Literature is a wide and interesting subject, and Italy has always been proficient in it: there are many authors and even more books that made it into school textbooks, so we decided to recommend you 7 of them among the most important. You have certainly already heard about some of these books or their authors, but i’m fairly sure you probably don’t know everything about them. So i will try to expand your knowledge of Italian literature without boring you. Are you ready? Let’s begin!

The history of Italian literature in 7 books

The masterpiece of the aesthete

The first book I want to talk you about is:

  1. Il Piacere

It’s a novel, first published in 1889, written by Gabriele D’Annunzio, a very famous Italian writer, poet and patriot, who had a great influence over Italian culture, so much that he gave birth to an artistic movement named after him: “dannunzianesimo”. In his novel Il Piacere D’Annunzio tells the story of a roman noble, Andrea Sperelli, who, after being separated by his wife, falls in love with Maria, a rich but married woman. After a series of events and ruined chances, Andrea finds himself alone looking at an era of great changes. Il Piacere is undoubtly a symbolic part of the Italian decadent movement and of D’Annunzio’s production, so you should definitely read it! Furthermore it’s so well written, that i’m sure you’ll be full of new words and expressions that will make your italian sound all the more erudite and elegant!

You can buy it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/33hwJs6

To look inside yourself

The second book we will talk about:

  1. La Coscienza di Zeno

We are looking at a psychoanalytic novel written by Italo Svevo and published for the first time in 1923. It is a book with a very peculiar structure: the preface is, in fact, written by the psychoanalyst of Zeno Cosini, the main character of the book. The doctor says he wants to publish the diary of his patient, Zeno himself, who escaped the treatment he was prescribed, for revenge. The chapters of the book are made of the same pages from the diary of Zeno, a trader from a rich family. Zeno has a rough relationship with his father, that he reflets on any aspect of his life: be it love, work or the relationship with his family. Constantly oppressed by a sense of inadequacy and ineptitude, Zeno continuously looks for a treatment for his “illness”.

You can buy it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3m239hD

It’s not easy to be a prince

The next book I want to talk you about is one of my favourite:

  1. Il Principe

We are talking about a critical essay of political techings written by the Florentine historian, playwriter and politician Niccolò Machiavelli in 1513. In this essay, Machiavelli explains the characteristics of the principalities and how to conquer and manage them. From the same ideas explained in this book hails the adjective “machiavellico” (machiavellian), inspired by the author and used even in modern times to refer to something done cunningly and mercilessly in social or political relationships.  Il Principe is the synthesis Machiavelli’s philosophy, which can be explained as “the end justifies the mean” or, in short, any action can be justified if it’s in the name of the ojective you are pursuing.

You can buy it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3q1oGJL

A look for those who stay unseen

The next book is called:

  1. I Malavoglia

This is a novel written by the sicilian author Giovanni Verga and published in 1881. The book tells the story of family of fishermen living in Aci Trezza, a small town in Sicily. The characters all share the same culture, but they differ in term of life choices, and they are all victims of the same tragic and inevitable fate, but i don’t want to make any spoiler! This work is very important from a linguistic point of view: Verga tries to reproduce some characteristics of the sicilian dialect, using the tecnique of impersonality thus focusing all the attention on the pont of view of the characters themselves.

You can buy it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3nXGUd8

Letters from the heart

Next we’ll talk about:

  1. Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis

This work of Ugo Foscolo was first published in 1802. This is the first epistolary novel of italian literature and is comprised of 67 letters written by the manin character, Jacopo Ortis, and sent to his friend Lorenzo Alderani. The friend decided to publish them after Jacopo’s suicide, adding an introduction and a conclusion. The main themes of the book are suicide, death, burial, but also the homeland, love, illusions and the relationship between the intellectual and society. It’s a masterpiece of italian literature that evrey Italian and every person studying Italian should read at least once in their life!

You can buy it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2IZqvGz

Even knights get furious

The penultimate book i will talk you about is:

  1. Orlando furioso 

It’s a chivalric romance written by Ludovico Ariosto and first published in 1516. It is comprised of 46 cantos amd has 3 main cores for the plot: the epic war between christians and muslims; the love of Orlando for Angelica, so strong that it leads him to madness; and the celebratory one, focusing on the story of the knight Ruggero and the female warrior Bradamante. This work, that has been studied for centuries in italian schools, will bring you back in time and to the land of dreams like very few other books can!

You can buy it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/39gfM5h

10 days for 10 stories

As a grand finale the last book we’ll talk about is:

  1. Decameron

This is a great masterpiece written by Giovanni Boccaccio is a collection of one hundred stories written between 1350 and 1353. The title literally means “of ten days”: as amatter of fact, the book is about a group of young people,  seven women and three men, that for ten days take shelter outside of Florence to escape the black plague that at that time had struck the city. The ten protagonists tell each other stories, qite often with a humorous tone. Becase some of the subjects told in the stories, the book was initially considered immoral and scandalous, so it was frequently censored; however, along the centuries it was taken as a model by many other authors and is currently stidied in every italian school.

You can buy it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3o0ZwZJ

So, we’ve reached the end of the list, but, as many of you probably noticed, we didn’t talk about 2 extremely important books, maybe the most important of italian literature.

Rest assured, we didn’t forget them! You may not know, but we have already made two whole videos dedicated to the Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia) by Dante Alighieri and The Betrothed (Promessi Sposi) by Alessandro Manzoni.

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