Poet, Seducer, and Preacher of War (also published as The Pike)
By Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Published in some countries as The Pike
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 brilliant self-publicist in the first age of mass media, he used his fame to sell his work, seduce women, and promote his extreme nationalism. In 1915 d'Annunzio's incendiary oratory helped drive Italy to enter the First World War, in which he achieved heroic status as an aviator.
In 1919 he led a troop of mutineers into the Croatian port of Fiume and there a delinquent city-state. Futurists, anarchists, communists, and proto-fascists descended on the city. So did literati and thrill seekers, drug dealers, and prostitutes. After fifteen months an Italian gunship brought the regime to an end, but the adventure had its sequel: three years later, the fascists marched on Rome, belting out anthems they'd learned in Fiume, as Mussolini consciously modeled himself after the great poet.
At once an aesthete and a militarist, d'Annunzio wrote with equal enthusiasm about Fortuny gowns and torpedoes, and enjoyed making love on beds strewn with rose petals as much as risking death as an aviator. Lucy Hughes-Hallett's stunning biography vividly re-creates his flamboyant life and dramatic times, tracing the early twentieth century's trajectory from Romantic idealism to world war and fascist aggression.
"Starred Review. Dazzling...a shrewd, challenging analysis that links [D'Annunzio's] sadomasochistic psyche to his pitiless ideology. The result is a resonant study of the themes of power, masculinity, violence, and desire that made D'Annunzio such a striking emblem of his age." - Publishers Weekly
"Starred Review. [Hughes-Hallett] crafts an appealing combination of genres, blending elements of biography, fiction, and cultural, social, and military history to create about as complete an image as possible of this most protean personality... readers will delight in touring the deep, tangled wood of a most astonishing life with a most engaging and learned guide." - Kirkus
"Hughes-Hallett paints a richly detailed portrait of an eminently civilized sociopath, incapable of restraining his appetites for sex, excitement, and the most exquisite furnishings and utterly insensible to the emotional and financial damage he caused." - Booklist
"A valuable outline of the tides of Italian public opinion at the turn of the century, as well as a stunning portrait of a man who lived by the credo 'Life's value is that of a spear to be thrown.'" - The New Yorker
"Exhaustively researched and as compulsively readable as today's gossip page, Lucy Hughes-Hallett's Gabriele d'Annunzio brings this horrible man to vivid and repulsive life." - Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"Remarkable...a terrific piece of work - as audacious as it is gripping, as thorough as it is insightful and as stirring as it is shocking." - John Preston, The Daily Mail (UK)
"The fact that almost 700 pages flew by bears testimony to how pleasurable and readable those pages were." - Tobias Jones, Sunday Times (UK)
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