Study Guide

Elio Vittorini

Elio Vittorini Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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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Elio Vittorini Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Elio Vittorini was born in Syracuse, Sicily, on July 23, 1908. His father was a stationmaster who moved with his family from one small Sicilian locality to another, wherever the Italian railroad administration assigned him. Vittorini took a train to go to the nearest school, and also to run away from home, which he did for the first time at the age of thirteen. His formal schooling never went beyond the business courses he took by his father’s decision. By the time he was eighteen, he was reading furiously, mostly novelists and philosophers. Wanting desperately to leave the provincial environment, where he felt he was suffocating, he sent his first writings to literary journals published in major Italian cities, had them published, and moved to northern Italy. His jobs on the Continent included bookkeeping, manual labor, and proofreading for a newspaper. By 1930, he was in Florence learning English and was ready to publish his first collection of short stories. Within three years, he was also publishing translations of British and American authors.

By the middle 1930’s, even the young Italians who, like Vittorini, had thought that fascism could bring renewal and socialistic reforms to Italian society, were forced to acknowledge their misjudgment. Vittorini had already denounced Fascist nationalism and had associated with intellectuals and publications that favored a culture with a European dimension. As he became more interested in political activism and more vocal about the direction that, in his view, the Fascist Party should have taken, the party became hostile to him and expelled him. Those were the years of the Spanish Civil War, when artists and writers such as Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway created works that marked a turning point in Western culture. In Sicily, Vittorini’s first major work, was born out of his political and personal crisis.

It is clear even...

(The entire section is 780 words.)