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  • D’Annunzio and PR May 30, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback


    Gabrielle d’Annunzio was one of the most ghastly men to have walked the earth and, yet, he was unquestionably a genius, ‘a talented shit’. He dominated Italy’s literary scene for a half a century and packed more into his lifetime than most of us would manage in ten: a random line from his biography ‘fell out of a window while high on cocaine after fondling his mistress’ sister’, or was it his sister’s mistress… d’Annunzio constantly played the spontaneous libertine, but really his life was – and of how many geniuses this is true – an act of lurid calculation. Particularly interesting was his use of the press to further his various dubious causes. An anecdote that is worth a thousand words is the fact that on arriving with his army in Fiume (the lost Italian town), he refused to enter before the camera crew had caught up. There are though other more dramatic examples.

    In 1881 he tipped off the press that he had died. The passing of a talented young poet was much discussed and when he emerged from the shades D’Annunzio was that little bit more famous.

    In 1884 he and Sommaruga (his publisher) had a very public row in the newspapers about an ‘indecent’ image on D’Annunzio’s latest book. This too, it has been often suggested convincingly, was contrived. The proof is that D’Annunzio objected to the indecency of the picture: the artist being the public embodiment of indecency this was hardly likely to have reflected his real views. One critic claimed that D’Annunzio’s work ‘smelt of sperm’, which says it all. D’Annunzio duelled with Scarfoglio over a parody of D’Annunzio’s work published in a national paper. Neither party were injured and even at the time there was the suspicion that the whole thing had been set up. The men were friends and their friendship seems not to have been damaged by the ‘scrap’.

    When the Mona Lisa was stolen, in 1911, D’Annunzio pretended (to the press) that he was somehow involved in the heist or that he had special information about the painting’s location.

    These are just some choice samples. Perhaps the worst act though of self-publicity came in June 1883 when he absconded with an unmarried woman Maria di Gallese (already pregnant with his child) from Rome to Florence. D’Annunzio’s flight took place with the press throughout the country being suspiciously well informed. We can suppose, given his life long record, that he had himself tipped off the journos. Certainly this is what his latest biographer Lucy Hughes suggests. And why should it matter? In 1883 a woman’s reputation was like crystal glass. It is one thing that the dreadful D’Annunzio put a bun in MdG’s oven, it is another thing him telling the world what he had done.

    D’Annunzio in fact proved a genius in his manipulation of the press: that the John the Baptist of Fascism knew  the erogenous zones of the media tells you everything you need to know about the philosophy of might and fight that D’Annunzio was ushering in.

    Other PR stars: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com