It is appropriate to begin with a psychological portrait of the man before proceeding to an analysis of the writer’s principal themes and works. For one who made such a cult of privacy, Tommaso Landolfi proved remarkably confessional, revealing much of a complicated inner life, the details of which are far richer than the external events of his career. In this respect, the critic’s task was made much easier with the publication in the 1950’s and the 1960’s of such autobiographical works as La Bière du pecheur (1953; the sinner’s bier/coffin), Rien va (1963; no more), and Des mois (1968; months). These works are not strictly diaries; they are more like private jottings in which the writer reminisces but also attempts to define personal responses to crises in his own life and to clarify his position vis-à-vis all human experience. These volumes have their nineteenth century antecedents in Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone (1898-1900; notebooks) and Charles Baudelaire’s Mon cur mis à nu (1887; My Heart Laid Bare, 1950).
The following psychological patterns are quite visible in Landolfi’s personality and in the fiction that they have nourished. The loss of his mother before his second birthday left scars on the psyche of the child and adolescent that were to stay with him the rest of his life, bestowing on him a profound sense of privation and an equally strong sense of guilt. To the...
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