of his work has by now cancelled out any such image : next to that "musical"
strength which seems to sweep away words and things like a wind, emerges
a vast and deep cultural network, which is solidly anchored in the most
motivated and aware twentieth century literature. If we really must superimpose
a figure on the author of "Canti Orfici", it is that of "traveller",
Campana was born on 20th August 1885 at Marradi, in Romagna "Tuscany".
He studied classics at the Faenza high school, then in Torino passed his
final exams. The escapes, the intolerance soon began. In 1903 he registered
at the chemistry faculty in "Bologna" ; then he transferred
to Firenze until 1907, and then again to Bologna. "I couldn't study
chemistry at all" he confessed, "I wrote a little, I played
the piano a little". In 1906 he was committed in the mental hospital
at Imola ; in May of the next year he interrupted his studies and fled
towards Paris. It was in this period that he probably started his literary
activity, with texts inserted in the manuscript known as "Quaderno"
(Notebook [published posthumously, in 1942]).
One of the fundamental experiences in the Campana biography, the journey
in the "New World", in Argentina, can be dated between 1907
and 1908. Starting as one of the "peones de via" destined to
work on the railway construction, he soon found himself taking on various
jobs : pianist in a Buenos Aires brothel, policeman, fireman, working
in an iron forgery. Certain important texts are connected to this period
of living as a "free man", among the most suggestive is perhaps
the prose entitled "Pampa".
In 1909 Campana came back to Europe. The traces of his "passage "
are mostly tied to the places of detention or cure : Firenze (San Salvi
asylum, April 1909), Livorno (hospital, September), Paris ("cleaned
windows in order to eat"), even Brussels (Saint Gilles prison, December)
and then Tournay (asylum, February 1910). This last experience is described
in the prose "Il Russo" (The Russian). Towards the middle of
1910 Campana was repatriated. In September-October of that year it is
presumed that he resumed the pilgrimage from Marradi to Verna : it is
on this occasion that he drew up the "Diario di Viaggio" (Journey
Diary) upon which we have based our walk.
|“He came from far away. His clothes were stagnant with
terrestrial smells, of Mediterranean sun, of mountain rains, of nights
sleeping in barns and holds” (Luigi Fallacara, Memory of
It is not easy to extract Campana from the stereotype of "unique
Italian poeta maudit", always poised between expressive fury
In 1912-13 Campana again tried to study chemistry at Bologna ; there
he published his first texts in two university magazines. After a brief
stay in Genoa he returned to "his mountains" and organised part
of his works into a book called "Il Più Lungo Giorno"
("The Longest Day"). At the end of 1913 he presented himself,
with his manuscript under his arm, to the two principle moving forces
of Florentine culture of that time, Papini and Soffici. The events following,
as is known, have for years built up the "myth" Campana : the
two founders of "Lacerba" not only did not publish, but they
lost the manuscript ("the only justification for my existence")
; after futile requests to Papini and Soffici, Campana rewrote his book
in a few months, according to his word "from memory", finally
publishing it in 1914 under the title of "Canti Orfici" (Songs
of Ophic) with the printer Bruno Ravagli from Marradi. It was only natural
that the curiosity and regret for the lost manuscript increased, until
its rediscovery in 1971 among papers belonging to Soffici. With surprise
and "delusion" it was immediately apparent, other than being
shorter, the text of the Longest Day coincided for the most part with
that of the Songs : Campana used the same paper for the rewrite that he
used for the lost autograph (the whole matter is reproduced by Vallecchi
in his 1990 criticism of the "Canti Orfici"). Indeed, certain
more typical aspects and topics of Campana's poetry - the word treated
like "music", the theme of the journey and the everlasting return,
the sordid images side by side with fleeting fanciful visions - only in
the1914 texts appear complete and developed.
In the summer of that year Campana reappeared in Firenze. A partly
anecdotical image portrays his intent to sell the "Canti" (Songs)
at the Florentine literary gatherings, tearing out, depending on the purchaser,
the pages considered "not meritable". In 1915 he is in Switzerland
again. With Italy's intervention in the war he returns to his homeland
to enrol voluntarily, but he is rejected and once again admitted to a
private sanatorium. In this period some of his texts, the last, appear
in magazines, while he tries invain to publish an enhanced edition of
the book. In the summer of 1916, he meets Sibilla Aleramo, which whom
he has an intense and impossible love affair. More moves : Sardegna, Torino,
the prison at Novara. But the force to continue to write is consumed.
In January 1918, Campana is rejected definitively and committed in the
mental hospital at Castel Pulci near Firenze, where he remained for fourteen
years until his death (1st March 1932).
The only news during this period came from the accounts of the disarming
"interviews" with which an obtuse psychiatrist, Carlo Pariani,
interrupted his silence (published in 1938). With equal obtusity today
it is thought, for a belated ostentation and electoral gratitude, to transfer
his remains to Marradi, removing them from the peaceful Church at Badia
a Settimo, where they had reposed since 1942.
So, Campana, poet and "wayfarer". Pilgrim who noted down in
a particular "journey diary" a long walk from Marradi to Verna,
creating a kind of extraordinary "excursion guide". To Climb
the mountains between Romagna and Toscana accompanied by his verses is
like reliving the experience of the poet, seeing again the countryside,
the hamlets, the mountains he described and the people he met. It is on
this basis that the proposed itinerary is constructed, following above
all a fundamental principle of using, whenever possible, those roads which,
at the beginning of the century, where the only, or best connections between
the locations passed through by Campana. In fact, along these roads it
is often easy to find that which impressed the poet, pushing him to record
it in his "diary".