Elio Vittorini’s novels are, above all, dynamic works whose “unfinished” quality reflects the author’s restless search for a type of writing that would tell “the truth” about the world. In an important statement he made about his own activity as a writer, in the preface to the 1948 (Italian) edition of The Red Carnation, he spoke of his desire to write not “books” but “a book,” that book which one writes and rewrites in order to tell “the truth that must be told.” Because that truth changes with a changing world and a changing awareness, the task of pursuing it is never ended.
Looking at Vittorini’s novels, one notices that almost all of them moved through successive versions. In addition to interruptions and stylistic corrections, the texts underwent title changes, cuts, additions, and much crucial rethinking of plots and characters. It is true that outside circumstances such as the war and censorship caused certain projects to stall, though not for Vittorini only; such external events impinged on many lives. For Vittorini, the practical obstacles were compounded by self-imposed dilemmas—the result of his integrity as a writer who wanted to “understand,” to remain close to the suffering world, to be an interpreter and a witness to the world’s becoming.
The same commitment to understanding the world and to changing its social order caused Vittorini to search for a new way of writing. Each novel is an...
(The entire section is 2819 words.)
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