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Antonio Colinas

Giacomo Leopardi: preludes to an essential Romanticism URL:

Giacomo Leopardi (Recanati, 1798-Naples, 1837) is the most genuine representative of the Italian Romanticism, and one of the most outstanding of all of Europe. His work nurtures on the vigorous influence of the classics, but at the same time the literary modernity of his country sprouts from it, producing an aesthetic change, specially in the poems of his Canti (Chants), but at the same time with a revulsive thinking. He precociously began to learn from the Greek-Latin authors –his beloved antichi–, but soon, other readings from his father's rich library, his facility for languages, and his enclosed and complex life in the family palace, produced in him a mixture from where a new literary time would emerge, and precisely in a period when the history of his country is struck by foreign influences, like the French Revolution (also decisive in the life of another poet, Hölderlin), and especially the Napoleonic occupation of Italy.

Thus, beyond the value and results of his huge work in different genres (poetry, theatre, narrative, essay, journals, letters), the rich personality of Leopardi, his late travels, and his friendship with liberals of his time, express a great anxiety for freedom that filled his short life with great finds and with the frustrating and negative paths of his philosophy, with a nihilism that would explode in his essays, dialogues, and thoughts, as well as his life experiences along his last days in Naples.

A literary personality the size of Giacomo Leopardi can only be compared within the Italian Literature with the great masters that influenced him (Dante, Petrarca), as well as with other of his contemporary European poets (Novalis, Hölderlin, Keats, Shelley), who accompanied him in the huge task of bringing a new time to literature by using new words, a new light for knowledge, and through his verses, a more clear and emotional feeling.  

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