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Gabriele D'Annunzio: Poet, Seducer, and Preacher of War Paperback – May 6, 2014


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"The Weary Blues" by Langston Hughes
Nearly ninety years after its first publication, this celebratory edition of "The Weary Blues" reminds us of the stunning achievement of Langston Hughes, who was just twenty-four at its first appearance. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (May 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307276554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307276551
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #436,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The subject of this long, busy biography kept notebooks from early on and extraordinarily faithfully. D’Annunzio (1863–1938) also deliberately became one of the first modern celebrities, hard on the heels of Oscar Wilde, and as such he was voluminously documented. Add his many volumes of verse, best-selling novels, and very popular plays, and he offers his chronicler an embarrassment of source material. Hughes-Hallett paints a richly detailed portrait of an eminently civilized sociopath, incapable of restraining his appetites for sex, excitement, and the most exquisite furnishings and utterly insensible to the emotional and financial damage he caused. He went through houses, furnishings, clothes, jewelry, artworks, horses, cars, and airplanes (not boats—he never could conquer seasickness) as if they were water, almost never fully paying for any of them. His mistresses were legion, and among them were some of the era’s most famous performers. And then there were his one-night (or shorter) stands, all recorded, often obscenely, in his notebooks. A national chauvinist who lauded unending warfare and violence, he spearheaded the drive to get Italy into WWI and for 15 months of 1919–20 was the dictator of the Italian-majority Yugoslavian city, Fiume. In the process, he inspired the rising Mussolini, of whom he seldom approved but didn’t criticize because Il Duce paid for every extravagance of his last 15 years. D’Annunzio is appalling but, as Hughes-Hallett presents him, completely enthralling. --Ray Olson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“A stunning portrait of a . . . decadent poet and proto-Fascist firebrand. . . . Reads like a picaresque novel.” —The New Yorker 
 
“A richly detailed portrait of an eminently civilized sociopath. . . . Appalling but, as Hughes-Hallett presents him, completely enthralling.” —Booklist   

“Compulsively readable. . . . D’Annunzio was arguably the finest Italian writer of his time, an aesthete who made Oscar Wilde look like a bourgeois, a sexual charmer of Casanovan suavity and appetite . . . a political zealot and spellbinding orator.” –The Washington Post (Best Books of 2013)

"A wonderful biography. . . . Although himself the least empathetic of men, [d'Annunzio] has attracted a biographer of rare sensibility who has set out not to condemn but to understand. The result is a magnificent and beautifully written book that makes readers feel they have really come to know d’Annunzio, his many faults, his fewer virtues, and his enormous talent for life." —New York Review of Books
 
“Deeply evocative . . . It is not easy to make sense of the life of a man who was a silk-swathed aesthete, prophetic versifier, manic aviator and martial demagogue all in one. . . . Hughes-Hallett is a strong match for her subject. . . . Her style is rich, ironic and pugnacious; she jousts willingly with him and the reader becomes a spectator of this subtle and fascinating contest.” —The Economist

“Dazzling. . . . A shrewd, challenging analysis that links his sadomasochistic psyche to his pitiless ideology. The result is a resonant study of the themes of power, masculinity, violence, and desire that made D’Annunzio such a striking emblem of his age.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Hughes-Hallett crafts an appealing combination of genres, blending elements of biography, fiction, and cultural, social, and military history to create about as complete an image as possible of this most protean personality. . . . Readers will delight in touring the deep, tangled wood of a most astonishing life with a most engaging and learned guide.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

 “A splendid subject for a biography . . . Hughes-Hallett dances her way through this extraordinary life in a style that is playful, punchy and generally pleasing. . . . In death, as in life, the amazing story of D’Annunzio is painted in primary colours, but with the darkest shadows.” —The Observer (London)

“As gripping a page-turner as the most sensationalist novel—and infinitely more rewarding. . . . It is an amazing story [told] with the vivid narrative thrust of a novel. . . . The book is a revelation, an insight into a murky but significant segment of history.” —The Telegraph (UK)

“Hugely enjoyable. . . .  Hughes-Hallett has a great talent for encapsulating an era or an attitude . . . Pleasurable and readable.” —Sunday Times (London)

“A magnificent portrait of a preposterous character. . . . D’Annunzio was deplorable, brilliant, ludicrous, tragic, but above all irresistible. . . . His biographer has done him full justice.” —The Mail on Sunday (London)

“Beautiful, strange, and original. . . . An extraordinarily intimate portrait. . . . If you want to understand fascism, you must start with d’Annunzio; and if you wish to understand him, then here is your book.” —New Statesman (UK)

“How a rather diminutive poet, novelist and dramatist, with a compulsive urge to transgress, priapic sexual instincts, and a fascination with cruelty, blood and death came to be Italy’s most celebrated man of action and a precursor of Fascism is the subject of Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s engrossing and superbly written biography.” —Times Literary Supplement (London)

“Remarkable . . . a terrific piece of work—as audacious as it is gripping, as thorough as it is insightful and as stirring as it is shocking.” —The Daily Mail (UK)

Customer Reviews

It is a rich and great read so any complaints feel a little churlish.
One man's meat
Lucy Hughes-Hallett does a wonderful job of bringing this extraordinary character back to life.
Marius Gabriel
You have to read this book to believe that such a person ever could have existed.
J. LAWSON

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Paul Gelman on August 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
It's September 21, 1927. He is in his bedroom. A woman has just left. A disordered bed. An overturned scent bottle. A little gold box in which few traces of cocaine remain. A cold supper laid out on the table. D'Annunzio hasn't yet touched the food, but the woman ate some of it during the night. Now, alone, he eats ravenously. The fig and the prosciuto each remind him of the intimate parts of the woman he shared last night.
This is just one almost complete entry which appears in this fascinating new book on one of the most colourful characters in modern history.
Who was D'Annunzio? He was a poet, a seducer, a womanizer, a pilot, a writer, a playwright, a rebel, a leader of proto-fascists and of mutineers. He worshipped Napoleon. He admired Carlyle who would confirm the poet's veneration for great men and reinforce his conviction that it was not economic forces, as the socialists maintained, but the action of superb individuals that shaped history. Born in 1863, he wrote many novels and poems amd spent some time in Paris at the beginning of the twentieth century. These were the times when poets still had a say and were admired. James Joyce called him "the only European writer after Flaubert to carry the novel into new territory". He was also a journalist and yearned for public adoration. He was a notoriours womanizer who took care to document even the tiniest intimate moments of his sexual acts. His sexual appetite was insatiable. He enjoyed drugs and mysticism. And airplanes. And fast cars, courtesy of Fiat. The masses loved him. He was a demagogue and a kind of a Duce; at least this is how he referred to himself many years before the people and history made the acquaintance with the name of Mussolini.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a biography of Gabriele D'Annunzio (1863 to 1938), whom Romain Rolland had likened to a pike, a predator of other people's ideas which he then powerfully reshaped, and the author constantly reminds us of those of D'Annunzio's contemporaries all over Europe who had views similar to his own. Contemporary ideas - literary, artistic, political - were grist to his mill, and D'Annunzio was extraordinarily many-sided: a famous poet and playwright, his texts rich, sometimes overheated, with imaginative similes and suffused with an eroticism often mingling pleasure and pain and occasionally sprinkled with revolting imagery, especially scatological about his enemies; a journalist; a charismatic public speaker; a connoisseur of music, painting and European literature; a compulsive and minute recorder of all his experiences, especially sensory ones, which will then feature in his novels (as will the love-letters he wrote to his various amours); an aesthete and a dandy. He spent extravagantly beyond his means, cramming his homes with precious objets d'art, textiles, masses of flowers, staying at the most expensive hotels, and leaving bill after bill unsettled. He kept a string of thoroughbred horses and many dogs, mostly greyhounds. On four occasion bailiffs stripped him of the bulk of his precious possessions.

He was a promiscuous womanizer, and women fell for him although he was small and in later years quite ugly, with a waxen complexion and bad teeth. From his schooldays onwards, he was a ruthless self-publicist, ready to invent parts of his biography. A lover of the past, he also anticipated Futurism in his enthusiasm for modern machines - cars, aeroplanes, torpedoes, machine guns - just as he blended an effete Decadence with macho Fascism.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Swordsman on November 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Some of those whose biographies we would like to read did not leave enough material behind them. With Gabriele d'Annunzio, poet, seducer and preacher (and debtor who rarely paid his creditors, and aviator, and would-be dictator of Fiume, and builder, and house decorator, and friend/enemy of Benito Mussolini) the problem is just the opposite. He filled notebook after notebook describing his every thought and emotion, starting with the look of a flower that reminded him of this or that and ending with the peculiar shape and smell of a specific woman's genitals.

In selecting the material, combining it with other sources, and providing a portrait of the man--in some ways an appalling man, but a great poet nevertheless--the author has done a superb job. My only complaint is that, since the book was witten for non-Italians, it has very few direct quotes from d'Annunzio's work. As a result the reader is left a bit puzzled as to just what in that work moved the tens, indeed hundreds, of thousands who paid him homage.

A shame, but it could not be helped.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sylla Cousineau on December 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Beautifully written, meticulously researched, always insightful with an eye for the telling details of this outsized life, all biographies should be like this one! Not all of them have such epic grounds to cover but then not all subjects have an interpreter as gifted as the author! A must read as Gabrielle d'Annunzio lived and created in a prophetic manner much of the nascent 20th century's artistic and political innovations, a modern Faust!
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