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New Statue Unsettles Italian City: Is It Celebrating a Poet or a Nationalist?


Such are the passions provoked these days by d’Annunzio, whose introduction into Trieste’s Piazza della Borsa in September has anguished many local residents.

Once the cosmopolitan port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Trieste boasts a proud literary pedigree. The city is populated with statues; James Joyce, who wrote some of his masterpieces while living in Trieste, is among them, strolling across the Grand Canal on the Ponterosso bridge.

As a poet, d’Annunzio is considered among the great Italian stylists. But some residents complain that it is d’Annunzio’s politics, not his letters, that motived the initiative to place him in their city, to which he had little connection.

On Sept. 12, 1919, 100 years to the day before his statue was unveiled, d’Annunzio led his company of black-clad rebel Italian soldiers and irregulars into the city of Fiume on the Adriatic coast. The expedition, filled with unapologetic militarism, inspired Fascism and Mussolini.

For 15 months straddling 1919 and 1920, d’Annunzio ruled as a poet-soldier-dictator over the autonomous Free State of Fiume in a small patch of what is today Croatia.

Read entire article at NY Times