Gabriele D'Annunzio (1863 – 1938), Prince of Montenevoso, was an Italian writer, poet, journalist, playwright and soldier during World War I. He occupied a prominent place in Italian literature from 1889 to 1910 and after that political life from 1914 to 1924.
D'Annunzio was associated with the Decadent movement in his literary works, which interplayed closely with French Symbolism and British Aestheticism. Such works represented a turn against the naturalism of the preceding romantics and was both sensuous and mystical. He came under the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche which would find outlets in his literary and later political contributions. He boasted that he had seduced at least 1,000 women and was famous for his affairs with Eleonora Duse and Luisa Casati.
During the First World War he was associated with the elite Arditi storm troops of the Italian Army and took part in actions such as the Flight over Vienna. As part of an Italian nationalist reaction against the Paris Peace Conference, he set up the short-lived Italian Regency of Carnaro in Fiume with himself as Duce. The constitution made "music" the fundamental principle of the state. Some of the ideas and aesthetics influenced Italian fascism and the style of Benito Mussolini.
In April 1915 before Italy joined the war the news reached Italy that Italians had suffered casualties in skirmishes with the Austrians. He addressed a frenetic crowd thus...
"Our vigil is ended. Our exultation begins ... The cannon roars. The earth smokes ...Companions, can it be true? We are fighting with arms, we are waging our war, blood is spurting from the veins of Italy! We are the last to join this struggle and already the first are meeting with glory ... The slaughter begins, the destruction begins ... All these people, who yesterday thronged in the streets and squares, loudly demanding war, are full of veins, full of blood; and that blood begins to flow ... We have no other value but that of our blood to be shed."
Hemingway wrote a poem about him...
Half a million dead wops
And he got a kick out of it
The son of a bitch
The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica entry for him reads...
The work of d' Annunzio, although by many of the younger generation injudiciously and extravagantly admired, is almost the most important literary work given to Italy since the days when the great classics welded her varying dialects into a fixed language. The psychological inspiration of his novels has come to him from many sources—French, Russian, Scandinavian, German—and in much of his earlier work there is little fundamental originality.
His creative power is intense and searching, but narrow and personal; his heroes and heroines are little more than one same type monotonously facing a different problem at a different phase of life. But the faultlessness of his style and the wealth of his language have been approached by none of his contemporaries, whom his genius has somewhat paralysed. In his later work, when he begins drawing his inspiration from the traditions of bygone Italy in her glorious centuries, a current of real life seems to run through the veins of his personages. And the lasting merit of D'Annunzio, his real value to the literature of his country, consists precisely in that he opened up the closed mine of its former life as a source of inspiration for the present and of hope for the future, and created a language, neither pompous nor vulgar, drawn from every source and district suited to the requirements of modern thought, yet absolutely classical, borrowed from none, and, independently of the thought it may be used to express, a thing of intrinsic beauty. As his sight became clearer and his purpose strengthened, as exaggerations, affectations, and moods dropped away from his conceptions, his work became more and more typical Latin work, upheld by the ideal of an Italian Renaissance.