Vivanti Chartres, Annie

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VIVANTI CHARTRES, ANNIE (1868–1942), Italian novelist. Annie Vivanti was born in London, the daughter of an Italian political exile, her mother being a German writer. In 1890 she became famous with the publication of Lirica, a volume of verse, prefaced by the eminent Italian poet Giosuè Carducci. Abandoning verse for fiction, she wrote several novels including Circe (1912); Vae victis! (1917), a dramatic though naïve account of the relationship between the victors and the vanquished of World War i; Naja tripudians (1920) and Fosca, sorella di Messalina (1922). In a novel in English, Marie Tarnowska (1915), she analyzed the problem of crime, which she considered a hereditary physical disease devoid of any moral implication. Her years in England, Switzerland, and the U.S. inspired a collection of short stories, Zingaresca (1918). She also wrote two plays: L'Invasore (1916) and Le bocche inutili (1918).

A representative of Italian romanticism at its most decadent, Annie Vivanti was true to the fashion of her times even in her private life. She married an Irish lawyer and journalist, John Chartres, whom she supported in his campaigns for Irish independence. Her daughter, Vivien Chartres, a talented violinist, inspired her best novel, The Devourers (1910). The "devourers" are the infant prodigies who sacrifice their parents to their own talents. Vivien Chartres died during an air raid in London in 1941. Annie Vivanti herself suffered from Mussolini's antisemitic laws: her books were banned in Italy, and she spent some time in internment. She died a lonely woman in Turin.


B. Croce, La letteratura della nuova Italia, 6 (1940), 305–15; P. Pancrazi, Scrittori d'oggi, 6 (1953), 287–374; Allason, in: Nuova Antologia, 454 (1952), 369–81.

[Giorgio Romano]