Italo Svevo

Italo Svevo is the pseudonym which used Hector Aron Schmitz (in Italian Ettore Schmitz) to publish the majority of his novels. He was born the 19th december 1861 in Triest and died the 13rd september 1928 (in a traffic accident) in Motta di Livenza (near Teviso, 30 km in the north of Venice). At this time, this plays a role in the novel, Triest (at the border to Slovenia) belonged already to Austria. Most of the inhabitants of Triest were of italian origins and so Triest entered the war at the side England, France and Russia declaring war to Austria. After Germany and Austria had been defeated Triest belonged to Italy. All this important historical events don' t play any role in the novels of Italo Svevo, they are just mentionned as anecdotes. Italo Svevo issued from a wealthy family of german origin. His father was a merchant of glassware. In all biographies is mentionned the jewish origin but it is unclear if that had any effects on his lifestyle, philosophy of life or on his writings. In every biographie as well you will find the remark that he went to Florence in order to learn "pure" Italian, but no proove is given for this thesis. It is correct that in Triest was spoken a venetian dialect but the dominion of a language doesn' t depend at a certain level from the immediate environment. The supporters of the thesis that the immediate environment decide on the way someone writes should believe as well that James Joyce had to live some time in Londen and Arundhaty Roy several years in New York or something like that. It is to assume that Italo Svevo dominated italian perfectly and that italian was his mother tongue otherwise he would have written in german, a language which he dominated perfectly as well, in other words in the language of the country where he found his public before he became famous in Italy. In the years 1873 - 1878 he visited a boarding school in Würzburg / Germany, that' s why he spoke german perfectly. Returned to Triest he started studying commerce but was obliged to abandon his studies due of bancruptcy of the company of his father. His working experiences as an employee of a banc is treated in the novel "Una Vita" (1892). At this time and before marrying his cousine Livia Veneziani and starting to work in the company of his father in law giving up any ambition to earn money with his writings he published the novel "Una Vita" whose printing he financed himself. This novel had practically no impact on the public. In 1898 he published the novel Senilità which was as unsuccessful as his firt novel. Because there is no possibility to earn a living for the family, the marriage had a daughter, with his writing he started to work in the company of his father in law which produced varnish for ships. In 1905 he started to take english lessons at the Berlitz school in Triest where he mett James Joyce who would become important for his career as a writer. Due to the intervention of James Joyce the novel La coscienza di Zeno (published in 1923) received positive critics in France, most of all from the literary critic Valery Larbaud. Late, very late and due to his success in France he became famous in Italy as well, when the italian literary critic Eugenio Montale started to write about him on the newspapers.

The novel "Una burla riuscita" presented here (published in 1926) is obviously inspired by Italo Svevos own experiences. Even some names are inspired by his own biographie. Under the pseudonyme Ettore Samigli alias Hector Aaron Schmitz alias Ettore Schmitz he published in the years 1880 until 1890 theater critics in the newspaper L' Independente of Triest. The name of the protagonist of the novel Una burla riuscita is Mario Samigli. Mario Samigli as well financed the publication of his first and last book himself and as Italio Svevo himself had no success with his novel. As Mario Samigli he never stopped writing and even when he started working for the company of his father in law and had given up all ambitions to live from his writing he continued to write. For both writing is a kind of therapy. In the case of Mario Samigli the therapy consists in remodeling the world by writing following his psychical needs at a certain moment. Autobiographic is as well the role of the literary critic of the publishing company Westermann. Mario Samigli as well as for Italo Svevo these are figures which work far away influencing the taste of the masses. The dynamic of the novel results from the struggle of Mario Samigli to keep psychic balance. Mario Samigli, like Italo Svevo, had already accepted that he is never going to make a living from his writings but the pure hope to be one time successful as writer is enough for him as long as he can consider himself a writer and there is an illusion which helps him to bear the banality and constrictions of his live. The confrontation with the reality, in other words any attempt to establish himself as a writer would have endangered his psychic stability because it would have destroyed his hopes and illusions and so he never tried to publish or write something. The stability is endangered when a ficticious publishing company, another similarity to Italo Svevo, offered him to buy his first and last novel. The perspective of seeing his novel published makes him loose his psychic equilibrity which is based on not confronting himself with the reality. The exact deployement of the psychic dynamik is not Italo Svevo, because Mario Samigli is a narrow minded, stupid and droopy petty bourgeois.

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