The stature of Carlo Emilio Gadda (GAHD-dah) in Italian literature is great, yet outside Italy he is known primarily for one book, the detective novel That Awful Mess on Via Merulana, which has been translated into a dozen languages. Gadda, who came from a middle-class family, participated in World War I as a member of the elite Alpini corps, or mountain troops. Captured by the Germans in 1917, he was transferred to a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany. From his experiences there came his later book Giornale di guerra e de prigionia, a diary of the war and his imprisonment. After the war he returned to his studies at Milan University and in 1920 received a degree in engineering. In 1926, while working as an engineer, Gadda began writing short pieces for the Florentine literary magazine Solaria; soon he was submitting stories and philosophical essays. In 1931 he published his first book, La madonna dei filosofi (Our Lady of the philosophers), a collection of stories. Three years later it was followed by a second book of stories, Il castello di Udine (the castle of Udine). These two collections were met with favorable critical attention. Gadda also wrote for another magazine in Florence, Letteratura, in which in the late 1930’s he began publishing his novels in installments.
In his early works Gadda frequently used the Milanese dialect. Indeed, he often included footnotes in the texts of his stories to...
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