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Summary Article: Svevo, Italo
from Chambers Biographical Dictionary

pseudonym of

Ettore Schmitz

1861-1928

Italian novelist

He was born in Trieste, of German-Jewish descent, educated primarily in Bavaria, and wrote in Italian. While working as a correspondence clerk in a Trieste bank, he wrote and published privately his first novel, Una Vita (1892, Eng trans, A Life, 1963), about a man who feels ill at ease in the commercial world. It was followed in 1898 by Senilità (Eng trans As a Man Grows Older, 1932). Both novels failed, largely through Svevo's ineptitude as a publisher, and he gave up writing to concentrate on business. However, in 1906 he met James Joyce, then teaching English in Trieste, who bolstered his confidence and promoted La coscienza di Zeno (Eng trans The Confessions of Zeno, 1930). Svevo won recognition in France and the rest of Europe, but died soon afterwards in a car accident. His other novels are La novella del buon vecchio e della bella fanciulla (1929, Eng trans The Nice Old Man and the Pretty Girl, 1930), and II vecchione (1967, Eng trans The Grand Old Man, 1968), which was incomplete on his death. V S Pritchett described him as "the first of the psychological novelists to be beatified by a spirit of humility".

  • Furbank, P N, Italo Svevo, Man and Writer (1966).
© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2011

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