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Summary Article: Ungaretti, Giuseppe
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(juzĕp'pā ungärĕt'tē), 1888–1970, Italian poet, critic, and translator, b. Alexandria, Egypt. Ungaretti spent his youth in North Africa, where he was greatly influenced by nomadic culture. In Paris, where he studied, he formed friendships with members of the literary and artistic avant-garde. His service in the Italian infantry during World War I provided the background for his first mature poems, written in the trenches, which deal with love and the precariousness of life. Ungaretti's style had already achieved a remarkable purity by condensing his poetic expression to its essentials. Working in the tradition of the French symbolists, he stressed the musical properties of the individual word and the illuminating power of a single striking image. Ungaretti's poetry was spare and intense; he employed unconventional syntax and eschewed the elaborate rhetorical structures. Because of the allusive yet self-contained quality of his verse, the movement that he inaugurated in poetry was named Hermeticism. The poems in Sentimento del tempo (1933) and Il dolore (1947) mark a return to the traditional meters of Italian poetry. Ungaretti also wrote essays and translated the works of Shakespeare, Racine, and others. He taught at the Univ. of São Paolo in Brazil before accepting a chair at the Univ. of Rome (1942). His works are collected in 12 volumes under the title Vita d'un uomo (tr. Life of a Man, 1969 and 1974). A good English translation of his poetry is Allen Mandelbaum's Selected Poems (tr. 1975).

  • See biography by L. Rebay (1970) and F. J. Jones (1977).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

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