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

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4.01  ·  Rating details ·  363 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
WINNER OF THE 2013 SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION

Now also shortlisted for the Costa Biography award 2013, this is the story of Gabriele D’Annunzio, poet, daredevil – and Fascist.

In September 1919 Gabriele D’Annunzio, successful poet and occasional politician, declared himself Commandante of the city of Fiume in modern day Croatia. His intention – to establish a utopi
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Paperback, 694 pages
Published August 29th 2013 by Fourth Estate (first published January 2013)
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Petra X
Not the easiest read. It's the very convoluted story of a small man with a Napoleonic complex and the money, talent and intellect to try to put his grandiose ideas into practice. His ideas included a town run as a fascist republic, with himself at the helm, naturally. He was as devoted to poetry, and to aesthetics and the style of the rich and famous as he was to flying planes and his extreme nationalism. D'Annunzio's very dangerous politics, if not his poetry, inspired Mussolini who easily iden ...more
Hadrian
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Generale Gabriele D'Annunzio, Prince of Montenevoso, Duke of Gallese was one of the most bizarre figures to lead an artistic or political movement. A contemporary writer compared him to the pike fish. It is tough, bony, a difficult catch, and it snatches up its prey with the clamping of its jaws. This was how D'Annunzio took up ideas, images, movements.

He was a poet, first, and that is part of what made him famous. He was obsessed with Byron, Ossian, and Dante. He wrote poems in the style of th
...more
Zanna
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: inter-war
D’Annunzio was not a fascist, but fascism was D’Annunzian

Lucy Hughes-Hallett explains why she felt Gabriele D’Annunzio’s was a story worth telling. She repudiates the description of him as ‘psychotic’ and remarks that his pugilistic politicking is all too often reproduced in the contemporary era.

Nonetheless, the accounts of Italy’s political landscape before and after WWI had my eyebrows permanently reaching for the sky. It seems I will never cease to be astonished by the horrors my fellow human
...more
Dean
May 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
...more
Jesse Toldness
Mar 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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...
Malcolm Gibson
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Horza
Apr 17, 2015 added it
inspired wastrel creates fascism in one city, others take note.

This is an in-depth biography of a very interesting person. As with D'Annunzio's own works and life, at times more is definitely more, but at points Hughes-Hallett's vivid and detailed reconstructions of all the extravagant methods by which D'Annunzio burnt his way through lovers and money start to blur. There's so much, and so many Gabriele D'Annunzios to grapple with and despite the author's unstinting efforts by the end I was stil
...more
Eric
Feb 13, 2013 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
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
Laura
Jan 22, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Frumenty
Apr 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Richard Moss
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
This is the remarkable award-winning story of poet, author, playwright and political maverick Gabriele D'Annunzio.

A literary celebrity initially, his career takes a bizarre turn, when first of all he leads the drive to get Italy into the First World War, and then becomes the self-declared ruler of a proto-Fascist city state in what's now Croatia.

D'Annunzio is a gift for a biographer. An extravagant womaniser with a yen for drugs, danger and demagoguery, he packs about seven lives into one.

Hughes
...more
Pamela
Apr 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
A sophisticated and thorough look at the life of Gabriele d'Annunzio, that explores his life, his writing and his influence on the political figures who followed him. Avoiding the simplistic labelling of d'Annunzio as a proto Fascist, Lucy Hughes-Hallett looks at his aesthetic and nationalist philosophies in detail, skilfully and painstakingly unpicking all the elements that made up a very complex character.

The book avoids the standard chronological plod through from birth to death, setting the
...more
David Sinck
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Rob Adey
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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).
Evan
Jun 22, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mathias.adriaenssens
To long, to detailed, but damn intersting and fluently written. Must read if you want to understand facism, 19th century Romanticism or Italy.
Sebastian Reyn
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hughes-Hallett, Lucy, The Pike. Gabrielle d’Annunzio: Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War (London: Fourth Estate, 2013). Knap geconstrueerde, meeslepende biografie van de gevierde en beruchte Italiaanse dichter en schrijver Gabrielle d’Annunzio, geboren in 1863 in een bourgeois milieu in Pescara, een retorisch gewiekste volksmenner die met zijn nadruk op nationalistische symboliek de weg bereidde voor het fascisme van Benito Mussolini en een ‘oorlogsheld’ die in de strijd vanuit de lucht tegen de ...more
Bertrand
When you are planning to write a paper on some subject, you develop a kind of unconscious snobbishness, which had lead me to consider with undue suspicion the realm of "popular biographies": Hughes-Hallet's is definitively a popular biography, and it performed the salutary job of reminding me of how great can those be. What is a popular biography, you might ask? Well let's look at the present book:
First of all, no foot-notes - despite the book being composed of and built around innumerable quot
...more
melanie soden
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an amazing story and all the more incredible because it was real. On one hand his lifestyle, poetry and womanising were amazing, but on the other it showed how mankind easily falls for a charmismatic person without questioning or really understanding their motivations. Italy fell into following him, and then facisim with a level of heartwrenching bloodshed, firstly in a war and then against each other. It left me with an insight into mankind that made me aware but sad.
Robert
Jul 20, 2017 rated it liked it
A book of two halves for me. The first, describing his career as a poet, novelist and playwright I found quite slow and boring, (and came close to quitting at one point). The second half detailing his actions in the Great War, his subsequent seizure of Rijeka and the years up to his death were far more interesting. I admit I came into this wanting a history of the Fiume free state and didn't really know anything about D'Annunzio prior to reading.
Colin Davey
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A engrossing biography of the very definition of "a man of his time". I disliked almost everything about D'Annunzio and found it hard to have any sympathy with his thnking or his work. The book is wondeful and a real education.
Morgan
Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting and engaging, if long-winded, book. It would have benefited much from closer discussion of d'Annunzio's philosophical and intellectual contexts and engagements, and less attention to his sex life.
Charlotte
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although some of the reviewers note the lengthiness of the book, I found that it flowed nicely. I aprpeciated the effort in the author's meticulous research of letters and supporting documents. It was an enjoyable traipse into a time and place of which I knew little.
Dario
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazingly written. The formula of narrating a series of distinct episodes make this hefty tome a breeze to get through.
Highly recommended if you like 20th century history, art and culture.
Alex Watson
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
At one level, this is the bonkers biography of an early 20th century Italian poet, writer, lover, fighter plane pilot and nationalist. On another, it is the story of someone who laid the groundwork for the aesthetics of Fascism and actually lead a dictatorial commune that occupied the city of Fiume. It’s also a brilliant evocation of the way history is not just a set of events - it is a symphony of currents and tides and a great many ideas are always working, forming and reforming before the sur ...more
Wolf
Jul 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting biography of a fairly odious sounding man.

I visited D'Annunzio's house, Il Vittoriale, earlier this year. Something of the man's unusual character and extraordinary self regard was apparent from the house itself. This book fills in some of the blanks. It also, however, provides necessary lessons from history that all of us should pay heed to. The focus is largely here on the impluses that drove d'Annunzio, the cultured aesthete, to help to persuade a nation to war and created the
...more
Caracalla
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really superb biography that triumphs with its innovative structuring and organisation. The book starts with a series of vignettes from different times of D'Annunzio's life and a longer chapter on a specific time in his life, his first forays into aerial warfare during the First World War, the chapters that follow are thematic in general and don't follow a strict chronological pattern although a few chapters present a period in D'Annunzio's life as a series of chronologically ordered anecdotes ...more
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