“The fairy of a thousand lovers”: Notes on Constantinople by Edmondo De AmicisAlberto Brambilla
De Amicis (1846–1908) is one of the most distinct Italian intellectuals, able to give a voice to the problems and aspirations of a young nation. However, historians of Italian literature consider him a “minor” author. Even so, he was also one of the best-known Italian authors abroad, confirmed by the editorial fortune of Constantinople (1877–78), a travel book written by De Amicis after a stay in the Ottoman metropolis. First published in two volumes, Constantinople was translated immediately into many languages. In 1882, an edition illustrated by the Italian painter Cesare Biseo was also printed. This version, which is also translated into various languages, will help shape the European imagination towards Istanbul, and the Orient in general. The article continues by making an explanation for the dedication present in the book, in which De Amicis says that Constantinople will be his last travel book. Indeed, Constantinople marks the transition to literature of not only consumption but also literature more engaged on the civil affairs. The essay then considers the figure of the traveling companion of De Amicis, the orientalist painter Enrico Junck, underlining his important role in Constantinople. Finally, the article focuses on a curious and unknown commemoration of De Amicis, pronounced in Constantinople by Alarico Buonaiuti. It is a valuable testimony to the profound crisis of De Amicis’ relationship with Italian culture, attacked by the Futurist revolution.
“La fata dei mille amanti”: Appunti su Costantinopoli di Edmondo De AmicisAlberto Brambilla
De Amicis (1846-1908) è uno dei più attenti intellettuali italiani, capace di dare voce ai problemi ed alle aspirazioni di una giovane nazione. Tuttavia egli è considerato dagli storici della letteratura italiana un autore ‘minore’. Eppure egli è stato anche uno degli autori italiani più noti all’estero come conferma la fortuna editoriale di Costantinopoli (1877-78), libro di viaggio scritto da De Amicis dopo un soggiorno nella metropoli. Pubblicato inizialmente in due volumi Costantinopoli fu presto tradotto in molte lingue. Nel 1882 fu stampata anche un’edizione illustrata dal pittore italiano Cesare Biseo. Tale versione, anch’essa presto tradotta in varie lingue, contribuirà a costruire l’immaginario europeo nei confronti di Istanbul e in genere dell’Oriente. L’articolo prosegue tentando una spiegazione della dedica presente nel volume, in cui De Amicis avverte che Costantinopoli sarà il suo ultimo libro di viaggio. In effetti Costantinopoli segna il passaggio ad una letteratura non solo di consumo, ma più impegnata sul piano civile. Il saggio prende poi in considerazione la figura di un compagno di viaggio di De Amicis, il pittore orientalista Enrico Junck, sottolineandone il ruolo importante all’interno di Costantinopoli. L’articolo si sofferma infine su una curiosa e sin qui sconosciuta commemorazione di De Amicis, pronunciata a Costantinopoli da Alarico Buonaiuti. Essa è una preziosa testimonianza di crisi profonda del rapporto di De Amicis con la cultura italiana, di lì a poco assalita dalla rivoluzione futurista.
The aim of this essay is to first re-evaluate the works and the figure of De Amicis (1846–1908), the author of the famous book for youngsters, Cuore (1886). He was one of the most important Italian intellectuals, able to engage personally in order to give a voice to the problems (for example, in the field of school, army, and social situations) and aspirations of a young nation. Nonetheless, De Amicis has not been given adequate critical consideration on the historical level and is still considered a minor author. However, recently some scholars shown a certain curiosity for some of his writings, “heterodox” with respect to the cliché of the sentimental author who was not well known and not well studied. In addition, he was one of the most well-known Italian authors abroad, and he is currently very studied, especially in France, where many of his works are translated. In this “European” perspective (with openings also to the American world), the analysis of the editorial fortune of Constantinople (1877– 78), a travel book written by De Amicis after a brief stay in the metropolis that occurred in 1874, is exemplary. Initially published in two volumes by the Milanese publisher Treves, the book collects the suggestions of many previous writers, in particular French ones, and therefore, it does not escape the vision that, in many ways, is partial and stereotypical of the East. De Amicis weaves a kind of dialogue with these authors, almost challenging them, but he seeks an original way of trying to involve readers in the shows and sensations in that the city, that traveling on foot everywhere, constantly raises. Constantinople was translated into many languages; it was also published in 1882 in an expensive edition, illustrated by about 200 engravings taken from the drawings of the Italian painter Cesare Biseo. Generally, these illustrations commented on the most significant passages of the book, but they also opened up unprecedented paths into the imagination of the reader, eager to see what the writing was attempting to evoke. The verbal and visual languages created an ideal synthesis that extended the semantic value of the book. The illustrated edition, also soon translated into various languages, therefore contributed to form and to confirm the European imagination of Istanbul, and in general, the Orient. A number of general studies have recently been dedicated to Constantinople. On this occasion, the article is addressed to some specific aspects, starting with an explanation of the dedication made by the author, in which De Amicis warns that Constantinople will be his last travel book. In fact, for De Amicis, Constantinople is a sort of arrival point, and a fundamental test to conquer a new conception of the relationship with travel and writing; it also marks the transition to a more engaged literature that, through various stages, will culminate with the publication of the book On the Ocean (1889), dedicated to the problem of emigration. Focusing on the content of the book, the essay takes into consideration the figure of the traveling companion of De Amicis, the orientalist painter Enrico Junck, who plays an important role in Constantinople by introducing a special sensitivity towards the environment and the landscape, enriching the palette of the writer on the color plane. De Amicis dedicates a poem, and other pages in various texts, to him, confirming the deep bond established with him. Inspired by three people thanked by De Amicis, inhabitants in the European district of Pera (which, in a sense, becomes the main observation point of the city), the article focuses on a curious and unknown commemoration of De Amicis: Il genio del cuore. Commemorando Edmondo De Amicis alla Colonia italiana di Costantinopoli (April 24, 1908); its author is Alarico Buonaiuti, the brother of the famous Ernesto Bonaiuti, one of the most important exponents of Italian modernism. The commemoration is important not only for the place in which it is pronounced but because it clearly marks a point of crisis in the relationship between De Amicis and Italian culture. Indeed, in that time, Italian culture was on the threshold of the futurist revolution that would propose a completely different way of conceiving art and literature.