Play / to Stage
Gabriele d’Annunzio has achieved the rare feat of becoming a contemporary myth.
First of all, he has a very nice name. Not everyone is called Gabriele d’Annunzio – as soon as he says it, he starts to sing, that name – and in Italian, please.
Then he is a great writer.
But there are many who are.
Usually the great writer has a big desk and a comfortable chair. His slippers are worn out – because he puts them on so often. He is not really a man of action, the great writer.
But d’Annunzio did not like to be “a great writer” only. He also wanted – above all – to be a man of action. So he was a man of action.
Add to this an amazing peculiarity: this man was more spendthrift than an army of…. complete. He spent his life being saddled with debts . So far, nothing but common. However, what is very strange is that he managed, almost all his life, to make the various governments to which he was attached pay his debts. Even France paid for him – and yet France is the country of the grippe-sous par excellence.
Finally, he could not die normally. It was a woman who killed him. She probably tried twice. He didn’t say anything the first time – yet he was pushed out the window. The second time he didn’t say anything either, because he was dead. She was a German spy, a Nazi. D’Annunzio did worse than hate Hitler – he despised him. In terms that would make the posh people of our time blush. So I won’t say them, these words of d’Annunzio.
In itself, the character that he created and that he was, deserves to be staged.
And where he is particularly crazy, or brilliant, but still amazing, is that he was not content to be a hero of the first world war, a hero of this new weapon that is aviation.
No – he got a taste of politics, and he wants more.
He seized the city of Fiume / Riejka in Croatian and offered the city to Rome in 1919. Rome refused.
So he takes control of the city, together with his friend, comrade and hotheaded revolutionary trade unionist: Alceste de Ambris. He throws himself into the anti-imperialist crusade. He calls to him all the peoples oppressed by the Anglo-Saxons – he struggles – he makes two speeches a day to the crowd assembled under the city hall.
He wrote the Constitution of the Free State of Fiume: “recognition and sovereignty of all citizens, without distinction of sex, race, language, class or religion; absolute equality of sexes before the law, eligibility of women to all private or public functions, proportional representation, allowances in case of sickness, unemployment or work accident, retirement to all elderly people, guaranteed minimum wage, creation of work judges”.
It was a beautiful idea – but d’Annunzio does not want to stop and he declares war on Italy. It was the end of the game.
It lasted 500 days.
Here are a few lines from what he wrote, the genial madman that Gabriele was:
THE WAX FIGURE
I am drunk and I am lucid. I have drunk three cups. – I see her with such intensity that I change my lips into mine; – and she is thus mine, as by transubstantiation.
IN THE IVRESSE
The dispatch was there: blue, a piece of blue paper: something more precious […] than a blue Persian earthenware. […] – at last a word from the Far One.
Glory to the Latin who said, “To sail is necessary; but it is not necessary to live.”
So yes – I know – in the rather dark and simplistic times we live in, d’Annunzio, even if he was killed by the Nazi regime in 1938 – is suspect. He is sulphurous, is the term of the accusation.
He would have “started” fascism with his experience in Fiume – no comment from me, except that all wounds have roots – the constitution of Fiume is repeated almost word for word in contemporary France.
He knew Mussolini – during the first world war he served under the father of Mussolini’s son-in-law. This is a link.
He tried to turn Mussolini away from Hitler – at the time it looked easy, Mussolini was spewing torrents of insults about the Nazis. He advised him to ally himself with France and Britain.
History has been different. D’Annunzio was assassinated, Italy allied itself with Germany and …
A man like him, with all the talent carried by his words, with all the madness of his utopias, with all the resentments created by the consequences of the First World War, a man like him, who has become a mythical figure of adventure when it is contemporary, must be brought back to the light.
Of course everyone will vibrate in unison in Fiume, for Fiume, for this incredible idea of really creating a better world, starting from the small – of a town.
Barcelona will experience this a few years later – it was still a time when people believed utopias were possible.
We have seen dystopias – dreaming a little about a better world and wondering why the old ones failed is not useless.
And with D’Annunzio, utopia is conjugated in epic mode, in a flamboyant style.