Biografy



Salvatore Quasimodo was born on 20th august 1901 in Modica, a little town near Syracuse, the son of Gaetano Quasimodo, who was a railway officer, and Clotilde Ragusa. He spent the first years of his childhood in Roccalumera and other little towns of eastern Sicily. His father was transferred to Messina, shortly after the disastrous earthquake on 28th December 1908. For a long time his family lived inside a goods-wagon of the destroyed railway station. This painful experience left a deep trace in the heart and mind of the poet. He completed his studies in Messina and in 1919 he received a diploma at the technical Institute A.M.Jaci.

During this period Quasimodo wrote his first juvenile verses which he published in local symbolist reviews. Also he began a deep-rooted friendship with Salvatore Pugliatti and Giorgio La Pira, which lasted all though his life and which grew to have an essential influence on his artistic formation. Together with them  he launched the magazine called  New Literary Newspaper.

Foto giovanile di Quasimodo

In 1919 Quasimodo left Sicily and moved to Rome where he studied agriculture at the University, but because of financial problems he was unable to complete his studies. He continued to write poetry while he studied latin and greek with Monsignor Rampulla del Tindaro. In 1926 he married Bice Donetti. In the same year he was appointed as geometer to the government Civil Engineering Department in Reggio Calabria. Here the poet continued to write poetry, encouraged by his sicilian friends such as Salvatore Pugliatti, Glauco Natoli and Vann’Antò.

In 1929 he was invited to Florence by his brother in law, Elio Vittorini, who was a novelist. Elio Vittorini introduced him to the literary circles of the time where he met other writers such as Arturo Loira, Alessandro Bonsanti, Gianna Manzini ed Eugenio Montale. In 1930 his first book Waters and Lands was published in the literary review  Solaria in Florence. Two of the most famous works in this collection are: Wind of Tindari and And it is Suddenly Night. This collection was of great interest and raised enthusiasm in literary criticism of time.

In 1931 he was transferred to work in Imperia. In Genoa he cultivated a friendship with Adriano Grande, Barile, Sbarbaro and contributed to her literary review Circoli. In 1932 he published his second collection Sunken Oboe which was considered a literary manifest of Hermetism. In the same year, in Florence, he was honored with the Ancient Farm-House award for the collection of poems Eucalyptus scent and other verses. In 1934, after a brief stay in Sardinia, he moved to Milan. This period became very important for his artistic life. He, in fact, took part in the literary society  Corrente which had been founded by the painter Ernesto Treccani.  This literary group included poets, musicians, painters and sculptors such as Sinisgalli, Messina, Tofanelli, Sassu, Cantatore, Fontana, Birolli, Zavattini, Carrà. In 1935 his daughter Orietta was born out of wedlock to Amelia Spezialetti. In 1936 Quasimodo published  Erato and Apollion a collection of verses  which was the culmination of his hermetic contribution to poetry.

In 1938 Quasimodo resigned from his job and began an editorial activity with Cesare Zavattini. In the same year he also published the first anthological collection of poems and contributed to the main hermetic review of the time in  Florence Literature.Quasimodo was considered one of the leaders of hermetic poetry, together with Montale and Ungaretti. He contributed to the literary review The Time.

In 1940 his translation greek lyrics was published by the review Corrente. The book was a great success and it was republished several times owing to its creative originality. In 1941 Quasimodo was named professor of Italian Literature at Milan’s Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory.

In 1942, edited by Mondadori, the collection of poems And it is Suddenly Night written by the poet in 1930 and New Poems written by Quasimodo  from 1936 to 1942. During the World War II, from 1943, he translated some Catullus poems, passages from  The Odyssey and the version of the Gospel According to St. Matthew, which was published in 1945. In 1946 Quasimod‘s first wife Bice Donetti died. In the same year his first collection of poems of the post-war period Day after Day was published. It revealed a deep change in Quasimodo’s poetry  provoked by the tragedy of the World War II.

La medaglia del Nobel

In 1948 he married the dancer Maria Cumani, who bore him a son, Alessandro. Quasimodo contributed to a theatre column in the weekly magazine Omnibus  and subsequently in the weekly magazine The Time. In 1949 the collection  Life is not a Dream was published. In 1950 the poet received the San Babila prize and in 1953 the  Etna-Taormina International Prize in poetry, together with Dylan Thomas. In 1954 the edition The False and True Green was published.

In 1958 was edited The Incomparable Earth, which won him the Viareggio Prize and the Anthology Italian Poetry of the post war period. In the same year Quasimodo made a journey to Russia  where he suffered from a severe infarct and was hospitalized for some months in Moscow before he was able to return to Italy in 1959. On 22th October 1959, in Stockholm, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1960 he was conferred Laurea Honoris Causa from the University of Messina. From 1960 to 1968, the year of his death, Quasimodo travelled a lot all over Europe and America to participate in lectures and poetry readings. Quasimodo continued to work as a literary translator of classic historical writers such as Euripides and Shakespeare, and also contemporaries authors such as Cummings and Pablo Neruda. In 1960 emerged The poet and the political man, the speech pronounced by Quasimodo in Stockholm on the occasion of the delivery of  Nobel Prize. In 1966 he published his last poetry collection To Give and to Have. In 1967 the Laurea Honoris Causa from the University of Oxford was conferred to him. In 1968 the poet died suddenly while he was presiding over a poetry competition in Amalfi. His body was transferred from Naples to Milan where he was buried in the Monumental Cemetery.

Quasimodo’s poems have been translated in forty different languages and he is known and studied all over the world.