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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Torquato Tasso: The Biography

Fabio Pittorru, Torquato Tasso. L'uomo, il poeta, il cortigiano [The Man, the Poet, the Courtier], Milan, IT: Bompiani, 1982, pages 416, with 8 pictures

"The Biography" means, first of all, that there is no other such book currently available in Italy! Yeah, no biography of Tasso has been printed or reprinted of late. Fabio Pittorru's book has been found in a remainders bookshop, namely "Bardamù" in Perugia.

But it also deserves the compliment in the post title because it is a very good biography, full of data not only on Tasso's life and adventures, but also on the history, society, personages, and culture of his times. With clever insights and suggestions. No doubt is left about Tasso's bisexuality, that proves to be the actual reason of many of his troubles. But especially, it becomes clear that he was not mad at all: just the other way round, he was interned in an asylum -- for seven years -- so as to make him possibly go insane, and therefore an unreliable source, since he had threatened to "speak out" and tell inconvenient truths about the Este Court in Ferrara. Thank God he succeeded in "saving his soul," as his late masterpieces show. Very interesting is the paragraph on 'our friend' Il Mondo Creato (p. 386):

The poem started by Tasso in Manso's villa, after a suggestion by the host's mother, is very important for many reasons. After so much Renaissance neo-paganism, it can be considered the first Catholic long poem inspired by the new kind of religiousness coming from the Council of Trent. The proof of its importance can be found in the flourishing of Catholic poems all around Europe after Le sette giornate del mondo creato [The Seven Days of the World's Creation]. John Milton's Paradise Lost can even be seen as a sequel to Tasso's poem. Besides, this work marks the definitive triumph, in Italian literature, of the endecasillabo sciolto [blank verse].