Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Massimo Bontempelli papers
Date (inclusive): 1865-1991
Bontempelli, Massimo, 1878-1960
65.0 linear feet
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
This collection details the creative output and life story of Italian writer and composer Massimo Bontempelli (1878-1960)
through extensive correspondence and photographs (bulk 1920-1960), manuscripts, typescripts, drafts, clippings, and other
media, a fair representation of his novels, plays, short stories, essays, lectures, reviews, and musical compositions, as
well as documents about his personal relationships. It also contains papers of Giosuè Borsi, and Paola Masino.
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Language: Collection material is in
Massimo Bontempelli was born in 1878, the son of a railroad engineer whose work obliged the family to move frequently. He
attended secondary school in Milan and university in Turin, where he graduated in both philosophy and letters. After teaching
elementary school for a number of years and failing to win a position teaching Italian in secondary school, he turned to magazine
editing in 1910. During WWI he was a war correspondent, reporting from the front, and then an artillery official (1917-1918).
While teaching elementary school, Bontempelli wrote poetry, stories and plays, producing a new volume every year or two, as
he would continue to do for most of his career. After the war he returned to Milan, where he came into contact with the avant-garde
and consequently reinvented himself, refuting his previous work and the late 19th century style that had characterized it.
At forty years of age, he began editing futurist magazines and writing plays and stories that portrayed bizarre psychological
conditions and uncanny situations. Along with the futurists, Pirandello, with whom Bontempelli was close friends, influenced
work such as
La vita intensa,
La scacchiera davanti allo specchio, and
In 1926, Bontempelli and Malaparte started the journal
'900, Cahiers d'Italie et d'Europe, which was edited by an international group and which served as a venue for such writers as James Joyce, Virigina Woolf,
and Blaise Cendrars. In
'900 Bontempelli found a forum for his cultural theory, Novecentismo, which posited three stages in human civilization: the first,
the classical period, ended with the coming of Christ; the second, the romantic, began with the Sermon on the Mount and ended
with WWI; the third, both anti-classical and anti-romantic, was just beginning and would demand the complete political and
cultural renewal that Fascism proposed. Bontempelli believed that the role of the writer within the new order should be that
of mythographer, the producer of myths and fables for mass society. But while writers should employ "magic realism" to inspire
readers to acceptance of the new order, they should not submit to control or censorship of their imaginations.
Bontempelli was the national secretary of the fascist writers' union from 1927-1928; in 1930 he became a member of the Academy
of Italy. Until the late 1930s he served, along with his companion Paola Masino, as a cultural liason and propagandist for
the fascist regime abroad, lecturing frequently on Italian cultural figures. During this period he also produced his "mature"
novels and plays (
Il figlio di due madri;
Vita e morte di Adria e i suoi figli;
Nembo) written according to his theories, and became one of the best-selling authors in Italy. In 1938 he came into conflict with
the regime over his refusal of a university chair vacated due to application of racial laws. He was expelled from the party
and suspended from literary activity for one year. Reinstated, he began writing a popular column for
Tempo, entitled "Colloqui," which ran until 1943.
After WWII, Bontempelli aligned himself with the political left and ran for senator. He won, but the Senate nullified his
election because of his fascist past. During the 1950s his health declined along with his literary reputation, despite the
publication of a collection of essays on music and one of previously published stories,
L'amante fedele, which won the 1953 Strega prize. He died in 1960.
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Massimo Bontempelli papers, 1865-1991, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 910147.
Annette Leddy processed and described the Massimo Bontempelli papers in 1995-1996.
Related material can be found in the library's general collection, including 28 theses and three books that were separated
from the archive. To find the related material, search the
for the source collection "Bontempelli Material."
Scope and Content of Collection
The bulk of the Massimo Bontempelli Papers are from 1920-1960, the four decades of Bontempelli's greatest prominence and productivity.
There are, however, selected manuscripts from before his conversion to the avant-garde, including several plays, a WWI novel,
and his university thesis on the problem of free will. There is also a substantial amount of familial correspondence and a
small amount of correspondence with Pirandello (5 letters) from the years when they were both school teachers. Photographs
and clippings help to fill in the collection's otherwise sketchy portrait of the first half of Bontempelli's life.
The collection also contains a small archive of Giosuè Borsi papers, and another of Paola Masino papers.
The collection extensively documents, through correspondence and photographs, Bontempelli's most important personal experiences
after 1920, including his love affair with the French painter Mariette Lydis and his relationship with the writer Paola Masino,
who remained his companion for the rest of his life. The writers and editors with whom he was closely associated are also
represented in the correspondence series.
There are handwritten or corrected typewritten drafts of four of Bontempelli's mature novels and selections from four short
story collections; novels from the early 1920s are not in the collection, and there is no poetry. There are handwritten and/or
corrected typewritten drafts of all plays except
Guardia all luna, many of the essays or lectures eventually collected in
Introduzioni e discorsi and
Passione incompiuta, his major translations, and numerous musical scores. A number of Bontempelli's stories, plays or reviews are featured in
the collection's serials, while the clippings offer comprehensive coverage of his life and times.
Media in the collection include manuscripts, photographs, sculpture, an audio tape, an LP recording, serials, and clippings.
Books and theses on Bontempelli were separated from the collection and are now housed in the Getty Research Institute Library.
The collection is organized into 9 series:
Series I. Correspondence, ca. 1871-1990, undated;
Series II. Manuscripts, 1904-1959, undated;
Series III. Personal, ca. 1860s-1959, undated;
Series IV. Manuscripts by others, 1940s-1986, undated;
Series V. Giosuè Borsi papers, 1915-1920, undated;
Series VI. Paola Masino papers, 1956-1982, undated;
Series VII. Photographs, drawings and sculpture, 1800s-1980;
Series VIII. Serials, 1904-1986, undated;
Series IX. Newspaper clippings, 1889-1991.
Subjects - Names
Borsi, Giosuè, 1888-1915
Carducci, Giosuè, 1835-1907
Subjects - Topics
Futurism (Literary movement)
Magic realism (Literature)
Subjects - Titles
900 (Rome, Italy)
Cavallo di Troia
Comoedia (Milan, Italy)
Corriere della sera (Milan, Italy)
Gazzetta del popolo
Rivista italiana di drammaturgia
Tempo presente (Rome, Italy)
Genres and Forms of Material
Arnoldo Mondadori editore
Borgese, Giuseppe Antonio, 1882-1952
Cecchi, Emilio, 1884-1966
Falqui, Enrico, 1901-
Gallian, Marcello, 1902-1968
Govoni, Corrado, 1884-1965
Jacob, Max, 1876-1944
Lydis, Mariette, 1894-1970
Malaparte, Curzio, 1898-1957
Malipiero, Gian Francesco, 1882-1973
Malipiero, Riccardo, 1914-2003
Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso, 1876-1944
Masino, Paola, 1908-1989
Moravia, Alberto, 1907-1990
Negri , Ada, 1870-1945
Ojetti, Ugo, 1871-1946
Ortese, Anna Maria
Panzini, Alfredo, 1863-1939
Pirandello, Luigi, 1867-1936
Quasimodo, Salvatore, 1901-1968
Ungaretti, Giuseppe, 1888-1970
Vittorini, Elio, 1908-1966