Elio Vittorini (vee-toh-REE-nee) is remembered chiefly as one of Sicily’s great twentieth century authors, although only two of his major works deal with that island: In Sicily and La Garibaldina. Vittorini was born on July 23, 1908, in Syracuse, Sicily, the son of a railway stationmaster. He had little formal education, which contributed to his problems as a writer. In the 1930’s he worked as a newspaper editor and translator—he had taught himself English and translated a number of American authors, including Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. When the Spanish Civil War began in 1936 and Germany and Italy began supporting the Franco forces, Vittorini rejected Italian Fascism and began working against it. His book In Sicily, serialized in 1937, is an anti-Fascist novel. Its anti-Fascism is couched in such ambiguous terms and situations, however, that at first the Fascist censors permitted it to be published. Later, after numerous complaints from government officials, the book was banned.
Vittorini joined the Communist Party of Italy, then underground, and worked with the Resistance. His novel Men and Not Men is the story of the Milan underground’s fight in the winter of 1944, when Italy was occupied by German forces. Its style clearly borrows from the plain and repetitive style of Hemingway and other American authors. Despite its stylistic failings, it signifies Vittorini’s search for a poetic fiction. After...
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