Guillaume Albert Wladimir Alexandre Apollinaire de Kostrowitzky was born in Rome on August 26, 1880. Mystery surrounded his birth until the publication of Marcel Adema’s definitive biography in 1954. Apollinaire’s birth was first reported officially in Rome on August 31, 1880, as a male child of a mother who wished to remain anonymous and whose father was unknown. His name was given as Guillaume-Albert Dulcigni. On September 29, he was baptized as Guillelmus Apollinaris Albertus de Kostrowitzky, son of Angelica de Kostrowitzky, but the father was still not mentioned. In November, Angelica officially recognized her son, although the identity of the father was not publicly revealed until Adema established that Francesco Flugi d’Aspermont, member of a very patrician, influential Italian family, was indeed the father of Guillaume Apollinaire.
Flugi d’Aspermont was, at age forty, twenty-three years older than the unconventional Polish teenager, Angelica de Kostrowitzky. Shortly after they met, she became his mistress, eventually giving birth to two sons—Guillaume and Albert. Apollinaire knew who his father was, but he nevertheless took great delight in relating fictional, romantic stories about his parentage. To some, he declared that he was descended from Polish and Russian royalty, while to others, he represented himself as the son of a high clergyman of the Catholic Church. There was perhaps a grain of truth here: His father’s family had served King Ferdinand II of Sicily and his uncle was a member of the Vatican hierarchy. Apollinaire, in creating these legends about himself, felt there was something enriching about a poet’s life being as mysterious as his works often were.
After Flugi d’Aspermont abandoned Kostrowitzky and their sons, she went to Monaco and thereafter spent most of her life in France. Apollinaire, who started school in Monaco in 1887, was an excellent student, winning prizes in most subjects. He spent two years in colleges in Cannes and Nice (1897-1898), but apparently a lack of funds kept him from attending a university. He was already seriously thinking of becoming a writer, however, and prepared himself by reading widely and taking an interest in politics. With a friend, he started a newspaper in which he published his own poetry under the pseudonym of Guillaume Macabre. This early effort led to his lifelong interest and involvement in journalism.
In 1899, Apollinaire went to Paris with his brother, his mother, and her young lover, Jules Weil. Soon, financial difficulties drove Weil and the two boys to Stavelot, a small town in Belgium, while Kostrowitzky went to Spa to try her luck in the casino there. At Stavelot, Apollinaire wrote most of L’Enchanteur...
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