Overview

The Futurist movement was founded and promoted by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, beginning in 1909 with the First Futurist Manifesto, in which he inveighed against the complacency of "cultural necrophiliacs" and sought to annihilate the values of the past, writing that "there is no longer any beauty except the struggle. Any work of art that lacks a sense of aggression can never be a masterpiece." In the years that followed, up until his death in 1944, Marinetti, through both his polemical writings and his political ...
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Critical Writings: New Edition

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Overview

The Futurist movement was founded and promoted by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, beginning in 1909 with the First Futurist Manifesto, in which he inveighed against the complacency of "cultural necrophiliacs" and sought to annihilate the values of the past, writing that "there is no longer any beauty except the struggle. Any work of art that lacks a sense of aggression can never be a masterpiece." In the years that followed, up until his death in 1944, Marinetti, through both his polemical writings and his political activities, sought to transform society in all its aspects. As Günter Berghaus writes in his introduction, "Futurism sought to bridge the gap between art and life and to bring aesthetic innovation into the real world. Life was to be changed through art, and art was to become a form of life."This volume includes more than seventy of Marinetti's most important writings—many of them translated into English for the first time—offering the reader a representative and still startling selection of texts concerned with Futurist art, literature, politics, and philosophy.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A splendid new edition . . . The quality of editing here sets new standards for Futurist scholarship . . . The English-language reception of Italian Futurism, and Futurist studies in general, will stand on a firmer footing from now on."

—John J. White, Emeritus Professor of German and Comparative Literature, Senior Research Fellow, King's College London

"The critical writings of Marinetti, now made available in English for the first time by Berghaus and Thompson, will be of major value in providing essential primary sources with which to evaluate Futurism's deeper significance as a counterblast to what Walter Benjamin called the Storm of Progress."

—Roger Griffin, Professor of Modern History, Oxford Brookes University, and author of The Nature of Facism

"An accurate, meticulously assembled, three-dimensional portrait of the founder of Italian Futurism. Whereas prior anthologies of Marinetti's writings had limited themselves to the movement's early years, this anthology offers instead a panoramic view, extending from the pre-Futurist period into the second decade of facist rule. A major contribution to studes of Futurism and the avant-gardes." —Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Professor, Stanford University

"At last! For the first time, we have here a scholarly, comprehensive, well-translated, well-annotated, eminently readable English edition of F. T. Marinetti's ground-breaking Futurist manifestos and critical writings. For teachers and students of the avant-garde, of early twentieth-century art movements, of the role of the new media like radio and cinema, and of the vexed relationship between Futurist aesthetic and Fascist politics, Günter Berghaus's edition will be indispensable."

—Marjorie Perloff, author of The Futurist Moment, Professor Emerita Stanford University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374706944
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/7/2007
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 584
  • Sales rank: 1,187,929
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author



F. T. Marinetti was born in Egypt in 1876 and died in Italy in 1944. Günter Berghaus is now a senior research fellow at the University of Bristol in England and the author of more than a dozen scholarly books.
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Read an Excerpt


1

Self-Portrait

I had a strange, colorful, uproarious sort of life. I started off with rose and black, a blossoming, healthy little tot in the arms and between the carbon-coke breasts, of my Sudanese nurse. Which maybe explains my somewhat blackish concept of love and my open antipathy toward milk-and-honey politics and diplomacy.

My father’s Piedmontese tenacity was passed on to me in the blood. It is to him that I owe the great strength of his willful, domineering, sanguine temperament, but fortunately, I have not inherited his dense tangle of spiritual arguments, nor his fantastic memory which made him, in his time, the greatest civil law lawyer in Alexandria.1

On certain evenings, down there in the witchery of Africa,

They would take us onto your dark, deserted beaches,

A doleful flock of boarders

Who crept along, placid and slow, watched over

By our priests, strict and black . . . Little blots

Of ink we were against the immaterial

Silks of a divine, oriental sky.

My mother,2 who was entirely composed of the most delicate, musical poetry of affectionate tears and tenderness, was Milanese. Though born in Alexandria, I feel myself bound to Milan’s forest of chimneys and its ancient Cathedral.

O Cathedral of Milan! I have terrified you

Brushing with my seagull’s wings

Against the monstrous, steep slopes

Of your age-old cliffs. . .

You say I am a Milanese in too great a hurry.

When I was six, I was often severely scolded when I was caught red-handed, spraying passersby from our balcony.

They weren’t exactly passing by; rather were these solemn Arab merchants standing around, extending their lengthy, ceremonious greetings, with their backs arching their salaams, beneath their many-colored turbans, avidly bargaining for Parisian bed linen and chests of fruit with Jewish brokers and camel drivers.

On one side, my father’s house in Alexandria looked out onto a busy street, and on the other onto a huge walled garden that was filled with palm trees, fans gently waving against the foamy blue laughter of the African sea.

I lived out my days on a tiny wooden balcony in a dreamy sort of closeness with some fat turtledoves which, perched up among the date palms, just a couple of meters from me, cooed away melodiously, perhaps preparing my ears for their future sensitivity to sounds.

When the noise of the merchants talking disturbed my friends, the doves, I would turn on the tap of my childish liquid scorn, down among them.

For a long time, at the French Jesuit College of St. Francis Xavier,3 all I ever learned was how to play soccer, and to fight with any of my classmates who said anything against Italy. Many times my terrified mother would find me covered in blood as a result of these furious games.

I was just fourteen when Father Bufferne, my Humanities teacher, solemnly announced one day in class that a description of mine, of the dawn, was far superior to any of those written by Chateaubriand, and predicted my glory as a very great poet.

I evinced a mad passion for Mary, a sweet fourteen-year-old girl who was a pupil at a nuns’ school next to my college. From the Levant, with her large liquorice eyes, her camelia cheeks, her fleshy, sensual lips, slinky, tender, all woman already, sly and full of malice. To kiss her, I climbed onto the shoulders of my Arab servant every day, and after having cut myself on the sharp glass shards on a wall top, I would wait among the branches of a fig tree, until she could slip away without the nuns noticing. But sometimes, up in the fig tree, there would be chameleons with me, drinking in the heat of the afternoon. Trying to get a better look at one of them one day, I lost my balance and fell, dislocating my shoulder.

My love for Mary was all mixed up with a terrible crisis I was in over mysticism.4 From being fourteen to when I was sixteen, I was

. . . the adolescent

who submitted the stirrings of his feeble body

to the voluptuous embrace of the Evening,

to the scent of incense and sweetened hosts,

when the Month of Mary

came to visit us in the parlor,

like a perfumed lady,

more beautiful than the sisters of my friends!

But the religious constraints of my teachers, the Jesuits, rather than supporting my mystical urges, cut them down. I was expelled from the college for having brought in some of Zola’s novels.5 I got myself into debt for the first time in my life in order to set up my first journal, Le Papyrus, which was brimful of Romantic poetry and anticlerical invectives against the Jesuits.6 However, I found myself in the impossible situation of not being able to continue my classical studies in Alexandria, much to the fury of my father, who felt compelled to pack me off to Paris.7

Alone in Paris. At eighteen years of age. Evenings in the Latin Quarter, with all the ladies of easy virtue at my disposal. And all the usual student upsets. A disastrous examination in mathematics, but a triumphant one in philosophy, on the theories of Stuart Mill.8I arrived in Milan a bachelier ès lettres, with a French culture, though incontrovert-ibly Italian—and that despite all the temptations of Paris.

While I was reading for my degree in law at the University of Genoa,9 one of my poems written in Free Verse, "Les Vieux Marins," which had been published in the Anthologie-Revue,10 was awarded a prize by Catulle Mendès and Gustave Kahn, the directors of Sarah Bernhardt’s Samedis populaires, and was then gloriously recited by the great actress herself, in her own theater.

With the little money allowed me by my father, sworn enemy of all my literature, I dashed off to Paris. My entry into the literary circles there represented the acclaimed rise of a new, young, great poet: the doors of the publishing houses were open to me, editors and journals were entirely deferential.

My literary campaign throughout Italy then began to unfold, promoting both French Symbolism and Decadentism, with endless lectures in which I introduced Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Laforgue, Gustave Kahn, Claudel, Paul Fort, Verhaeren, and Jammes to Italy11 The establishment and development of the international revue Poesia12 then followed, a teeming hothouse in which our best young poets germinated and burst into flower: Cavacchioli, Paolo Buzzi, Govoni, Palazzeschi, Gian Pietro Lucini, and Luciano Folgore.13 Thus it was that in 1905 Futurism was born.14

I was the much-acclaimed author of La Conquête des étoiles (Conquest of the Stars),15 a poem far from the realistic; nevertheless I followed all the disturbances and ideological developments of the Italian socialist movement very closely, and these crystallized into my tragedy Le Roi Bombance (King Guzzle).16 This fat-bellied king of mine stormed onto the Parisian stage, already bearing the scandal of Futurism in his symbols and grotesque actions.17 For a whole month, Paris was violently shaken by the revolutionary truculence of this work and by the arguments raging back and forth about the Futurist Manifesto, which appeared in Le Figaro, as well as about my sword gash, dealt me in a duel with the novelist Charles-Henri Hirsch.18 The Parisian papers dubbed me "The Caffeine of Europe"!19

The text translated here is taken from the chapter "Alessandria d’Egitto," in

Marinetti e il futurismo (1929). It is based on "Autoritratto" inScatole

d’amore in conserva (1927), which itself is taken from the autobiographical

sketch "Il delizio pericolo," inCome si seducono le donne (1920) and

Racconte-Novelle: Periodico quindicinnale (December 15, 1920). It was reprinted

with some evocative illustrations by Prampolini inNovella: Rivista

mensile di novelle italiane e straniere e di varietà in January 1925 and

excerpted inL’impero, February 3-4, 1925, under the title "Caffeina

dell’Europa." Two more evocations of Marinetti’s early life can be found

in the poetic autobiographiesLa grande Milano tradizionale e futurista

andUna sensibilità italiana nata in Egitto, both written between

1943 and 1944.

THE FOUNDATION OF FUTURISM

(1909)

In 1908 Marinetti devised a political and cultural program that could serve as the basis for a new artistic school, which he intended to call Elettricismo or Dinamismo. In October 1908 he drafted a manifesto in which he explained his principal aims and objectives. The final version was read to his friend Paolo Buzzi on December 20 and was ready for publication on December 24, 1908. It was sent out to a large number of luminaries in the literary and art world, who were invited to comment or even join the movement. But then an unforeseen event took place: 200,000 people were killed in an earthquake in Sicily. Marinetti realized that this was hardly an opportune moment for startling the world with a literary manifesto, so he delayed publication until he could be sure he would get front-page coverage for his incendiary appeal to lay waste to cultural traditions and institutions. Several Italian newspapers published the manifesto in early February 1909 or reported on its content. Toward the middle of February, Marinetti traveled to Paris, where in the Grand Hôtel he composed the introductory paragraphs and submitted the full text to the editors of the prestigious newspaper Le Figaro.

Reaction to the controversial manifesto was lively, ranging from enthusiasm to qualified acceptance to total derision. The journal Poesia—now carrying the subtitle "Mouthpiece of Futurism"—contained in the April-June 1909 issue an extensive collection of responses from individuals and newspapers. Needless to say, most of those selected were positive, thus skewing the picture, which otherwise would have included a large number of critical and skeptical voices. Marinetti’s plan to publish a two-volume anthology of responses to the foundation manifesto never came to fruition. But he had the manifesto printed in a variety of formats and a large number of copies. His apartment on the via Senato, where he and his friends had discussed the foundation of a new literary school, became the headquarters of the movement, soon to include a fine-arts section, a branch for musicians, and one for "women’s activities" (azione femminile). An inheritance from his father made it possible for Marinetti to employ a secretary and two clerks and to have bundles of his manifestos shipped to the farthest corners of the globe.

Marinetti was the first to conduct American-style advertising campaigns for a cultural product. There is no doubt that, by the end of 1909, large sections of Italian society—and not only the cultured elite—had become aware of the Futurist movement. Marinetti gladly accepted the epithets Caffeina d’Europa and Poeta Pink, the latter echoing the name of a popular medicine that was advertised thus: "The Pink Pill is to the weak organism what water is to the withering flower. The Pink Pill gives rich and pure blood and slams the door shut on illness. It immediately restores vitality to the exhausted organs and is the best remedy for anemia, sclerosis, general fatigue, and nervous exhaustion." Some derided him for his "impudent careerism and intolerable exhibitionism" (Vaccari, Vita e tumulti, 185); others adopted his "art of hype" and forged a new relationship between art and society. Among the general populace, Futurism raised a great deal of interest but also consternation and confusion. Consequently, several newspapers sought enlightenment from Marinetti and requested interviews, which the author all too willingly granted. Marinetti seized upon the general interest in his new school to issue a second manifesto, which described his own, and his collaborators’, journey into the future. The metaphorical language still bore close resemblance to his pre-Futurist poetry, but he also established a new creative genre: "the art of generating manifestos" (l’arte di fare manifesti).

Excerpted from Critical Writings by F. T. Marinetti.
Copyright 2006 by Luce Marinetti.
Published in 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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