F. T. Marinetti's construction of World War I narratives (1915)

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Author: Stefano Bragato
Date: Annual 2015
From: Annali d'Italianistica(Vol. 33)
Publisher: Annali d'Italianistica, Inc.
Document Type: Essay
Length: 7,522 words

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When in May 1915 Italy entered the war, Marinetti had justjoined the Italian army as a soldier. With other Futurist artists, (1) he had enrolled in the Battaglione Lombardo Volontari Ciclisti Automobilisti (VCA), a newly formed auxiliary corps which fought alongside the Alpini in the mountain region of Lake Garda from October to December 1915. The days in the VCA marked a significant step in Marinetti's development as an intellectual, since for the first time he came face to face with war as a soldier. Previously, he had experienced war only as a news correspondent for the French newspaper L'Intransigeant, first during the Italo-Turkish conflict in Libya in 1911, which he described in La battaglia di Tripoli (1912), (2) and then during the siege of Adrianople in 1912-1913, which would inspire his first words-in-freedom poem Zang Tumb Tumb (1914). Marinetti narrates the VCA experience in a number of texts belonging to different literary genres: two notebooks, a set of loose sheets, two newspaper articles and three tavole parolibere. In this article, a comparative analysis of these texts shows the extent of the impact that the Great War had on Marinetti's literary activity.

Among other things, the First World War introduced into Marinetti's war writing a significant autobiographical element. As a life-writing literary space, his personal notebooks thus started playing a key role within his methods of literary composition. This is evident from the study of his World War I notebooks written in 1915, which worked as a particular kind of source text for developing the other VCA narratives. As I will argue in the article, Marinetti's 1915 notebooks were conceived in the first place as drafts for these other VCA texts, rather than as plain, "neutral" autobiographical daily chronicles. Despite being a private literary space without external addressees, the notebooks are affected by some degree of autobiographical unreliability, which they share with the other VCA writings. This unreliability shows that in spite of their appearance as factual diaries recounting a war experience where Marinetti would do no more than jot down plain daily notes, Marinetti's notebooks constituted in fact a proper experimental laboratory, where he knowingly put together narratives which diverged from the actual experience, and which he subsequently manipulated for composing or assembling together with further works.

The First World War therefore prompted a new method of composing autobiographical war literature, in which his notebooks functioned as a place where memories are "actively constructed" rather than just "passively gathered." Marinetti's war notebooks of 1915 were sophisticated and elaborate aesthetic creations, already imbued with a degree of Futurist imaginary and ideology. Their textuality was then reworked by Marinetti in order to compose the newspaper articles and the tavole parolibere, which together with the 1915 notebooks will constitute the objects of my inquiry. The reworking was done following two different rhetorical strategies, which were finely tuned to fit the expectations of the two sets of readers for whom these writings were intended, namely, a general audience and a cultural elite. This...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A463514482