Last week, the British Institute had the pleasure to receive as a speaker Lucy Hughes-Hallett, author of the highly praised biography of D’Annunzio.
The book’s name is “The Pike: Gabriele d’Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War” and Lucy made sure to present the audience with details about him that encompassed all the above sides of his personality. She managed to present the historical figure in so many different lights and with humorous anecdotes that the audience really got to understand and know D’Annunzio, as complicated as a persona as he was.
Of course, Lucy Hughes-Hallett focused a lot of her attention, especially in the beginning of the presentation, on his importance as a poet. According to her, D’Annunzio was extremely self confident in all areas of life and really believed that he was the greatest Italian poet after Dante, and most definitely the most profound one of his own time. His poetry was impressive, but just as remarkable was his ability to make people notice him and acknowledge him as extraordinary after he had pronounced himself so first.
His influence in the political front was also very strong as he was inclined to look for solutions in the military and thought less of peace than of war. He declared himself Commandante of the city of Fiume in modern day Croatia and instituted it as a place for “trying out new policies” where mostly everything where mostly everything was allowed. He had the respect of the Russian leaders, as well as the Italians. Mussolini himself went to visit Fiume and even though he stayed for only a bit, he borrowed a lot of his later ideas from just there – that was a very interesting point and something that I and probably others in the audience were not aware of. In fact, D’Annunzio used to appear on his balcony every day and the crowd would cheer for him while he said: “Are you with me? Are you with me?” and the crowd responded “Yes, we are with you!!” He was politically extremist and , but very much liked and respected especially in Fiume.
Lucy Hughes-Hallett also talked about him very personally, and said that for example even though he was not the best looking man he was a complete seducer and had been with countless women in his lifetime.
The audience was taken in by Lucy’s entertaining story-telling and I believe everyone found themselves amused at at least a dozen facts about D’Annunzio. The night continued on with wine and talks about the presentation within all the audience.