Consolo, Vincenzo 1933-

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CONSOLO, Vincenzo 1933-

PERSONAL: Born February 18, 1933, in Sant'Agata di Militello, Sicily, Italy; son of Calogero (in business) and Maria (Giallombardo) Consolo; married Caterina Pilenga. Education: Earned law degree in Milan, Italy. Religion: "Atheist." Hobbies and other interests: Music, cinema, life.

ADDRESSES: Home—Milan, Italy. Agent—A.L.I., via Valpetrosa 1, 20123 Milano, Italy.

CAREER: Writer. Worked as a teacher and for RAI (Italian television network). Military service: Served in Italian military.

AWARDS, HONORS: Premio Priandello, 1985, for Lunaria; Premio Grinzane-Cavour, 1988, for Retablo; Premio Strega, 1992, for Nottetempo, casa per casa; Premio Internazionale Unione Latina, 1994, for L'olivo e l'olivastro; Premi Flaiano & Brancat, 1999, for Lo spasimo di Palermo.


La ferita dell'aprile (fiction; title means "The Wound of April"), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1963, reprinted, 1989.

Il sorriso dell'ignoto marinaio (fiction) Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1976, reprinted, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1997, translation by Joseph Farrell published as The Smile of the Unknown Mariner, Carcanet (Manchester, England), 1994.

Sicila: immagini del XIX secolo dagli Archivi Alinari (nonfiction), Alinari (Florence, Italy), 1985.

(With others) 'Nfernu Veru: uomini & immagini dei paesi dello zolfo (nonfiction), Edizioni lavoro (Rome, Italy), 1985.

Lunaria (fiction), Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1985.

(With others) La Pesca del tonno in Sicilia (nonfiction), Sellerio (Palermo, Italy), 1986.

Retablo (fiction), Sellerio (Palermo, Italy), 1987.

(With others) La Sicilia dei grandi viaggiatori (travel), Abete (Rome, Italy), 1988.

Le pietre di Pantalica (stories), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1988.

(With others) Trittico: Bufalino, Consolo, Sciascia (drama), D. Sanfilippo (Catania, Italy), 1989.

(With Ruggero Savinio) Ruggero Savinio: ex Convento di San Francesco, Sciacca, 8 luglio-15 agosto 1989 (nonfiction), Sellerio (Palermo, Italy), 1989.

(With Giuseppe Leone) La Sicilia passeggiata (nonfiction; title means "Walking around Sicily"), Edizioni Rai (Turin, Italy), 1991.

Il barocco in Sicilia: la rinascita del Val di Noto (nonfiction), Bompiani (Milan, Italy), 1991.

Cefalù, museo Mandralisca (nonfiction), Novecento (Palermo, Italy), 1991.

Nottetempo, casa per casa (fiction; sequel to Il sorriso dell'ignoto marinaio; title means "At Night, House by House"), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1992.

(With Alberto Bonanno) Requiem per le vittime della mafia (libretto; title means "Requiem for the Victims of the Mafia"), Ila Palma (Palermo, Italy), 1993.

(With Gioacchino Barbera) Vedute dello stretto di Messina, Sellerio (Palermo, Italy), 1993.

Fuga dall'Etna: la Sicilia e Milano, la memoria e la storia (biography; title means "Flight from Etna: Sicily and Milan, Memory and History"), Donzelli (Rome, Italy), 1993.

Neró metallicó (fiction; title means "Mineral Water"), Melangolo (Genoa, Italy), 1994.

L'olivo e l'olivastro (fiction; title means "The Olive Tree and the Wild Olive Tree"), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1994.

(With Fabrizio Clerici) I corpi di Orvieto (nonfiction), Edizioni della Bezuga (Florence, Italy), 1996.

(With Jean-Paul Manganaro) Lo spasimo di Palermo (fiction; sequel to Nottetempo, casa per casa; title means "The Agony in Palermo"), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1998.

Di qua dal faro (literary criticism), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1999.

(With Giuseppe Leone) Cefalù (travel), Bruno Leopardi editore (Palermo, Italy), 1999.

Il lunario ritrovato: l'avventura culturale di Francesco Lanza e Nino Savarese (nonfiction), Il Lunario (Enna, Italy), 1999.

(With Mario Nicolao) Il viaggio di Odisseo (literary criticism), Bompiani (Milan, Italy), 1999.

Il teatro del sole: racconti di Natale (stories), Interlinea (Novara, Italy), 1999.

(With Franco Cassano) La Mediterranee italienne (nonfiction), Maisonneuve et Larose (Paris, France), 2000.

(With others) La terra di Archimede (travel), Sellerio (Palermo, Italy), 2001.

Oratorio, Manni (Lecce, Italy), 2002.

Contributor of prefaces, forwords, and introductions to books by others.

SIDELIGHTS: Sicilian-born Vincenzo Consolo is the prolific author of well-received fiction and a contributor to a long list of nonfiction volumes on subjects that range from travel to culture and history. His books also include catalogues of art exhibitions and essays on literary criticism.

Consolo was born on the northern coast of Sicily and moved to Milan to acquire a law degree. After serving in the military in Rome, he returned to Sicily to teach for five years, during which time he met two writers who would become influential to his own development. They were the novelist Leonardo Sciascia and the poet Lucio Piccolo—to whom he would later dedicate the first chapter of his second novel, Il sorriso dell'ignoto marinaio, translated as The Smile of the Unknown Mariner. Other Sicilian writers who inspired Consolo include Giovanni Verga, Luigi Capuana, Federico De Roberto and Elio Vittorini.

Consolo's first novel was barely noticed until after the success of the second. La ferita dell'aprile is the story of a young Sicilian in a religious institution following World War II whose goal is to become a writer. Comparisons have been made to James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in which a reluctant Stephen Dedalus is guided by the Jesuits.

Joseph Farrell wrote in The New Italian Novel that Consolo's "choice of historical period in the novels indicates a preference for those moments when human will could have intervened to effect change in the dynamic of Sicilian history." Farrell continued, saying that "the first postwar election, the invasion of Sicily by Garibaldi with the wave of inchoate optimism it brought in its wake, the liberation of the island from Fascism in 1943, that eighteenth century of Reason and Enlightenment which has become the golden dream of Sicilian writers of this century—all represent in different ways and to differing degrees decisive points in the formation of the moral-political culture which holds sway in the island. It is not by chance that they provide either the background or the central subject matter of Consolo's fiction."

Il sorriso dell'ignoto marinaio is named for a portrait by early Renaissance Sicilian artist Antonello da Messina, and for the period following Garibaldi's landing at Marsala in 1860. The focus of the story is revolutionary violence during which peasants slaughter the bourgeois. Peter Hainsworth noted in the Times Literary Supplement that "there are analogies to be drawn with the Italy of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the novel was being written, but rather than working towards an allegory of the present, Consolo emphasizes historical distance, preferring to approach the past through an imaginative reconstruction which deliberately blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction."

World Literature Today reviewer Joseph Siracusa wrote that "apart from the many interesting and timely questions raised and explored in this novel—the role of the intellectual, the function of the writer in society, the solution to the class struggle, et cetera—what really attracts and holds the attention of the reader is Consolo's dazzling, felicitous display of linguistic creativity. The author of this novel has no use for the homogenized, aseptic language of the letterati, nor for the facile and false slogans of a consumer-oriented society."

Lunaria is also dedicated to Piccolo and is written as a play, an adult fairy tale in which an unhappy Spanish viceroy dreams that the Moon falls to Earth. Farrell said that "the same fabled Sicily is the setting for Retablo, a work which combines the charm of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with an insistent, if veiled and allegorical, probe into the history and condition of the island. In different ways, and at different levels, Consolo's book is a travelogue, an extended metaphor, a love story or a cluster of criss-crossing love stories, a pseudo-Enlightenment pastiche, an unraveling of Sicilian history, a venture in storytelling while being also a wholly contemporary, slightly ironic, self-deprecating meditation on art and on the nature of fiction."

Twentieth-century artist Fabrizio Clerici becomes the fictional lead character who is cast back to the Age of Enlightenment to intervene in a love affair and sketch classical ruins. The word "retablo" means a series of panels that tell a story, and Consolo has named his chapters, or panels, "Oratorio," "Peregrinazione," and "Veritas." "Through the retablo image, Consolo questions traditional notions of art, literature, or originality," noted Farrell. "Of all Consolo's works, Retablo is his most idiosyncratic and his most accomplished. He has found a style and an approach which combine the playfulness of the pastiche with the underlying seriousness of a writer who feels driven to confront the history of his own land."

In reviewing Retablo in World Literature Today, Rosetta di Pace wrote that Consolo "has created … a short novel, a récit, that is limitless in what poetic truth it can reveal and suggest. It is writers of Consolo's stature who keep on proving what prodigious metamorphoses the novel as a genre is still capable of achieving."

Lo spasimo di Palermo, like other of Consolo's works, can be described as a narrative poem. The "agony of Palermo" of the title refers to a painting that was commissioned from Raphael for a church that was never completed when a Spanish viceroy decided to use the structure in a defense of the Turks. It ultimately became a granary, poorhouse, barracks, theater, and since 1995, a venue for artists. Raphael's painting of Christ walking to the cross is now hanging in the Prado. The central character in the novel is Chino Martinez, a Sicilian-born man who is guilt-ridden over the fact that as a child, he may have betrayed his father's hiding place to the Germans and for not speaking out against the Mafia before the murders of the 1990s. While an Economist reviewer noted Consolo's extensive use of symbolism and literary quotations, the critic added that he "just about rescues Lo spasimo di Palermo with the pleasures of his language. Perhaps like a very rich mousse or zabaglione, it is best taken in spoonfuls."



Baranski, Zygmunt G., and Lino Pertile, editors, The New Italian Novel, Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1993, pp. 59-74.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 196: Italian Novelists since World War II, 1965-1995, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Lucente, Gregory L., editor, Italian Criticism: Literature and Culture, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI), 1996, pp. 21-36.


Annali d'Italianistica, Volume 19, 2001, Norma Bouchard, "Consolo, Levinas, and the Ethics of Post-modernist Storytelling," pp. 119-136.

Economist, July 17, 1999, review of Lo spasimo di Palermo, p. 14.

Italian Studies, Volume 54, Ruth Glynn, "Metaphor and Philosophy of History: Motifs of Representation in Consolo's Sorriso dell'ignoto marinaio," pp. 118-131.

Times Literary Supplement, October 7, 1988, Peter Hainsworth, reviews of Il sorriso dell'ignoto marinaio and Retablo, p. 1096.

World Literature Today, summer, 1977, Joseph Siracusa, review of Il sorriso dell'ignoto marinaio, p. 426; winter, 1989, Rosetta di Pace, review of Retablo, pp. 80-81; spring, 1993, Anthony G. Costantini, review of Nottetempo, casa per casa, p. 351; summer, 1999, Rosario Ferreri, review of Lo spasimo di Palermo, p. 505.

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Consolo, Vincenzo 1933-

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