Carlo Emilio Gadda Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

In addition to the novels listed above, Carlo Emilio Gadda (GAHD-dah) published several collections of short stories: La Madonna dei filosofi (1931; Our Lady of the philosophers); Il castello di Udine (1934; the castle of Udine), awarded the Premio Bagutta; L’Adalgisa: Disegni milanesi (1944; tales from Milan); and Novelle dal ducato in fiamme (1953; stories from the duchy in flames), awarded the Premio Viareggio. Gadda’s most important nonfiction writings are I viaggi la morte (1958; travels and death), a collection of literary essays, and the antifascist pamphlet Eros e Priapo (1967; Eros and Priapus). His war and prison diary, Giornale di guerra e di prigionia, first appeared in 1955 and in its definitive form in 1965.

Gadda also published many topical articles, essays on public works, architectural engineering, a description of a surgical oration, and even a recipe for cooking risotto, all collected in Le meraviglie d’Italia (1939, 1964; the marvels of Italy); a book of fables and aphorisms, Il primo libro delle favole (1952; the first book of fables); two comic texts for radio broadcast; a small volume of historical caricatures, dedicated to the memories of Louis XIII, XIV, and XV of France (I Luigi di Francia, 1964); and a satiric dialogue titled Il guerriero, l’amazzone, lo spirito della poesia nel verso immortale del Foscolo (1967; the warrior, the amazon, and the spirit of poetry in the immortal verses of Ugo Foscolo).

Posthumous publications include Gadda’s early philosophical notebooks, Meditazione milanese (1974; Milanese meditations) and Le bizze del capitano in congedo, e altri racconti (1981; the extravagances of a captain on leave, and other stories), and the fragments of an early novel titled Racconto italiano di ignoto del novecento (1983; an anonymous twentieth century Italian story). Gadda is also the author of numerous uncollected technical articles that appeared during the 1930’s in the dailies Ambrosiano and La gazzetta del popolo.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The recognition of Carlo Emilio Gadda as one of Italy’s most important contemporary prose writers came late, when his novel Acquainted with Grief, originally published in serial form in Letteratura, a small Florentine literary review, was awarded the prestigious Formentor International Literary Prize in 1963. Before then, Gadda was known and admired by a relatively select group of literary critics who praised his work largely for its linguistic eccentricity. The notoriety given to Acquainted with Grief called public attention to his earlier writings, especially to That Awful Mess on Via Merulana, also previously serialized in Letteratura. More important, it caused critics to heed the general significance of his work in relation to the most distinguished manifestations of the European avant-garde.

After decades of serious critical study, Gadda occupies a unique position in the history of Italian literature. At a time when the modernnarrative in Italy had found with Italo Svevo, Federigo Tozzi, and Alberto Moravia, authors capable of strengthening a comparatively weak national tradition in the novel, Gadda wrote to contest the very idea of narrative, the traditional notions of author and text, and the very institution of literature itself. His revolution strikes so deeply into the core of conventional literary assumptions and practices that only now, in the light of recent developments in criticism, is it possible to take full measure of its importance.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s, the epithets “eccentric,” “baroque,” and “antiliterary” were used to displace Gadda’s work outside what was deemed fixed, legitimate, or proper, linking him to the heritage of the macaronic or pasticheur, in part, to such renowned outsiders as Teofilo Folengo, François Rabelais, James Joyce, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline, and, more directly, to the indigenous tradition of the Lombard and Piedmontese Scapigliatura (Giovanni Faldella, Achille Giovanni Cagna, and Carlo Dossi). Placing Gadda within this tradition helps one set into perspective the elements of caricature, parody, and derision for which his works are noted. It provides, moreover, a general framework for assessing the linguistic inventiveness that makes Gadda an eminently difficult writer.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Adams, Robert Martin. “Carlo Emilio Gadda.” In After Joyce: Studies in Fiction After “Ulysses.” New York: Oxford University Press, 1977. Gadda’s place in modern European literature is discussed.

Bertone, Manuela, and Robert S. Dombroski. Carlo Gadda: Contemporary Perspectives. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997. A collection of essays in which Gadda’s plurilingualism, pastiches, and narrative entanglements are revealed both as a revolt against conventional literary style and as the expression of a chaotic, painful world. Gadda emerges as a transgressive novelist, a humorist, and a mannerist who continuously deforms language through parodic and comic modes.

Dombroski, Robert S. Creative Entanglements: Gadda and the Baroque. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999. Gadda’s language has often been described as “baroque”; this study explores that description in depth.

Ragusa, Olga. Narrative and Drama: Essays in Modern Italian Literature from Verga to Pasolini. The Hague, the Netherlands: Mouton, 1976. Gadda’s importance to modern Italian literature receives its due coverage.

Sbragia, Albert. Carlo Emilio Gadda and the Modern Macaronic. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1996. This study elucidates Gadda’s mixture of Milanese vernacular with erudite vocabulary and diction.