15 March 2009

Carlo Emilio Gadda

Since I finished an undergraduate degree but dropped out of graduate studies in physics, I keep an eye out for literary writers who are professionally in the world of science and technology. One such writer was the Italian engineer Carlo Emilio Gadda, who is of interest to this blog because of his experiments with language. (There is an Italian webliography on him.)

Here is a fascinating comment on Gadda that makes me wish I could read Italian:

"According to Gabriella Alfieri’s definition, expressivism moves in monolingual environments, adding colour to the text, whereas expressionism is found rather in a plurilingual textual environment, bringing together language from different spaces, times, and social spheres, and resulting in a pastiche or distorting mode. Without referring here to involuntary dialect use, natural in all bilingual authors, the conscious adoption of dialect ingredients can be traced with a more expressive function in a great number of texts in the short history of the Italian novel, Pasolini’s portrayal of Roman street urchins in his Ragazzi di vita being but one example. With the expressionistic function, as lingua sconciata (literally, ‘spoiled, marred language’), it has a long history from Vittorio Lambriani to Faldella and the master of them all, Carlo Emilio Gadda [emphasis mine]. Here again, mono- or plurilingual poetic choices are ultimately ideological in nature, and it may suffice to point to the debates around language in the 1960s, with the use of dialect labelled as ‘feticismo della parola’ by no less than Italo Calvino. (pp. 57-58 of The Other Italy: The Literary Canon in Dialect, by Hermann W. Haller, 1999)

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