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This article is taken from PN Review 229, Volume 42 Number 5, May - June 2016.

Sleeping with Gozzano Patrick Worsnip
Agliè, Italy – Did Guido Gozzano die a gay atheist? For conservative Roman Catholics in Italy, that would be pretty bad – about as bad as you could get. Dante would be hard pressed to know which circle of Hell to put you in. The short answer, on both counts, is that we are never likely to know for certain. But first – who was Guido Gozzano?

It’s a fair question. Outside of Italy, he is little known. Even within Italy he’s hardly a household name. He is, says my Umbrian neighbour Piero, a retired diplomat, ‘practically forgotten’. And yet Gozzano occupies a pivotal position in pre-First-World-War Italian poetry as the most accomplished of the so-called Crepuscular, or Twilight, group. He stands between the classicising greats of the nineteenth century such as Giosuè Carducci, Giovanni Pascoli and Gabriele D’Annunzio (though D’Annunzio survived well into the twentieth century, over twenty years longer than the short-lived Gozzano) and the moderns Giuseppe Ungaretti, Eugenio Montale and Salvatore Quasimodo.

My quest for Gozzano, as his aficionados prepare for this year’s centenary of his death, takes me to Turin, capital of the northwestern region of Piedmont. He had an ambivalent relationship with the place where he was born, died, and spent much of his life, and yet it’s difficult to imagine him anywhere in Italy other than here. Not the Turin of Fiat, Nutella and Juventus Football Club, not even the birthplace of Italian unification in 1861, but the city of casual elegance, with its arcades, tree-lined ...

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