ITALO SVEVO: The Man and the Writer by P. N. Furbauk

ITALO SVEVO: The Man and the Writer

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The moral of Svevo's life is that if at first you don't succeed, try again twenty odd years later. The Italian's masterpiece, Zeno, published in 1923 when Svevo was sixty-two, seemed fated to make the same splash as his previous efforts, Una Vita and Senilita --that is to say, to borrow Marquis' pithy phrase, the first reception registered with the impact of a rose petal dropped down the Grand Canyon. Furbank's biography is thus a tale of undue neglect and last-minute salvation (prodded by Joyce, Larbaud's Paris coterie started the ball rolling); but it is difficult, nevertheless, to second the adulatory English reviews: the book is hardly an ""appalling indictment of the mistakes made by taste,"" nor is it ""beautifully achieved."" Though competently written and compactly structured (the concluding essays on the novels are surely rewarding studies), there's still simply not enough here--either in Svevo's life or his dull Triestine business world--to produce the high drama and beady cultural confluences we associate with, say, Ellmann's portraits of Joyce or Yeats. Probably because Svevo's stylistic and psychological genius is too much an inner event. Furbank is correct, informative, and uninspired.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1967
Publisher: Univ. of California