Solmi, Sergio 1899–1981

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Solmi, Sergio 1899–1981

PERSONAL: Born December 16, 1899, in Rieti, Italy; died October 7, 1981, in Milan, Italy; son of Edmondo (a professor) and Clelia (Lollis) Solmi; married; wife's name Dora; children: Renato, Raffaella. Education: University of Turin, law degree, 1923.

CAREER: Poet, literary critic, and lawyer. Banca Commerciale, Milan, Italy, head of legal department. Military service: Served in World War I; joined anti-Fascist Action Party during World War II; held prisoner in Milan, Italy, 1945.

AWARDS, HONORS: Saint Vincent prize for poetry, 1948; Montparnasse award, 1949; Viareggio prize, 1963, for Scrittori negli anni: saggi e note sulla letteratura italiania del '900, 1976, for La luna di Laforgue e altri scritti di letteratura francese; Fiuggi prize, 1968, for Dal balcone; Bagutta prize, 1973, for short story "Meditazioni sullo scorpione."

WRITINGS:

Il pensiero di Alain (title means "The Thought of Alain"), Scheiwiller (Milan, Italy), 1930, reprinted, Nistri-Lischi (Pisa, Italy), 1976.

(Author of introduction) Filippo de Pisis, Ulrico Hoepli (Milan, Italy), 1931.

Fine di stagione (title means "End of the Season"), Carabba (Lanciano, Italy), 1933.

(With Gigiotti Zanini) Gigiotti Zanini, Ulrico Hoepli (Milan, Italy), 1940.

(With Pablo Picasso) Disegni di Picasso: 41 tavole, Ulrico Hoepli (Milan, Italy), 1945.

(With Alain [Emile-Auguste Chartier]) Lettres à Sergio Solmi sur la philosophi de Kant, P. Hartmann (Paris, France), 1946.

(Editor) It tema del nostro tempo, Rosa (Milan, Italy), 1947.

Poesie, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1950.

(Author of preface) Marco Polo, Il milione, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1954.

(With Gabriele Mucchi) Gabriele Mucchi, EDA (Milan, Italy), 1955.

Levania e alter poesie (title means "The Moon and Other Poems"), Mantovani (Milan, Italy), 1956.

(Editor, with Carlo Fruttero) Le meraviglie del possible: antologia della fantascienza (main title means "The Wonders of the Possible"), two volumes, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1959–61.

Modernità di Zanini, Tallone (Alpignano, Italy), 1960.

(Editor) Salvatore Quasimodo, Tutte le poesie, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1960.

Scrittori negli anni: saggi e note sulla letteratura italiania del '900 (title means "Writers through the Years: Essays and Notes on Italian Literature of the Twentieth Century"), Saggiatore (Milan, Italy), 1963.

Dal balcone (title means "From the Balcony"), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1968.

(Author of introduction) Giacomo Leopardi, Pensieri, memorie del primo amore, Elegia I, Elegia II, Talone (Alpignano, Italy), 1970.

Della favola, del viaggio e di alter case: saggi sul fantastico, Ricciardi (Milan, Italy), 1971, published as Saggi sul fantastico: Dall'antichità alle prospettive del futuro, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1978.

Meditazioni sullo scorpione e altra prose (title means "Meditations on the Scorpion and Other Stories"), Adelphi (Milan, Italy), 1972.

Poesie complete, Adelphi (Milan, Italy), 1974.

Saggio su Rimbaud (title means "Essay on Rimbaud"), Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1974.

(With Helen Busacca) I quanti del karma, Seledizioni (Bologna, Italy), 1974.

Studi e nuovi studi leopardiani, Ricciardi (Milan, Italy, 1975.

Scritti leopardiani, All'Insegna del Pesce d'Oro (Milan, Italy), 1975.

(Editor) Giacomo Leopardi, Operette morali, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1976.

La luna di Laforgue e altri scritti di letteratura francese (title means "Laforgue's Moon and Other Writings"), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1976.

(Editor, with daughter, Raffaella Solmi) Giacomo Leopardi, Lettere, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1977.

(Editor, with Raffaella Solmi) Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone di pensieri: scelta, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1977.

Poesie (1924–1972), Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1978.

Quadernetto di letture e ricondi, Polifilo (Cremona, Italy), 1979.

Meditazioni sullo Scorpine e alter prose, Adelphi (Milan, Italy), 1979.

Il giarnino del tempo (title means "The Garden of Time"), Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1983.

La letteratura italiana contemporanea, Adelphi (Milan, Italy), 1983.

Poesie, meditazioni e ricordi, edited by Giovanni Pacchiano, two volumes, Adelphi (Milan, Italy), 1983–84.

Opere, edited by Giovanni Pacchiano, two volumes, Adelphi (Milan, Italy), 1983–87.

(Author of introduction) Zibaldone di pensieri, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1993.

(With others) Quaderno genovese, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1993.

(With Giovanni Pacchiano) Letteratura e società: saggi sur fantastico, la responsabilita della cultura, scritti di aromento stroico e politico, Adelphi (Milan, Italy), 2000.

TRANSLATIONS

Pedro Caderón de la Barca, Teatro spagnolo, Bompiania (Milan, Italy), 1942.

José Ortega y Gasset, Il terma del nostro tempo, Rosa and Ballo (Milan, Italy), 1946.

Alain (pseudonym of Emile-Auguste Chartier), Cento e un ragionamenti, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1960.

Versioni poetiche da contemporanei, All'Insegna del Pesce d'Oro (Milan, Italy), 1963.

Jules Lagorgue, Poesie, Ateneo (Rome, Italy), 1966.

Alfred Jarry, Opere, three volumes, Adelphi (Milan, Italy), 1969.

Quaderno di traduzioni, two volumes, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1969–77.

Raymond Queneau, Piccola cosmogonia, portatile, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1982.

Contributor to books, including Ed è subito sera by Salvatore Quasimodo, Mondadori (Milan, Italy), 1944; Con la violenza la pietà: poesia e resistenza: antologia di testi, Interninea (Novara, Italy), 1995; and Lettres éditoriales, Le Passeur/Cecofop (Nantes, Italy), 1999.

SIDELIGHTS: "An eminent literary critic and an accomplished poet," Sergio Solmi was "a man of vast and varied reading—of French, English, and American as well as Italian authors," noted G. Singh in World Literature Today. Referring to Solmi's Letteratura e società: saggi sur fantastico, la responsabilita della cultura, scritti di aromento stroico e politico, Singh pointed out that much of the book is dedicated to the study of science fiction, and Solmi devotes to this popular genre "the same degree of critical and imaginative sensibility as well as intuitive grasp and perception as he does in dealing with literature."

Solmi was born at the end of the nineteenth century and lived through much of the twentieth. An active writer until the end of his life, Solmi is perhaps best remembered for his poetry. In a Dictionary of Literary Biography essay, Patricia Lyn Richards described Solmi's verses as recording "the spiritual essence of events and feelings both momentous and intimate, alternating an enthusiasm for life and life's lacerating toll." Solmi fought for his native Italy in World War I; but by the 1930s he had turned against his country's political leanings and become involved in the Action Party in opposition to the fascisti. As a result of his political activities, Solmi was imprisoned for several months, during which he orchestrated a daring escape. Following World War II, he continued his career as a bank lawyer and a scholar, dedicating much of his writing to the study of French literature. Although he admired the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, Michel Montaigne, and the symbolists, according to Richards, Solmi gave special attention to the works of Emile-August Chartier, who wrote under the pseudonym Alain.

For Solmi, "Alain's work offered a corrective to the systemization of thought of another writer who influenced him, the philosopher Benedetto Croce." Solmi was also influenced by Giacomo Leopardi, a well-known nineteenth-century Italian poet, and wrote many volumes assessing Leopardi's work. In the opinion of Esperienza Letterarie contributor Janet Laffin, Solmi "has a unique position among twentieth century Italian critics, not only in that he has written momentous criticism on Leopardi and Montale, but also because his criticism is more creative than academic, more personal than historical or philological, which accounts for its freshness and originality."

Richards labeled Fine di stagione as Solmi's first important work of poetry. The collection consists of twelve lyrics composed between the world wars. "These poems have lightness and strength, with references to Petrarch and, more especially, to Leopardi," noted the critic. Paraphrasing the views of Giancinto Spagnoletti, Richards stated that "Solmi mixes trust and irony in his verses, and examines the interdependence of dream and reality. He moves between the real and the surreal, between the everyday and the cosmic." The collection Dal balcone explores in verse some of the reigning philosophies of the author's generation: scientific positivism, critical idealism, and a "'neo-Enlightenment' buttressing modern technology," as Richards noted. "Solmi's attitude ranges from perplexity to dismay. Modern emblems (seen earlier in his work as almost demonic forces) reveal themselves as signs of redemption from the mediocre and confused routine of daily events."

Less well known than his poetry is Solmi's body of critical works. Those works are collected in the second volume of Poesia, meditazioni e ricordi. Writing in World Literature Today, Singh noted that the book "brings out the range of cultural as well as imaginative interests and affinities that inform Solmi's prose writings." The scholar, in Singh's view, holds true to his "fidelity to the concrete and the essential, to the specific and the detailed…. A beautiful image, a flowery expression, or a brilliant concept seldom carries Solmi off his feet, nor does it ever deviate him from his duty and conviction as a writer that nothing justifies the possession and use of style unless the writer has something fully grasped and concretely realized in his experience to communicate."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 114: Twentieth-Century Italian Poets, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI) 1992.

PERIODICALS

Esperienza Letterarie, January, 1988, Janet Laffin, "Solmi as a Critic of Leopardi," pp. 15-24.

Italica, spring, 1970, G. Singh, "The Poetry of Sergio Solmi," pp. 78-92.

Modern Language Review, July, 1977, Giovanni Carsaniga, review of Studi e nuovi studi leopardiani, pp. 711-712.

Times Literary Supplement, June 4, 1970, "Recognizing Reality," review of Dal balcone, p. 614; January 21, 1972, "Lucid Illusions," review of Scritti leopardiani, p. 60; October 4, 1974, "Strictly on the Level," review of Poesie complete, p. 1090.

World Literature Today, spring, 1977, Thomas G. Bergin, review of La luna di Laforgue e altri scritti di letteratura francese, p. 251; summer, 1979, Gian-Paolo Biasin, review of Saggi sul fantastico: Dall'antichità alle prospettive del futuro, p. 493; autumn, 1984, Thomas G. Bergin, review of Poesie, meditazioni e ricordi, Volume 1: Poesie e versioni poetiche, p. 584; spring, 1985, G. Singh, review of Poesie, meditazioni e ricordi, Volume 2: Meditazioni e ricordi, p. 256; spring, 1993, G. Singh, review of La letteratura italiana contemporanea, p. 355; autumn, 2000, G. Singh, review of Letteratura e società: saggi sur fantastico, la responsabilita della cultura, scritti di aromento stroico e politico, p. 876.

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