Open main menu

Massimo Bontempelli (12 May 1878 – 21 July 1960) was an Italian poet, playwright, novelist and composer. He was influential in developing and promoting the literary style known as magical realism.[1]

Massimo Bontempelli
Bontempelli in 1954
Bontempelli in 1954
Born(1878-05-12)12 May 1878
Died21 July 1960(1960-07-21) (aged 82)
Occupationnovelist, short story writer, journalist, playwright, composer
GenreNovel, short story
Literary movementMagical realism
Notable worksThe Chess Set in the Mirror



Bontempelli graduated from the University of Turin in 1903. He taught elementary school for seven years, doing his writing on the side, but abandoned teaching for journalism when he could not secure a position at a secondary school. He served as a war correspondent during World War I. After the war, he settled in Milan and became interested in the literary styles of futurism and magical realism. In 1926, he, along with Curzio Malaparte, founded the journal "900". James Joyce, Max Jacob, and Rainer Maria Rilke sat on the editorial committee and Virginia Woolf and Blaise Cendrars were among the contributors.[1][2][3][4]

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Bontempelli was an active fascist. He served as a secretary of the fascist writers' union and spent time abroad lecturing on Italian culture and spreading propaganda. In 1938, he refused to accept a university post formerly held by a Jewish professor and was kicked out of the Fascist party, drifting towards Communism.[5] After World War II, Bontempelli won a Senate race on the Popular Democratic Front ticket but the results were voided when his fascist ties were discovered.[6] In 1953, Bontempelli's "L'amante Fedele" won the Strega Prize, Italy's most prestigious literary award. After years of declining health, Bontempelli died in Rome in 1960.[1][2][3]


Title page of Minnie la candida by Massimo Bontempelli (1928)
  • 1908 Socrate moderno
  • 1912 I sette savi
  • 1916 La guardia alla luna (Watching the Moon)
  • 1919 Il purosangue; Siepe a nordovest
  • 1920 La vita intensa - Romanzo dei romanzi
  • 1921 La vita operosa; Nuovi racconti d'avventure
  • 1922 Viaggi e scoperte; La scacchiera davanti allo specchio (The Chess Set in the Mirror); Ultime avventure
  • 1923 Eva ultima (Last Eva)
  • 1924 La donna del Nadir
  • 1925 La donna dei miei sogni e altre avventure moderne; Nostra Dea
  • 1926 L'eden della tartaruga
  • 1928 Donna nel sole, e altri idilli; Minnie la candida
  • 1929 Il figlio di due madri (The Boy with Two Mothers); Il neosofista
  • 1930 Vita e morte di Adria e dei suoi figli (The Life and Death of Adria and Her Children)
  • 1931 Mia vita, morte e miracoli; Stato d grazia
  • 1932 La famiglia del fabbro; Racconto di una giornata; Valoria
  • 1934 La fame
  • 1935 Nembo (Stormcloud)
  • 1934 Galleria degli schiavi; Bassano padre geloso
  • 1937 Gente nel tempo (People in Time)
  • 1938 L'avventura novecentista
  • 1941 Giro del sole
  • 1942 Sette discorsi; Cenerentola (Cinderella)
  • 1945 Le notti (The Nights); L'acqua (Water)
  • 1946 L'ottuagenaria
  • 1947 Venezia Salva
  • 1949 L'innocenza di Camilla
  • 1953 L'amante fedele (The Faithful Lover)

Works in English translationEdit

The Elevator Man. The Living Age, 1 October 1926, pp. 68–71.
The Good Wind. The Living Age, 1 July 1927, pp. 44–47.
Foundations. The Living Age, 15 September 1927, pp. 549–551.
Sweet Adeline. The Living Age, 15 April 1928, pp. 720–722.
Meeting Batoletti — A Railway Station Extravaganza. The Living Age, 15 March 1930, pp. 115–120.
Letters of Introduction Translated by W.L. Dale. The Cornhill Magazine, No. 1030, Winter 1961/62 pages 268-271.
Dea by Dea. Translated by Anthony Oldcorn in Twentieth-Century Italian Drama: An Anthology, the First Fifty Years, ed. Jane House and Antonio Attisani (New York: Columbia UP, 1995).
Separations: Two Novels of Mothers and Children (Figlio di due madri / The Boy with Two Mothers and Vita e morte di Adria e dei suoi figli / The Life and Death of Adria and Her Children). Translated by Estelle Gilson. McPherson & Co, 2000.
The Divine Miss D and Genuine Minnie in The Italian Theater of the Grotesque. A New Theater for the Twentieth Century: An Anthology, ed. and trans. Jack D. Street and Rod Umlas (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 2003).
The Chess Set in the Mirror (La scacchiera davanti allo specchio). Translated by Estelle Gilson. Illustrated by Sergio Tofano. Paul Dry Books, 2006.
The Faithful Lover (L'amante fedele). Translated by Estelle Gilson with an introduction by Luigi Fontanella. Host Publications, 2007, [1]
On A Locomotive & Other Runaway Tales. Translated by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert. Xenos Book, 2013.
Watching the Moon and Other Plays. Translation and introduction by Patricia Gaborik. Italica Press, 2013. Also includes Stormcloud and Cinderella.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Keala Jewell. "Magic Realism and Real Politics: Massimo Bontempelli's Literary Compromise". Johns Hopkins University Press. That the foremost literary practitioner of magic realism in Italy, Massimo Bontempelli, was also the head of the National Fascist Writers Union for crucial years in the mid- to late-1920s is no accident of history.
  2. ^ a b Bontempelli, Massimo, 1878-1960. "Inventory of the Massimo Bontempelli Papers, 1865-1991". Online Archive of California.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b "Massimo Bontempelli". Italica Press.
  4. ^ Gaborik, Patricia (2007). "La Donna Mobile: Massimo Bontempelli's Nostra Dea as Fascist Modernism 1". University of Toronto Press. Modern Drama, Volume 50, Number 2, Summer 2007, pp. 210-232
  5. ^ Kibler, Louis (1993). "Reviewed Work: Sogni e visioni: Massimo Bontempelli fra surrealismo e futurismo by Elena Urgnani". Annali d'Italianistica. 11: 326-328.
  6. ^ Marrone, Gaetana (2007). Encyclopedia of Italian Literary Studies: A-J. Taylor & Francis. p. 288.
  7. ^ "Massimo Bontempelli (1878-1960) - Auteur du texte" (in French). (Bibliothèque nationale de France).

External linksEdit

  • Massimo Bontempelli Papers, 1865-1991 Finding aid for collection of Massiomo Bontempelli papers held by the Getty Research Institute, including listing of holdings and biographical information.