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Italo Svevo

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posted on 2023-06-19, 14:53 authored by Dirk Van HulleDirk Van Hulle
Italo Svevo

Triestine novelist, dramatist and industrialist who published under the pseudonym Italo Svevo. His friendship with JJ was one of the most significant literary relationships of the 20th century.

Italo Svevo was born into a middle class Jewish family in Trieste on 19 December 1861. His early education was in the local rabbinical school, followed by three years at a Jewish boarding school in Segnitz, Bavaria. Svevo's first ambition was to be a dramatist, but in 1880 his father's declining fortunes led him to accept a job at the Union Bank in Trieste, a position he would maintain for nearly 20 years. During this period, he contributed articles and criticism to L'Indipendente, a local newspaper, which also published his first short stories. In 1892, he published his first novel, Una Vita, under the name of Italo Svevo. The novel was based on his experiences at the Union Bank and was influenced by Schopenhauer's pessimism and French naturalism. In 1896 he married his cousin, Livia Veneziani, in a civil ceremony. In 1897, Svevo converted to Catholicism, and he and Livia remarried within the Church. In 1898, he published his second novel, Senilità , based on his tormented love affair with a young Slovene woman, Giuseppina Zergol. After his marriage, Svevo's life changed radically. He entered the family's marine paint business, which required him to spend long periods away from Trieste in order to manage the factories in Charlton (London) and Murano (Venice). To improve his English, he began taking lessons with JJ, probably in mid-1907. Svevo gave JJ his novels to read, and when the Irishman expressed his admiration for Senilità , the Triestine was inspired to begin writing again after a long hiatus. In 1923, Svevo published La Coscienza di Zeno, a novel influenced by psychoanalysis and based on the author's dependency on tobacco. JJ, now living in Paris, pronounced it Svevo's best work and was instrumental in promoting the novel among French critics. The reception in France led to Svevo's discovery by a new generation of Italian writers. In 1926, the Paris PEN club hosted a dinner in his honour, confirming his reputation as one of Italy's leading contemporary novelists. In March 1927, Svevo gave an important early lecture on JJ and Ulysses at a conference hosted by Il Convegno in Milan. Italo Svevo died on 13 September 1928, following an automobile accident. Erik Schneider


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Italo Svevo



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Aron Ettore Schmitz (Italo Svevo)


husband of Schmitz, Livia

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