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Collecting Nobel Laureates: Eugenio Montale & Dario Fo

By Leah Dobrinska. Jul 1, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Nobel Prize Winners

Collecting the works of Nobel laureates makes sense. There’s a definable list of winners. The winners are the best-of-the-best. And, your collection can span titles from authors the world over. Or, if you prefer, it can be focused on a specific genre, idea, or region. If you’re interested in Italian Nobel Prize in Literature winners—in total, six individuals from Italy have been awarded the Prize—today we spotlight the most recent winners: Eugenio Montale and Dario Fo. For more information on our previous Italian Nobel Prize in Literature winner spotlights, see the end of the post.

Eugenio Montale

Eugenio_Montale_PD.jpgEugenio Montale was an Italian poet who bucked the trend of Italian poetry as it had been. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1975 “for his distinctive poetry which, with great artistic sensitivity, has interpreted human values under the sign of an outlook on life with no illusions.” Indeed, Montale staunchly opposed Fascist rule in Italy, and one finds his poetry to be at once supremely witty as well as incredibly in-tune with the sorrows, trials, and realities of the human condition.

Montale’s first book of poetry titled Ossi di seppie [Cuttlefish Bones] was published in 1925 by Gobetti in Turin. It was republished in an enlarged edition in 1928 by Fratelli Ribet in Turin. The poems included in this collection are: “In limine” [First of all], “Movimenti” [Movements], “Ossi di sepia” [Cuttlefish Bones], “Mediterraneo” [Mediterranean],” Meriggi” [Noons], and “Riviere” [Riviere]. The setting of the Mediterranean and the rocky coastline plays a dominant role in Montale poetry, and the evidence is clear from his first collection. To Montale, nature, it seems, is dignified if also treacherous. First edition copies of Ossi di seppie can cost several thousand dollars, depending on the condition, whether or not the book has been restored, etc.

Another classic Montale collectible is Le occasioni [Occasions] which was published in 1939, over a decade after Ossi di seppie. According to Montale’s Nobel Prize biographical,* in Le occasioni, we see how “Italian poetry and culture as a whole were, from then on, to recognise a book that reflected the solitude and the agony over the human condition of one who lucidly opposed Fascist oppression, creating a song of noble stoicism.”

Einaudi published Le occasioni in Turin, and first edition copies were limited in number to 1,000. True first editions show an engraving of a butterfly by Francesco Menzio on the cover. Copies in fine or near fine condition will cost a collector over $1,000. 

Finally, we’d point your attention to some of Montale’s later work. Xenia, for example, was published in 1966 in a private print run of 50 copies. In 1970, Black Sparrow issued a special edition of Xenia with the original Italian poems with facing translations by G. Singh. The edition was limited in number to 300 copies plus 26 lettered copies. These collectibles cost between $500-$1,000.

Dario Fo

Dario_Fo_PD.jpgItaly’s most recent Nobel Prize in Literature recipient is Dario Fo. He won the award in 1997. As part of the motivation for his award, the Nobel committee noted the way he “[upholds] the dignity of the downtrodden” in his works. Truly, Dario Fo’s reach has been vast.

As a child, he listened to village storytellers and his family telling tales, and he internalized the rhythms and the movement of the stories. Undoubtedly, this would later affect his monologues and improvisation efforts. His formal education came in spurts, disrupted by World War II. He has a background in fine arts and architecture, though he abandoned the latter course of study before earning his degree. Instead, he began painting and joined the theatre.

One of Fo’s earliest efforts was a re-telling of the Cain and Able story in which Cain was not, in fact, truly evil, but rather a “poor little fool,” or as the satire was titled, “Poer Nano.” Franco Parenti loved Fo’s rendering of the parable so much that he invited him to join his theatre company. The rest, as they say, is history.

Because Fo’s plays and works touch on all aspects of culture and society from politics to religion and everything in between, a collection of even some of his works is enough to get a taste of his biting wit and social commentary.

We’d recommend looking in to copies of one of his most famous pieces—a play about, among other things, police corruption—Morte accidentale di un anarchico [The Accidental Death of an Anarchist]. The play was first published and performed throughout Italy in 1970. In 1980, Pluto Press in London issued the first English translation of the play, adapted by Gavin Richards. First English editions can cost over $500. The Accidental Death of an Anarchist has been performed countless times, including a stint on Broadway in 1984. Interesting collectibles include the playscripts for different productions, especially if they are associated with an actor or actress in particular.

In 1969, Nuova Scena published another one of Fo’s searing plays, Mistero buffo. The play was performed in numerous countries over the course of 30 years. In the play, Fo takes on both the church and the state using improvisation centered on themes and ideas from the gospels. The Vatican has openly condemned the production. Certain first edition copies are available for just under $100.

Fo has continued to express his social commentary through his works. According to an interview he gave with Euronews in 2013, his most recent efforts focus on the banks, the European debt crisis, and big entrepreneurs.** Collections of Fo’s works can easily be found, and whether you’re looking for a valuable, individual work of Fo’s, or if you’d just like to have his plays and ideas on your shelves, there is a collectible out there for you.

Interested in our previous Italian Nobel Prize in Literature spotlights? Click below!

Giosué Carducci
Grazia Deledda
Luigi Pirandello
Salvatore Quasimodo

Browse the Nobel Laureate Collection

*"Eugenio Montale - Biographical". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 2 Mar 2016. Retrieved here.
** Source here.

Leah Dobrinska
Writer, editor, and lover of a good sentence, a happy ending, and the smell of books, both old and new. Enjoys reading children's lit to her daughters, home-improvement magazines with her husband, and Shakespeare by herself.


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