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Finding aid for the Massimo Bontempelli papers, 1865-1991
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Separation List
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Massimo Bontempelli papers
    Date (inclusive): 1865-1991
    Number: 910147
    Creator/Collector: Bontempelli, Massimo, 1878-1960
    Physical Description: 65.0 linear feet (90 boxes)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: 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.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in Italian

    Biographical/Historical Note

    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 Eva ultima.
    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; La fame; 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.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Massimo Bontempelli papers, 1865-1991, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 910147.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1991.

    Processing History

    Annette Leddy processed and described the Massimo Bontempelli papers in 1995-1996.

    Separation List

    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 library catalog  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.

    Arrangement note

    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.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Borsi, Giosuè, 1888-1915
    Carducci, Giosuè, 1835-1907

    Subjects - Topics

    Composers, Italian
    Dramatists, Italian
    Essayists, Italian
    Futurism (Literary movement)
    Magic realism (Literature)
    Novelists, Italian
    Poets, Italian

    Subjects - Titles

    900 (Rome, Italy) Battana Cavallo di Troia Comoedia (Milan, Italy) Cornhill magazine Corriere della sera (Milan, Italy) Gazzetta del popolo Lettura Rivista italiana di drammaturgia Tempo Tempo presente (Rome, Italy) Valori primordiali Volandum

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Photographic prints
    Photographs, Original
    Plaster casts
    Sound recordings


    Abba, Marta
    Arnoldo Mondadori editore
    Bompiani (Firm)
    Bontempelli, Alfonso
    Borgese, Giuseppe Antonio, 1882-1952
    Cecchi, Emilio, 1884-1966
    Cislaghi, Maria
    Falqui, Enrico, 1901-
    Frank, Nino
    Gallian, Marcello, 1902-1968
    Govoni, Corrado, 1884-1965
    Graf, A.
    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
    Petrone, Icilio
    Pirandello, Luigi, 1867-1936
    Quasimodo, Salvatore, 1901-1968
    Rea, Domenico
    Ungaretti, Giuseppe, 1888-1970
    Vittorini, Elio, 1908-1966