An analogous itinerary carried out almost underground by the narrators is realized only after the war and as a result of the European resonance of the works of M. Proust and J. Joyce. With Italy Svevo (pseudonym of the writer Ettore Schmitz), the novel reaches the more frankly anti-naturalist results of Zeno’s Conscience (1923). With L. Pirandello, already in Il fu Mattia Pascal (1904), even before reaching the major results of dramaturgical production, that kind of didactic reduction of representation that justifies the impulse to tell is happily inaugurated. On the other hand, it is a darkly visionary genius with which F. Tozzi re-proposes a still nineteenth-century image of country or petty-bourgeois fiction.
Narrator from a different culture is R. Bacchelli, a writer who alienation from the logic of modernism and the refusal of fashions will push us to return to the historical novel like Rovani and Nievo, inserting himself into the most extrinsic traditionalism of the Ronda, a magazine that actually cultivates a more conciliatory than dryly restorative project. Even the bitter controversy of the one who is its main animator, V. Cardarelli, cannot hide the fact that he thinks of a return to the classics nourished by very modern reasons and in any case aimed at the recovery and if anything at the normalization of the experiences of the immediately preceding poetry. Alongside Cardarellian poetry and its lesson in formal rigor, a prose production by Cardarelli himself, as well as by E. Cecchi, A. Baldini, B. Barilli proliferates.
The First World War and the postwar period, with the coming to power of Fascism, constitute a dramatic interruption of the cultural debate. When intellectuals resume arguing, they are faced with a choice without the possibility of compromise: with literature they choose to turn back to the private and to tradition; with politics they are forced to give up the complexity of a research that has just begun, abandoning, among other things, to the regime the reflection on social communication together with its exercise. This obviously does not concern the political and editorial initiatives of P. Gobetti and the theoretical work conducted above all in prison by A. Gramsci, founder of the Communist Party and inspirer of the Turin Works Councils, which initiates a critical revision of Crociano historicism destined to dominate the post-World War II scene. In G. Ungaretti, to the clarity of the stylistic formula of the first works (The buried port, 1916, then merged into Allegria di naufragi, 1919), follows a work of rethinking and reorganization, if not of restoration, in the light of the Petrarchian tradition, with the discovery of the reasons for classical poetry in its own and the consequent mutual redemption (Sentiment of time, 1933). From this position of strength, not Ungaretti but the poets of Hermeticism will be able to perfectly close the circle of pure poetry.
Programmatically less heroic, E. Montale’s work begins (Ossi di seppia, 1925) making use of Gozzano’s example, even beyond the strident juxtaposition of courtly and prosaic. Poetry stages, with the insufficiency of language, that of thought, resigning itself to exhibiting the fetish-objects beyond which it is unable to go and through which it only fails to mean improperly. The poetics of the objective correlative, as the ossification of the symbol into an ‘amulet’ is called with a definition borrowed from TS Eliot, and the allegorical temptation will provide repeaters, and Montale minor himself, with a repertoire of objects and topical situations.
The poetry of U. Saba, a central figure of Trieste (and not only) culture of the twentieth century, is also of a classical dimension, whose poetic itinerary unfolds in a passage from a crepuscular criticism against D’Annunzio’s rhetoric, to a season of avant-garde enthusiasm lived polemically, in a paradoxical anti-literary classicism, inspired by nineteenth-century models.
The hermetic season, of which C. Bo is the theorist, G. Contini the best critic, S. Quasimodo the most representative poet, corresponds in its generality to a further consolidation of the tradition of the new. A language is born, as pure poetry, in which the communicative sense of the gesture and the figure has been lost, but not their distinctive character, which only becomes more and more intellectualized. The initiatory closure of hermetic poetry has been interpreted as a polemical response to fascism. For their part, writers who take up the age-old theme of the de-provincialization of Italian culture react to fascism, always in purely literary terms but with a more immediate capacity for provocation. Better than the Hermetics, with their addiction to the French literary debate, and the magazine 900 by M. Bontempelli, advocate of an internationalism that is too tied to the avant-garde, the collaborators of Solaria (directed since 1926 by A. Carocci and A. Bonsanti), a magazine that promotes the beginnings of E. Vittorini and CE Gadda, behave.
The writer who gives a decisive turning point to the Italian novel, however, moves from other presuppositions. With Gli indifferenti (1929), the first of a long series of successful works, A. Moravia proposes an updated realism on post-war sensibility. By elevating his obsessive fantasies of degradation to represent the average Italian society, Moravia manages to overcome the limits of fiction, brings to the fore the manias and authentic vices of modern times, and makes their condemnation even more persuasive, showing how they are often the fruit of a play from which the author himself cannot escape.
In any case, the novel is the most effective vehicle for the de-provincialization of our literary culture between the two wars. In addition to Moravia’s fantasy of realism and Bontempelli’s real ‘fantastic realism’, to which A. Savinio and T. Landolfi are associated, there is the experimental attention for topicality by C. Pavese and E. Vittorini, who turn to imported techniques, especially American, practicing them in the sense of a lyrical restoration of the subject and therefore a revival of an unscrupulous problematic nature of the story.