Corrado Alvaro Introduction

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(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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Corrado Alvaro 1896-1956

Italian novelist, short-story writer, journalist, essayist, playwright, and poet.

A prolific author of both fiction and journalism for nearly forty years, Corrado Alvaro distinguished himself as one of the foremost practitioners of verismo, an Italian movement of literary realism that paralleled French Naturalism. His first success came with Gente in Aspromonte (Revolt in Aspromonte), considered by most critics to be his masterpiece. Alvaro identified himself and was viewed by others as a writer who incorporated the differences and tensions between urbanized, wealthy northern Italy and rural, poverty-stricken, southern Italy into his work. A concern with moral questions, a sensitivity to the harsh life of the southern Italian underclass, and a belief in violence as a legitimate means for producing social change are hallmarks of his work.

Biographical Information

Born in San Luca, a small village in the southernmost region of the Italian province of Calabria, Alvaro was educated at Jesuit boarding schools in Rome and Umbria. While attending the University of Milan, from which he graduated with a degree in literature in 1919, Alvaro began work as a journalist and literary critic for two daily newspapers, Il resto di carlino of Bologna and II corriere delta sera of Milan. During World War I he served as an officer in the Italian army and wrote for the anti-Fascist paper II mondo. Alvaro's politics made made him the target of surveillance and finally forced him to leave Italy. During the 1930s he traveled widely in western Europe, the Middle East, and Russia, journeys he later recounted in his travel essays. After World War II Alvaro returned to Italy, where he continued to work for prominent daily newspapers in various capacities, including special correspondent, theater and film critic, and editor. He was elected secretary of the Italian Association of Writers in 1947, a post he held until his death in 1956.

Major Works

Alvaro's initial literary efforts did not enjoy great popularity, though critics have praised his first novel L 'uomo net labirinto for its depiction of alienation as an aspect of individuals and society as a whole. Alvaro's subsequent works, L'amata allafinestra, Gente in Aspromonte, La signora dell'isola, and Vent'anni established him as an important figure in Italian literature and. earned him a prize of 50,000 lire given by the periodical La Stampa at the recommendation of a jury that included noted Italian novelist and dramatist Luigi Pirandello. Gradually, Alvaro moved from works that treated individual lives to those that depicted the social and political plight of Italy's lower classes. In his later works, he broadened his focus to describe the effects of World War I on all levels of Italian society. Alvaro is noted for his skill in depicting the contrasts between a yearning for the simple, pastoral way of life, and the desire to achieve material success that lures people to urban areas. He is especially praised for his realistic, epic depictions of the Italian poor. The novels L 'eta breve and L 'uomo e forte as well as the diary Quasi una vita are often considered by commentators to be among his best works.

Critical Reception

Alvaro's novels and essays have been well-received by both critics and the public. In addition to prizes for individual works, he earned the Italian Academy Prize for the entire body of his writings. While some critics have noted that Alvaro's characters are sometimes vague or little more than collections of attitudes, particularly in later works, most have praised his ability to depict the conflicts between the rural and urban regions of Italy. Sergio Pacifici has noted: "The society depiced by Alvaro in Revolt in Aspromonte is a closed one, permits no failures, respects only success. The equation is unacceptable to our writer: he looks for understanding and compassion, even though he knows how rarely society exhibits them."