Fenoglio, Beppe 1922-1963
Fenoglio, Beppe 1922-1963
Born March 1, 1922, in Alba, Italy; died of lung cancer, February 18, 1963, in Turin, Italy; son of Amilcare (a butcher shop owner) and Margherita (a butcher shop owner; maiden name, Facenda) Fenoglio; married Luciana Bombardi, 1960; children: Margherita. Education:Attended the University of Turin.
Writer, novelist, and short story writer. Administrator of a winery.Military service: King's Forces, Rome, 1943.
Prato Literary Prize, 1960, for Primavera di bellezza; Alpi Apuane Prize, 1962, for "Ma il mio amore è Paco."
I ventitrè giorni della città di Alba, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1952, reprinted, 1981, translation by John Shepley published as The Twenty-three Days of the City of Alba,Steerforth Italia (South Royalton, VT), 2002.
La malora (see also below), Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1952, reprinted, 1990, translation by John Shepley published as Ruin, Marlboro Press (Marlboro, VT), 1992.
Primavera di bellezza, romanzo (title means "Spring of Beauty"), Garzanti (Milan, Italy), 1959, reprinted, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1985.
Un giorno di fuoco (title means "A Day of Fire"), Garzanti (Milan, Italy), 1963, reprinted, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1988, enlarged edition published as Un giorno di fuoco e altri racconti (includes Una questione privata), Garzanti (Milan, Italy), 1965, translation by Maria Grazia Di Paolo published as A Private Matter, Peter Lang (New York, NY), 1988.
Il partigiano Johnny, edited by Lorenzo Mondo, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1968, translation by Stuart Hood published as Johnny the Partisan, Quartet (London, England), 1995.
La paga del sabato (title means "Saturday's Play"), Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1969, reprinted, 1996.
Una questione privata (title means "A Private Matter"), Garzanti (Milan, Italy), 1970.
La malora e altri racconti, edited by Fina Lagorio, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1971.
Un Fenoglio alla prima guerra mondiale (contains short stories and two novels), edited by Gino Rizzo, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1973.
La voce nella tempesta. Da cime tempestose di Emily Bronte, edited by Francesco De Nicola, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1974.
Racconti partigiani, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1976.
L'affare dell'anima e altri racconti (stories), Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1978.
Opere (three volumes), edited by John Meddemmen, Maria Antonietta Grignani, Piera Tommasoni, Maria Corti, and Carla Maria San Filippo, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1978.
Una crociera agli antipodi, illustrated by Radu Dragomirescu, Stampatori (Turin, Italy), 1980,.
L'imboscata, edited by Dante Isella, Einaudi-Gallimard (Turin, Italy), 1992.
Romanzi e racconti (collected works), edited by Dante Isella, Einaudi-Gallimard (Turin, Italy), 1992.
Appunti partigiani, 1944-1945,edited by Lorenzo Mondo, Einaudi (Turin, Italy) 1994.
Diciotto racconti, edited by Dante Isella, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1995.
Lettere: 1940-1962, edited by Luca Bufan, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 2002.
Una crociera agli antipodi: e altri racconti fantastici,edited by Luca Bufano (Turin, Italy), 2003.
Eigrammi, edited by Gabriele Pedulla, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 2005.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, La ballata del vecchio marinaio (translation ofRime of the Ancient Mariner), Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1964, reprinted, Stamperia del Borgo Po (Turin, Italy), 1988.
Kenneth Grahame, Il vento nei salici (translation of The Wind in the Willows), edited by John Meddemmen, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1982.
Quaderno di traduzioni (anthology of English and American poems), edited by Mark Pietralunga, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 2000.
At the time of his death at age forty, Beppe Fenoglio had published just one collection of short stories and was known to only a handful of Ital- ian readers. His recognition and popularity quickly grew, however, with the posthumous publication of several incomplete works, and he is now regarded as one of Italy's best postwar authors.
Fenoglio was the first of three children born to parents from harsh peasant backgrounds. His father was an easy-going and tolerant dreamer, and Fenoglio had a great affinity for his patriarchal ancestors. His mother was an impetuous, unpredictable woman from a strict Catholic background, a lineage that Fenoglio described in his diary as being always dissatisfied.
Fenoglio grew up in southern Piedmont in the shadow of a large range of hills called le Langhe. He spent his childhood summers with his father's family in the Langhe region, experiencing the harsh conditions under which peasants existed and developing the intense love for the region that became the backdrop for all his works. Although an exceptional student and athlete, Fenoglio was shy, introverted, and self-doubting. In school he developed a strong interest in English and American writers, and he later translated English literature. His firm grasp of the English language allowed him considerable linguistic experimentation, and his love of the language became an important part of his fiction.
Fenoglio's university education lasted just two years, being interrupted when he was drafted into the military. He trained in officer's school and was sent to Rome, where he experienced the government's collapse in September of 1943. After a month in hiding, he fought for a short time with a communist resistance group, ultimately joining the partisans led by famous Resistance fighter Enrico Martini Mauri. The partisans opposed Nazi and Italian Fascist soldiers that still held northern and central Italy. In a remarkable accomplishment following bloody battles, these partisans seized, held, and defended Alba, an experience Fenoglio fictionalized in his short story, "I ventitrè giorni della città di Alba."
When the war ended, lack of money prevented his return to the university. He took a job as interpreter in a local winery, ultimately becoming administrator, a job that allowed him time to write. Breaking into literary circles was no easy task, however. His first published short story, "Il trucco," appeared in a publishing house bulletin in 1949, but the further submission of a collection of short stories was rejected by the same publisher. In 1951 a novel, La paga del sabato, also was rejected and would not be published until 1969. La paga del sabato includes many autobiographical elements, especially portraits of Fenoglio's parents. A Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor commented: "One finds many ingredients that identify a neorealist story. While the work depicts the everyday life of the lower classes within a provincial setting, Fenoglio clearly intends his regional world to suggest the larger history of a generation." The writer added that his "efforts realize spoken Italian in a written form. For Fenoglio, neorealism meant remaining faithful to his Piedmontese roots while striving for universality."
In 1952 Einaudi published I ventitrè giorni della città di Alba, a collection of twelve short stories, all drawing on two major sources: the peasant life of the Langhe region and the partisan war. Of this collection, aDictionary of Literary Biography contributor wrote: "Fenoglio's demystifying and ironic treatment of war distinguishes this work from many of the war chronicles or diaries of the period that indulge in the heroics rather than emphasize the death and violence." The writer added that its "originality lies in Fenoglio's refusal to conform to literary or ideological conventions." His next publication, La malora, published in English as Ruin, again depicts a poor and unfortunate family in the Langhe. Writing in Booklist, Lindsay Throm noted that "the narrator's humility, as much as his pain, inspires compassion for him and for the pain of all people." Review of Contemporary Fiction contributor Jeff Sorensen called the book "possibly the most beautiful and at the same time the saddest novel I have ever read." A Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor called this work "a masterpiece of the novella form … linguistically one of Fenoglio's most interesting works, for he effectively mixes languages (Italian and dialect) and styles (popular and literary)."
Fenoglio never felt confident about his abilities as a novelist, always doubting his skills and feeling a sense of dissatisfaction with his writing. This lack of confidence deepened following criticism of La malora by Elio Vittorini, the consultant for Einaudi Publishers, who had rejected La paga del sabato. According to a Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor, Vittorini criticized Fenoglio for, among other things, "indulging in the details of provincial life, not unlike a realist writer of the late nineteenth century. Vittorini warned young writers (such as Fenoglio), armed with modern style and a facile tongue, not to allow themselves to be taken by the vividness of the written page crammed with ‘dialectical aphrodisiacs.’"
From 1954 until 1962 Fenoglio published several short stories in literary journals. He was also a prolific translator, which he considered an important literary exercise and upon which he spent a great deal of time. Although he saw few of his translations published, the literary magazine Itinerari published his translation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in 1955. It was ultimately reprinted by Einaudi in 1964.
Fenoglio's unfinished novel, Il partigiano Johnny,published five years after his death and also in English as Johnny the Partisan, is regarded as one of the major Italian novels of the twentieth century. Writing for the Times Literary Supplement,Peter Hainsworth noted that some authorities believe this highly original work, comprising two different but overlapping drafts, one in Italian and one in English, was not meant for publication, but was a "reservoir" drawn upon by the author from the beginning to the end of his career. While Fenoglio's posthumously published works were incomplete, Hainsworth commented that all Fenoglio's writings "suffer from an incompleteness." Hainsworth added: "Even the books which appeared during his lifetime were only finished provisionally and under duress. Irresolution is a constituent part of his writing; it is one of his appealing qualities." Hainsworth went on to note: "No other modern Italian author has managed to produce such tellingly unstable fiction while sustaining such a powerful narrative drive."
A Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor noted that in 1964 famed Italian writer Italo Calvino, in the preface to his first novel, "paid tribute to Fenoglio, the most isolated and solitary member of his generation, whose novel Una questione privata, he asserts, represents the novel his generation had dreamed of writing. Thanks to Fenoglio, writes Calvino, a group of writers has acquired significance."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
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, Volume 2, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Menzio, Pino, editor, Beppe Fenoglio, 1922-1997: atti del convegno, Alba 15 marzo 1997, Electa (Milan, Italy), 1998.
Pietralunga, Mark, Bebbe Fenoglio and English Literature: A Study of the Writer As Translator, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1987.
Antioch Review, spring, 1993, review of Ruin, p. 316.
Booklist, December 1, 1992, Lindsay Throm, review of Ruin,p. 648.
MLN, January, 1996, Eduardo Saccone, "War and Peace in Beppe Fenoglio's Partisan Novels," pp. 31-37.
Modern Language Review, January, 1995, Philip Cooke, review ofRomanzi e racconti, pp. 219-220; April, 1996, Philip Cooke, "The Red and the Blue: The Depiction of the Italian Partisan Resistance in Fenoglio's Il partigiano Johnny," pp. 365-381; October, 2002, John Meddemmen, "Fenoglio's Binoculars, Johnny's Eyes: History, Language, and Narrative Technique in Fenoglio's Il partigiano Johnny."
Publishers Weekly, October 26, 1992, review of Ruin, p. 56.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 1993, Jeff Sorensen, review of Ruin, p. 275.
Times Literary Supplement, December 18, 1969, review of Il partigiano Johnny, p. 1443; April 26, 1974, review of Un Fenoglio alla prima guerra mondiale, p. 442; May 7, 1993, Peter Hainsworth, "Partisan Polemicist," p. 24; October 6, 1995, John Rosselli, review of Johnny the Partisan, p. 31.
World Literature Today, 1981, Cecilia Ross, review of L'affare dell'anima e altri racconti, p. 450.