped create a dialectic of social realism based in the reality of pre-and post-World War II Italy. "From Tre operai on," declared Dictionary of Literary Biographycontributor Rocco Capozzi, "Bernari pursued what he called a search for 'the reality of reality' by focusing on the conflicts between individuals and social institutions. While most of his protagonists are forced to live in a general state of 'attesa' (waiting), Bernari never ceased to denounce the contradictions, injustices, and absurdities that prevent social changes from taking place."

Bernari suffered early under Italy's fascist regime. By 1923, explained Capozzi, he had been expelled from his school—and, under law, from all other Italian schools—because he had, with others, been caught throwing stones at his teacher. "From his teens to his early twenties," Capozzi stated, "Bernari spent much of his time in the company of his cousin Guglielmo Peirce, an architect, and his inseparable, lifelong friend Paolo Ricci, a painter and art critic. The trio … enriched their education by studying Francesco Flora and Benedetto Croce and by taking part in Neapolitan cultural circles during the early years of Fascism." In 1929 the three literati published their own avant-garde Manifesto U.D.A., which predicted the rise of new forms of artistic expression based on technological and scientific advances.

Bernari's Tre operai marked the beginning of his writing career. It also marked a clear expression of the themes that dominated the rest of his work, including a "dialectical approach, omnipoliticità of life, fusion of fantasy and reality," declared Capozzi in a World Literature Review appraisal of Tanto la rivoluzione non scoppierà, adding that the work's "socio-political criticism [is] presented through a narrator—or central character—who analyzes himself while he examines society." The novel examines the trials and tribulations of three Neapolitan workers, Teodora, Anna, and Marco, in their search for work in fascist Italy. Bernari's depiction of proletarian issues caused problems with the government, and the book was censored shortly after the publisher released it. It did, however, win recognition from several critics who praised its uncompromising realism. "While he angered the Fascist regime with his attention to proletarian life, Bernari surprised Italian critics not only with his style but also with unfamiliar scenes of daily life in Naples, a widely stereotyped and misunderstood city," wrote Capozzi in his Dictionary of Literary Biography essay. "Bernari could understand why Fascists would object to his unflattering picture of working conditions, but he did not anticipate that many nonfascist readers would not appreciate his interest in workers and in his native city." "In his perennial search for 'the reality of the reality' (la realtà della realtà)," Capozzi concluded in his World Literature Review assessment, "Bernari continues to focus on inner contradictions of individuals and of society in general, forces equally responsible for perpetuating social injustices and absurdities."

The later novels Un foro nel parabrezza, Il giorno degli assassinii, and Il grande letto also pursue questions of contradictions within individuals and society. Un foro nel parabrezza is on one level the story of how a man uncovers the secret of Eugenio's mistress's violent past. On another level, however, it is the story of how a narrator's voice is not always reliable. "What at first may appear to be a love-detective story," Capozzi declared in Romance Notes, "soon proves to be an intriguing and lucid analysis of an individual who by auto-narrating a seemingly fantastic adventure undergoes a series of changes both as narrator and as protagonist." "Solving the mystery of the 'hole in the windshield,'" said Capozzi in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, "is for Eugenio also an experience that forces him to reexamine his relationship with his family, problems with his employer, and most of all his dissatisfaction with his unauthentic self. What at first appears to be a relatively simple detective story actually unfolds on aesthetic, psychological, and so ciopolitical levels."

Il giorno degli assassinii and Il grande letto also experiment with points of view and differences in interpretation. Il giorno degli assassinii tells the story of political (and private) violence in Italy in the 1970s, based on real-life Neapolitan Dino Rabella's alleged murder of three individuals. "Bernari's understanding of the real murder case," noted Capozzi in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, "was so effective in unveiling certain hidden truths that Rabella was retried and freed. Il giorno degli assassinii made the news in major Italian newspapers because a work of fiction was able to change the life of a real man." Il giorno degli assassinii, declared V. Rossi in World Literature Today, "is an excellent, well-written intellectual thriller that will appeal to those prone to speculation." Il grande letto "provides further confirmation of Bernari's talent," declared Capozzi in World Literature Today, "for fusing fiction and reality, historical context and personal experiences" in its discussion of intellectual life in fascist Italy. Contemporary critics, Capozzi concluded in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, continue to hail "Bernari as a major figure among contemporary Italian novelists."



Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 177: Italian Novelists since World War II, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.

Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.


Belfaygor, March, 1980, Giacinto Spagnoletti, "Ritratti critici di contemporanei: Carlo Bernari," pp. 175-184.

Booklist, July 15, 1973, review of Un foro nel parabrezza, p. 1053; May 1, 1977, review of Tanto la rivoluzione non scoppierà, p. 1335; September 1, 1979, review of Napoli, silenzio e grida, p. 30.

Forum Italicum, spring-fall, 1993, special Bernari issue.

International Fiction Review, July, 1975, Rocco Capozzi, "Time and Aesthetic Distance in Carlo Bernari's Le radiose giornate," pp. 153-156.

Romance Notes, spring, 1977, Rocco Capozzi, "The Narrator-Protagonist and the Creative Process in Carlo Bernari's Un foro nel parabrezza," pp. 230-235.

Times Literary Supplement, February 4, 1972, "Parker's Piece," p. 135.

World Literature Today, summer, 1977, Rocco Capozzi, review of Tanto la rivoluzione non scoppierà, pp. 424-425; winter, 1979, Rocco Capozzi, review of Napoli, silenzio e grida, p. 99; autumn, 1981, V. Rossi, review of Il giorno degli assassinii, p. 655; spring, 1989, Rocco Capozzi, review of Il grande letto, pp. 289-290.