Malombra, 1881 (The Woman, 1896)
Daniele Cortis, 1885 (English translation, 1887)
Il mistero del poeta, 1888 (The Poet’s Mystery, 1903)
Piccolo mondo antico, 1896 (The Patriot, 1907)
Piccolo mondo Moderno, 1900 (The Man of the World, 1907)
Il Santo, 1905 (The Saint, 1906)
Leila, 1910 (English translation, 1910)
Racconti brevi, 1894
Scene, pb. 1903
Valsolda, 1876, expanded 1886
Ascensioni umane, 1899
Carteggio: 1885-1910, 2000
Antonio Fogazzaro (foh-gaht-TSAH-roh) was born of devout Catholic parents and grew up in a moral climate that influenced him to varying degrees throughout his life. He was first educated to the law at Turin and Milan; however, he made a poor clerk and later declared that he would have preferred death to the legal profession. Instead, he turned to literature. His poetic romance Miranda, published at his father’s expense in 1874, justly received little favorable notice, however, and Valsolda, a collection of lyrics, showed even less promise. Fogazzaro’s religious faith had earlier left him; now he saw his literary hopes dying. Then one November day in the Euganean hills his belief flooded back, giving him a new sense of confidence and of dedication.
Shortly after, at thirty-nine, Fogazzaro published his first novel, Malombra, in which he sounded what became a major theme in all his work, the attempt of a man with a passionate nature to lead the religious life. The novel was well received, and from this time Fogazzaro’s career was determined.
Next came Daniele Cortis, which was even more enthusiastically reviewed. The story concerns two characters, Daniele and Elena, who are in love, though she is married to a worthless husband. Ultimately they mutually agree, on moral grounds, no longer to see each other or even to correspond. The renunciation, judging by Fogazzaro’s letters, parallels one in his own life at that time, and it reveals very clearly his lifelong concern with the effects of belief on conduct.
In the following years Fogazzaro published Fedele, a collection of tales; The Mystery of the Poet; and some lectures on Darwinian evolution. These last reflect his interest as a follower of Rosmini, a liberal churchman, in a vital regard for ideas from the position of intellectual Catholicism. These studies occasioned a good deal of comment, and in some quarters Fogazzaro began to be examined for heresy.
In 1895 Fogazzaro finished The Patriot, a novel dealing with the Risorgimento, in which, according to Fogazzaro, he intended to “show the different effects of suffering on people whose mental attitudes differ.” It was the first of three novels of a family chronicle. Particularly notable in The Patriot is the idealized portrait of Franco Maironi (based on Fogazzaro’s memory of his father), who through faith in Catholicism finds strength to endure suffering. The second in the trilogy, The Man of the World, takes for its hero Piero, the son of Franco; again the autobiographical implications are clear, and once more the hero is made to accept the moral responsibilities of marriage and to deny himself an adulterous love. The trilogy is completed in The Saint, often considered Fogazzaro’s best single work, in which Piero becomes a monk and takes the name Benedetto. The novel is characterized by its cry for reform within the Church and its emphasis on good deeds, precisely the positions that caused it to be placed on the Index.
Fogazzaro submitted to this decree, and with Leila he made peace with his religion. Soon after, a serious operation on his liver became necessary; three days after his operation he was given extreme unction and died at his villa near Vicenza. He left behind him a reputation that placed him only second to Alessandro Manzoni among nineteenth century Italian novelists.