The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

March 19, 2007

Eugenio Montale

MontaleEugenio Montale was born in Genoa on Columbus Day, 1896. The publication of his first book, Ossi di seppia, in 1925, established him as the leading poet of his generation and an inspiration for intellectuals opposed to Fascism. By 1927, Montale was a regular contributor to numerous periodicals and journals, including La Fiera Letteraria, where he had a column reviewing poetry, and became a central figure in a group of Italian writers who together founded the review Solaria. In 1929, he assumed the post of director of the Gabinetto G. P. Vieusseux, a private library in Florence, but was dismissed from this position in 1938 because he was not a Fascist Party member.

In 1939, Montale began to work as a translator, primarily of English and American fiction. His translations ranged from works by Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Melville to Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner. In that same year, he published Le occasioni, which, alongside La bufera e altro (1956), confirmed his stature as the greatest Italian poet since Leopardi. In 1945, Montale was made a member of the Committee for Culture and Art named by the Committee for National Liberation.  After World War II, Montale moved from Florence, where he had lived since 1927, to Milan. There he became chief literary critic—and later music critic as well—for Italy’s principle newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera.

Satura, published in 1971, marked his return to poetry, after a long hiatus, in a radically new, more informal, epigrammatic style. Three more collections of poems were to follow: Diario del ’71e del ’72 (1973), Quaderno di quattro anni (1977), and Altri versi (1981).

In addition to his distinguished work as a poet, journalist, and translator, Montale also published numerous essays and stories and was a talented amateur painter. Montale held an honorary doctor of letters from the University of Milan and honorary degrees from Cambridge University and the University of Rome. He was made a member for life of the Italian Senate in 1967, and in 1975 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1978, he was elected as a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Montale died in Milan on September 12, 1981.

You can read more about Eugenio Montale here, and read all blog posts about him here.