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Gabriele D'Annunzio: Poet, Seducer, and Preacher of War

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3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  146 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Godfather to Mussolini, national hero of Italy and the WWI irredentist movement, literary icon of Joyce and Pound, lover of actress Eleonora Duse: here is Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s extraordinary biography of Gabriele d’Annunzio, poet, bon vivant, harbinger of Italian fascism.

Gabriele d’Annunzio was Italy’s premier poet at a time when poetry mattered enough to trigger riots. A
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Hardcover, 608 pages
Published August 20th 2013 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2013)
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Nooilforpacifists
This is an overly long book written by an excellent -- in places remarkably fluid -- writer, but a writer who seems fundamentally censorious of everything her subject did. For example, she takes care in the introduction to inform readers that she can write objectively about a notorious playboy warmonger, despite being a female pacifist. She also, incoherently, pronounces her opposition to the war in Afghanistan. Glad to know!

Hughes-Hallett's work seems remarkably patterned after my favorite mov
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Eric
Feb 13, 2013 Eric marked it as to-read
Even within Italy, though firmly entrenched in the literary canon, he is most commonly recalled with a sort of collective cringe. For once upon a time, in the fervid fin de siècle - for reasons variously literary, political, military and, not least, sexual - he was one of the towering figures of European culture. Think Wilde crossed with Casanova and Savonarola; Byron meets Barnum meets Mussolini - and you would have some of the flavours, but still not quite the essence, of this extraordinary, u ...more
Jesse Toldness
Lucy Hughes-Hallet's trip through the mind of this twisted, self-important little man is a roller-coaster ride that never lets up and never lets down. D'Annunzio was many things: deluded, bloodthirsty, narcissistic. But he's never boring. I'm exhausted from having ridden with Il Vate and now I have to sit down for awhile...
David
An apparently comprehensive account of the life of a decidedly unattractive character famed for his poetry, his philandering, as a war aviator and one-time Commandante of the city of Fiume. Gabriele d'Annunzio was a small man but a larger than life character - vain, brutish and misogynistic. He is thought to have been a pre-cursor of fascism and worshipped by rightist Italians before they were persuaded to transfer their allegiance to that man of action, Benito Mussolini. Certainly, both men sha ...more
Laura
Jan 25, 2013 Laura rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Lucy Hughes-Hallett charts the life of Italian politician and poet Gabriele D'Annunzio
Malcolm Gibson
A fascinating read of an intriguing yet repellant figure, full of contradictions, exposed by his own frank diary and letter writing. He used his skills as an author and playwright for warmongering and public oratory. After the end of WW I, he led a group of followers into the disputed town of Fiume and took over, while the League of Nations were still discussing if it belonged to Hungary, Yugoslavia or Italy. Having recently read about post war negotiations in the Middle East in "Lawrence in Ara ...more
Frumenty
I have read this entire book under the misapprehension that I was reading a second book by the author of "The immortal dinner: a famous evening of genius and laughter in literary London, 1817" (which I reviewed about 18 months ago). I gave that 3 stars, which may have been more than it deserved. This is a book of an entirely different stamp. A little Wikipedia research leads me to believe that the author of "The immortal dinner", Penelope Hughes-Hallett, is the mother of Lucy, the author of "The ...more
David Sinck
To enjoy a book the reader should really have a good relationship with the author. We may not get on, or desire to meet socially, but the reader should respect their writing, research and opinions. With biographies, there are three of us in the relationship, which complicates things somewhat. In the case of this book, the current reviewer forged an excellent relationship with Ms Hughes-Hallett, admires her work and looks forward to her next book. But, my word, how he came to detest the subject o ...more
Rob Adey
Immediate and kaleidoscopic life of D'Annunzio, who I admit I'd never heard of before, but who turns out to be fairly pivotal in recent history. Hughes-Hallett does an excellent job of laying bare all sides of this character - both impish and ridiculous (he wrote what must have been the first sexy car crash, 60 years before Ballard) and monstrous (he had a large part in inventing fascism).
Johnrylelawsoniii
Not since the erudite, witty, and generally brilliant John Ryle Lawson III wrote his magisterial volume on Tom Landry and Bill Walsh has an author handled a subject with the skill that Lucy Hughes-Hallett displays in her riveting account of this forgotten but significant figure. Gabriele D'Annunzio, a necessary ingredient for Mussolini's rise, is an intriguing figure. An amusing figure. An irritating figure. An offensive figure. An outrageous figure. And a morally reprehensible figure. You have ...more
Jarvo
Manages to square the circle of making the subject both fascinating and repellent. It sheds light on attitudes which are difficult to comprehend, especially about the glory of war and the shedding of blood - D'Annunzio helped propel Italy into the first world war in which it lost much and gained nothing. He participated fully and bravely in that war and his only apparent regret was that it ended. He seems to be a critical antecedent to Mussolini, who he corresponded with, looked down upon and ul ...more
Robert Ronsson
What a life. What a man. What a monster!
D'Annunzio was a little man with a giant ego; he loved (heterosexual) sex but belittled women; he wrote sublime poetry but employed it to wage war; he was an aesthete but he gloried in the carnage of the battlefield; he loved his country but led an army against it.
Lucy Hughes-Hallett writes in readable language that makes the subject matter accessible. Her master-stroke is to construct the book so that it's subject- as well as time-ordered. It's ingeniousl
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Evan
Aw, it's too long, and is never quite clear about what it intends to be. It isn't a biography of D'Annunzio, but neither is it a history lesson. Falling somewhere in-between, it does neither well and is full of relevant but not useful rambling detail. It should be half its length.
Petra X
Not the easiest read, but a tremendously interesting one. Sometimes I thought he was wonderful, an original, and sometimes a total waste of space. On reflection, Italy didn't need him but he at least entertained a lot of people on his way up and then down.
Disarticulate
Great introduction for me to a previously unknown literary figure. The biography gave a good insight into Italian literature, history and culture from the late 19th century onwards. I learned a lot about post-unification Italy, Italy's involvement in the First World War and the rise of Mussolini and Fascism.

I liked the that the book was not written in a typically chronological fashion and Huhghes-Haller organises the biography around themes in d'Annunzio's life. This allows her to focus on diffe
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Richard MacManus
I can see why this book won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction in 2013. It was exhaustively researched and exquisitely written, mimicking the lush language that d'Annunzio was well known for. Still, I found it awfully difficult to finish, because d'Annunzio was such a loathsome character. I wonder how Hughes-Hallett felt writing it...it's almost like she herself was seduced by this reptilian Don Juan. But then she perhaps gets the last laugh. The book's angle is that d'Annunzio, an Italian ...more
Jim
Jul 30, 2014 Jim is currently reading it
Shelves: italia
Visited his (insane?) villa and gardens at Lake Garda some years ago - It has a Battleship (or at least it's front end - we called it the Sharp End on the Clyde!) embedded in a valley surrounded by cypress trees - quite wonderful, if a bit weird!.

I don't know what to think of the book so far (33 Pages in) - does she admire D'Annunzio - or loathe the man.......

To see the Great Man himself - see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hH9Ph...
Matthew
The subject of this biography is not a sympathetic one. D'Annunzio was a philanderer, Lothario and fascist fellow traveller of early 20th century Italy. It would have been easy not to care very much about this basically unpleasant individual, but the author brings him to life and makes him human for us. She also uses his story to bring to life a turbulent phase in European and Italian history in an interesting and insightful way. This is a long book, and I took a long time to read it, largely be ...more
Stephen Goldenberg
A fascinating history of a fascinating and little known man. The book is very cleverly and entertainingly structured, not a straight chronological telling of his life. It gives a chilling insight into the nature of fascism and how it was able to take such a grip in countries like Italy - particularly when describing its mythology and sense of style and oratory. This is also a very instructive account of Italian history which helps with an understanding of how Italy is where it is today (e.g. how ...more
Margaret Sankey
Hughes-Hallett's atmospheric and impressionistic biography, which attempts to recreate the world in which an irresponsible, proto-fascist troll could be a national celebrity capable of seducing Eleonore Duse (among so many others) and leading a post-WWI army to seize Fiume.
Paola
Ironic, well written and informative if a times a bit long. I though I knew something about D'Annunzio, but I realized I didn't. Certainly I didn't know so much about the history of my own country...
Pam
I've abandoned this about 60% of the way through...not the writing but what a task the author set...particularly for a one who is not Italian (secondo me) it is deep wading through D'Annunzio's personality. I am very intersted in so many things Italian and his name often comes up in the context of contemporary Italian literature (of course!!) - so I was curious and happy to have this new biography; and I knew NOTHING about him. Now I do...know more... and although I will keep the book in my libr ...more
John
Late 19th century romanticism blossoms into blood-thirsty 20th century fascism in this creatively constructed biography of one homerically self-absorbed, eye-wateringly repellent poet and war hero.
Sophie
Brilliant. One of the most interesting biographies I've read for ages. You don't need to like d'Annunzio to be interested in his story or to appreciate the skill of the author.
Adam Higgitt
A beautifully written book about a subject I just didn't find interesting enough.
Dean
It became rather tedious after a while reading of D' Annunzio's womanizing and bravado. His aesthetic sense was much more admirable, but I would rather read of the life of, say, Oscar Wilde. (This from a veteran and worshiper of the female form.) D' Annunzio's companionship would have been a bit too boring for my romantic blood. However, I have not read the novels of D' Annunzio.
Jane Massy
Excellent, eye opening story of an amazing appalling man whose influence on fascism was huge. A tremendous biography.
Angela Brooks
Slow going, I was determined to finish but it's taken me nearly a year during which I've read many more books no bother. Can't fully recommend, I felt it promised more than it delivered. Perhaps I'll take it up again in the future and have another go.
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