General Gabriele D'Annunzio, Prince of Montenevoso OMS CMG MVM (12 March 1863 – 1 March 1938), sometimes spelled d'Annunzio, was an Italian poet, playwright, and journalist and soldier during World War I. He occupied a prominent place in Italian literature from 1889 to 1910 and later political life from 1914 to 1924. He was often referred to under the epithets Il Vate ("the Poet") or Il Profeta ("the Prophet").
D'Annunzio was associated with the Decadent movement in his literary works, which interplayed closely with French Symbolism and British Aestheticism. Such works represented a turn against the naturalism of the preceding romantics and was both sensuous and mystical. He came under the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche which would find outlets in his literary and later political contributions. His affairs with several women, including Eleonora Duse and Luisa Casati, received public attention.
During the First World War, perception of D'Annunzio in Italy transformed from literary figure into a national war hero. He was associated with the elite Arditi storm troops of the Italian Army and took part in actions such as the Flight over Vienna. As part of an Italian nationalist reaction against the Paris Peace Conference, he set up the short-lived Italian Regency of Carnaro in Fiume with himself as Duce. The constitution made "music" the fundamental principle of the state and was corporatist in nature. Though D'Annunzio never declared himself a fascist, he has been described as the forerunner of Italian fascism as his ideas and aesthetics influenced it and the style of Benito Mussolini.
Gabriele D'Annunzio was born in the township of Pescara, in the region of Abruzzo, the son of a wealthy landowner and mayor of the town, Francesco Paolo Rapagnetta D'Annunzio (1831–1893). His father had been adopted at age 13 by a childless rich uncle, Antonio D'Annunzio.Legend has it that he was initially baptized Gaetano and given the name of Gabriele later in childhood, because of his angelic looks, a story that has largely been disproven.
His precocious talent was recognised early in life, and he was sent to school at the Liceo Cicognini in Prato, Tuscany.
He published his first poetry while still at school at the age of sixteen — a small volume of verses called Primo Vere (1879). His verse was distinguished by such agile grace that literary critic Giuseppe Chiarini on reading them brought the unknown youth before the public in an enthusiastic article.
In 1881 D'Annunzio entered the University of Rome La Sapienza, where he became a member of various literary groups, including Cronaca Bizantina, and wrote articles and criticism for local newspapers. In those university years he started to promote Italian irredentism.
He published Canto novo (1882), Terra vergine (1882), L'intermezzo di rime (1883), Il libro delle vergini (1884) and the greater part of the short stories that were afterwards collected under the general title of San Pantaleone (1886).
Canto novo contains poems full of pulsating youth and the promise of power, some descriptive of the sea and some of the Abruzzese landscape, commented on and completed in prose by Terra vergine, the latter a collection of short stories dealing in radiant language with the peasant life of the author's native province. Intermezzo di rime is the beginning of D'Annunzio's second and characteristic manner. His conception of style was new, and he chose to express all the most subtle vibrations of voluptuous life.
Gabriele D'Annunzio joined the staff of the Tribuna, under the pseudonym of "Duca Minimo". Here he wrote Il libro d'Isotta (1886), a love poem, in which for the first time he drew inspiration adapted to modern sentiments and passions from the rich colours of the Renaissance.
Il libro d'Isotta is interesting also, because in it one can find most of the germs of his future work, just as in Intermezzo melico and in certain ballads and sonnets one can find descriptions and emotions which later went to form the aesthetic contents of Il piacere, Il trionfo della morte and Elegie romane (1892).
D'Annunzio's first novel Il Piacere (1889, translated into English as The Child of Pleasure) was followed in 1891 by Giovanni Episcopo, and in 1892 by L'innocente (The Intruder). These three novels made a profound impression. L'innocente, admirably translated into French by Georges Herelle, brought its author the notice and applause of foreign critics. His next work, Il trionfo della morte (The Triumph of Death) (1894), was followed soon by Le vergini delle rocce (The Maidens of the Rocks) (1896) and Il fuoco (The Flame of Life) (1900); the latter is in its descriptions of Venice perhaps the most ardent glorification of a city existing in any language.
D'Annunzio's poetic work of this period, in most respects his finest, is represented by Il Poema Paradisiaco (1893), the Odi navali (1893), a superb attempt at civic poetry, and Laudi (1900).
A later phase of D'Annunzio's work is his dramatic production, represented by Il sogno di un mattino di primavera (1897), a lyrical fantasia in one act, and his Città Morta (The Dead City) (1898), written for Sarah Bernhardt.
In 1883, Gabriele D'Annunzio married Maria Hardouin di Gallese, and had three sons, but the marriage ended in 1891.
In 1894, he began a love affair with the actress Eleonora Duse(1858-1924) which became a cause célèbre. He provided leading roles for her in his plays of the time such as La città morta (1898) and Francesca da Rimini (1901), but the tempestuous relationship finally ended in 1910.
After meeting the Marchesa Luisa Casati in 1903, he began a lifelong turbulent on again-off again affair with Luisa, that lasted until a few years before his death.
By 1910, his daredevil lifestyle had forced him into debt, and he fled to France to escape his creditors. There he collaborated with composer Claude Debussy on a musical play, Le Martyre de saint Sébastien (The Martyrdom of St Sebastian), 1911, written for Ida Rubinstein.
The Vatican reacted by placing all of his works in the Index of Forbidden Books. The work was not successful as a play, but it has been recorded in adapted versions several times, notably by Pierre Monteux (in French), Leonard Bernstein (sung in French, acted in English), and Michael Tilson Thomas (in French). In 1912 and 1913, D'Annunzio worked with opera composer Pietro Mascagni on his opera Parisina, staying sometimes in a house rented by the composer in Bellevue, near Paris.
In 1901, D'Annunzio and Ettore Ferrari, the Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy, founded the Università Popolare di Milano (Popular University of Milan), located in via Ugo Foscolo. D'Annunzio held the inaugural speech and subsequently became an associated professor and a lecturer in the same institution.
After the start of World War I, D'Annunzio returned to Italy and made public speeches in favor of Italy's entry on the side of the Triple Entente. With the war beginning he volunteered and achieved further celebrity as a fighter pilot, losing the sight of an eye in a flying accident.
In February 1918, he took part in a daring, if militarily irrelevant, raid on the harbour of Bakar (known in Italy as La beffa di Buccari, lit. the Bakar Mockery), helping to raise the spirits of the Italian public, still battered by the Caporetto disaster. On 9 August 1918, as commander of the 87th fighter squadron "La Serenissima", he organized one of the great feats of the war, leading nine planes in a 700-mile round trip to drop propaganda leaflets on Vienna. This is called in Italian "il Volo su Vienna", "the Flight over Vienna".
On 12 September 1919, he led the seizure by 2,000 Italian nationalist irregulars of the city, forcing the withdrawal of the inter-Allied (American, British and French) occupying forces. The plotters sought to have Italy annex Fiume, but were denied. D'Annunzio then declared Fiume an independent state, the Italian Regency of Carnaro with himself as "Duce" (leader), but finally surrendering the city in December 1920 after a bombardment by the Italian navy.
After the Fiume episode, D'Annunzio retired to his home on Lake Garda and spent his latter years writing and campaigning. Although D'Annunzio had a strong influence on the ideology of Benito Mussolini, he never became directly involved in fascist government politics in Italy.
In 1924 he was ennobled by King Victor Emmanuel III and given the hereditary title of Prince of Montenevoso (Italian: Principe di Montenevoso).
In 1937 he was made president of the Royal Academy of Italy.
D'Annunzio died in 1938 of a stroke, at his home in Gardone Riviera. He was given a state funeral by Mussolini and was interred in a magnificent tomb constructed of white marble at Il Vittoriale degli Italiani.
At the height of his success, D'Annunzio was celebrated for the originality, power and decadence of his writing. Although his work had immense impact across Europe, and influenced generations of Italian writers, his fin de siècle works are now little known, and his literary reputation has always been clouded by his fascist associations.
A prolific writer, his novels in Italian include Il piacere (The Child of Pleasure, 1889), Il trionfo della morte (The Triumph of Death, 1894), and Le vergini delle rocce (The Maidens of the Rocks, 1896).
D'Annunzio's literary creations were strongly influenced by the French Symbolist school, and contain episodes of striking violence and depictions of abnormal mental states interspersed with gorgeously imagined scenes. One of D'Annunzio's most significant novels, scandalous in its day, is Il fuoco (The Flame of Life) of 1900, in which he portrays himself as the Nietzschean Superman Stelio Effrena, in a fictionalized account of his love affair with Eleonora Duse. His short stories showed the influence of Guy de Maupassant. He was also associated with the Italian noblewoman Luisa Casati, an influence on his novels and one of his mistresses.
In Italy some of his poetic works remain popular, most notably his poem "La pioggia nel pineto" (The Rain in the Pinewood), which exemplifies his linguistic virtuosity as well as the sensuousness of his poetry. His work was part of the literature event in the art competition at the 1912 Summer Olympics.
Gabriele D'Annunzio's life and work are commemorated in a museum, Il Vittoriale degli Italiani (The Shrine of Italian Victories). He planned and developed it himself, adjacent to his villa at Gardone Riviera on the southwest bank of Lake Garda, between 1923 and his death. Now a national monument, it is a complex of military museum, library, literary and historical archive, theatre, war memorial and mausoleum.
His birthplace is also open to the public as a museum, Birthplace of Gabriele D'Annunzio Museum in Pescara.