Carlo Emilio Gadda Biography


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...

(The entire section is 487 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Born in 1893 in Milan, Italy, Carlo Emilio Gadda was the oldest of three children. His father, Francesco Ippolito, was a silk weaver by trade who, through his first marriage, became a partner in a prosperous Milanese textile firm. His mother, Adele Lehr, was half Hungarian. She held a doctorate in letters and philosophy, which enabled her to earn a modest living as a schoolteacher and provide for her children after her husband’s death in 1909. What we know of Gadda’s life has been filtered in large part through his fiction. His childhood was marked by the financial decline of his family, attributed to his father’s imprudent investments and business ventures. In Milan, he attended the Liceo Parini and studied engineering at the Istituto Tecnico Superiore. With the outbreak of World War I, he interrupted his studies to enlist as an officer in the Italian alpine regiment, saw action on several fronts, including Caporetto, and was taken prisoner. In 1920, Gadda began working as an industrial engineer, traveling to Sardinia and abroad to Argentina and, later, to France, Belgium, and Germany, where he supervised the construction of plants for the production of ammonia. In 1933, Gadda was hired by the Vatican to design and oversee the installation of its electrical power system.

In spite of his scientific background and training, Gadda was never wholly satisfied with his career as an engineer. Philosophy and literature interested him more. In fact, he no...

(The entire section is 437 words.)