Meneghello, Luigi 1927(?)–
MENEGHELLO, Luigi 1927(?)–
PERSONAL: Born 1927 (some sources say 1922), in Malo, Vicenza, Italy; naturalized British citizen; son of Gaetano (an artisan) and Giuseppina (a teacher) Meneghello; married; wife's name Katia. Education: University of Udine, degree in philosophy.
ADDRESSES: Home—England. Agent—c/o Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, via Andegart 6, 20121 Milan, Italy.
CAREER: University of Reading, Reading, England, emeritus professor of Italian literature, 1947–80, then emeritus.
Libera nos a malo (title means "Free Us from Evil") Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1963.
I piccoli maestri Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1964, translation published as The Outlaws, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1967.
Pomo pero: Paralipomeni d'un libro di famiglia, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1974.
Fiori italiani (title means "Italian Flowers"), Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1976.
Il Tremaio: Note sull'interazione tra lingua e dialetto nelle scritture letterarie, P. Lubrica (Bergamo, Italy), 1986.
Jura: Ricerche sulla natura delle forme scritte, Garzanti (Milan, Italy), 1987.
Bau-sète, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1988.
Leda e la schioppa, P. Lubrica (Bergamo, Italy), 1988.
Che fate, quel giovane?, Moretti & Vitali (Bergamo, Italy), 1990.
Maredè, maredè, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1991.
Colin-maillard, Le Promeneur (Paris, France), 1991.
Rivarotta, Moretti & Vitali (Bergamo, Italy), 1992.
Il dispatrio, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1993.
Opere, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1993.
Mambor: Opere anni '60, Galleria Cinguetti (Verona, Italy), 1993.
Promemoria: Lo sterminio degli d'europa, 1939–1946, in un Resoconto di "Ugo Varnai"(1953) del libro "The Final Solution" de Gerald Reitlinger," Mulino (Bologna, Italy), 1994.
Il turbo e il chiaro, Società Dante Alighieri, Comitato Veneziano (Venice, Italy), 1995.
La materia di Reading e altri reperti, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1997.
Le carte: materiali manoscritti inediti, 1963–1989, trascritti e ripuliti nei tardi anni Novanta, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), Volume I: Ani Sessanta, 1999, Volume II: Anni Settanta, 2000, Volume III: Anni Ottanta, 2001.
Trapianti: Dall'inglese al vicentino, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Luigi Meneghello is an Italian novelist whose books, which are frequently autobiographical, combine sardonic humor with a search for truth. Meneghello's life is an interesting subject for autobiography, as he was a member of the Italian Resistance in World War II and eventually became an expatriate in England. Language is one of his fascinations, and he has written of his experiences adapting to English, and of the variations between standard Italian and the regional dialect of his native region of Veneto.
Born in the small village of Malo, Meneghello grew up in a home that encouraged free thought—an attitude that was unusual for that time and place. At a young age he rebelled against both the teachings of the Catholic Church and the government's fascist ideology, which was taught in the local schools. In high school and as a young adult, he became involved in the underground resistance movement battling Italy's Fascist government and its alliance with Nazi Germany. During the final months of World War II, Italy suffered tremendously because of the war, being "invaded and reinvaded, occupied and reoccupied acre by acre," explained Harvey Sachs in Antioch Review. "The disasters of international and civil war were complicated and augmented by political strife, physical deprivation, and moral degradation. Italy suffered greater devastation during the last twenty months of the war than in all her previous, turbulent history." Eventually, Meneghello decided in 1947 to leave the country and go to England to study at the University of Reading. He planned to remain there for less than a year, but after several months, he asked to stay on and eventually became a British citizen. At the University of Reading, he worked to create an Italian-based curriculum.
In 1963, Meneghelli published his first book, Libera nos a malo. It recounts tales from his youth in Malo, expressing his affection for that time and place, and humorously recounting the villagers' imperiousness to the control Italy's totalitarian government was trying to impose upon all Italians. One of the aims of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was to standardize the numerous regional dialects into a single standardized language. While use of dialects was even made illegal, most of the peasant population spoke standard Italian only as a second language, and found it inadequate for much expressive thought. Though the book is humorous in tone, it also takes a serious look at the attempt to take away the culture of a people. Reviewing Libera nos a malo for the Times Literary Supplement, Filippo Donini praised the author's approach: "By dealing lightly with a serious matter Meneghello has rendered his criticism much more effective. The reader who would have skipped even half a page of sermonizing will delight in the innumerable anecdotes, jokes and sallies."
Many of Meneghelli's subsequent books have dealt with similar subject matter. Fiori italiani tells of a boy's education during the rise of Italian fascism and of that system's eventual collapse. Reviewing the book for the Times Literary Supplement, Donini stated that at times it "reads more like an essay than a novel or an autobiography, an essay on Fascist education and on the Italian character in general, a subject on which Meneghello has some interesting, not always very flattering things to say. He says them, however, with such grace and humour that their sting is almost neutralized." Another book in this vein is Bau-sète, which focuses mainly on Meneghello's life during the interval between the final days of the war and his departure for England. "As always he has some excellent comic pages, with affectionately ironic portrayals of his friends and his younger self, the more so as he moves erratically forwards," noted Peter Hainsworth in the Times Literary Supplement.
In Il dispatrio Meneghello turns his attention from Italy to England. He presents his life in Britain as a comfortable ensconcement in academia: a string of many meetings with top thinkers, formal dinners, and numerous visits to library and museums. He discusses few of the harsh realities he and many Italians experienced as immigrants to Great Britain. World Literature Today contributor Luigi Monga advised that Il dispatrio "makes for good reading" and is "A funny, perceptive, and captivating autobiography."
Reflecting in the Times Literary Supplement on Meneghello's significance as a writer, Peter Hainsworth wrote: "All his books, singly and together, are modest attempts at large-scale sabotage. Some of the targets are cliches or orthodoxies of thought and language, a favourite one being the high rhetoric which has played such a damaging role in Italian culture and history. But the most serious enemy is time, with its power simply to carry everything away—lives, languages, things, cultures—and the memory of them."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Meneghello, Luigi, Libera nos a malo, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1963.
Meneghello, Luigi, I piccoli maestri, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1964, translation published as The Outlaws, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1967.
Meneghello, Luigi, Pomo pero: Paralipomeni d'un libro di famiglia, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1974.
Meneghello, Luigi, Fiori italiani, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1976.
Meneghello, Luigi, Jura: Ricerche sulla natura delle forme scritte, Garzanti (Milan, Italy), 1987.
Meneghello, Luigi, Bau-sète, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1988.
Meneghello, Luigi, Il dispatrio, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1993.
Antioch Review, spring, 1994, Harvey Sachs, "Resisting," p. 231.
Italianist: Journal of the Department of Italian Studies, University of Reading, Volume 9, 1989, pp. 7-51.
South Carolina Review, May, 1993, pp. 265-282.
Studi Novecenteschi, December, 1990, John A. Scott, "Luigi Meneghello; or, The Dialectics of Dialect," pp. 357-377.
Times Literary Supplement, July 2, 1976, Filippo Domini, review of Libera nos a malo, p. 832; October 14, 1977, Filippo Donini, review of Fiori italiani, p. 1187; January 1, 1988, Peter Hainsworth, review of Jura: Ricerche sulla natura delle forme scritte, p. 22; April 21, 1989, Peter Hainsworth, review of Bau-sète, p. 418; January 1, 1988, p. 22.
World Literature Today, autumn, 1988, Gaetano A. Iannace, review of Jura, p. 644; summer, 1994, Luigi Mongo, review of Il dispatrio, p. 547; spring, 1997, Franco Marenco, "The Rise and Fall of Irony," p. 303.