20th Century Italian poet and Nobel laureate
Eugenio Montale was born in 1896 in Genoa. As a young man he wanted to become a singer, but his studies came to an end when his teacher died and he was called up for military service. After the war, in which he served as an infantry officer, he became a literary critic at Primo Tempo, a Turin magazine which had published some of his early writing. He published his first major work, Ossi di seppia in 1925, and has published in all five major collections––L'occasioni (1939), La bufera e altro (1956), Satura, including Xenia (1971), and Diario del '71 e del '72 (1973) being the other four. From 1928-38 Montale lived in Florence where he worked at the Gambinetto Vieusseux Library, a job he lost for his refusal to join the Fascist party. He turned to translation to earn his living and translated works by Hopkins, Shakespeare, Melville, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Hardy and T. S. Eliot among others. From 1948, he lived in Milan and served as the literary and musical critic for Corriere della Sera and as consultant to the Italian publisher, Mondadoni. He died in 1981.
“What Montale has stood for throughout his long life is above all intelligence and what he calls 'decenza quotidiana.' He may be classified as a lyric poet––and as the finest of Italian lyric poets since Leopardi––but he is also a poet for whom intelligence matters more than sentiment, and common decency more than any high-flown political or metaphysical allegiance. Montale is in this respect a contradiction: a wonderfully varied and resourceful poet who holds essentially prosaic values.”