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This article is taken from PN Review 57, Volume 14 Number 1, September - October 1987.

Federigo Tozzi Kenneth Cox

Except that it was short, the life of the Italian writer Federigo Tozzi was not unusual but it accounts for many of the qualities of his work as well as for much of its content. He was born on 1 January 1883 to an uneducated but strong-minded and strong-bodied countryman who had opened a restaurant in Siena. Hard work and hard bargaining enabled him to buy first one and then another small farm just outside the city. His mother was a gentle soul brought up as a foundling and subject to ill-health. None of her other children survived infancy and she herself died when Federigo was sixteen.

His father resented the weak and sickly son who took no interest either in farming or the restaurant and as the boy grew older resentment turned into hostility and violence. The rift never healed but after a difficult childhood Federigo gave signs he had in fact inherited something of his father's strengths. Photographs of him as an adult show a burly figure with a plain round face, somewhat priest-like in appearance. Once, short of money in Rome, he took up the challenge of a professional wrestler.

But in his early youth illnesses and his father's bullying left him nervous and diffident. Schooling had been deferred on medical grounds and when he started it was as a day-boy at a nearby seminary. After some years he was judged idle and refractory and at the request of the rector removed. ...

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