Places: The Triumph of Death

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Il trionfo della morte, 1894 (English translation, 1896)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Nineteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Rome

*Rome. Triumph of Death, TheItaly’s capital city, in which the novel begins with lovers Giorgio and Ippolita meeting for the first time in the Via del Babuino. The city is immediately established as a point of departure; the story then hurries on to a point, two years after their first meeting, when they are consulting a Baedeker travel guide for inspiration. No sooner have they left the city, however, than they begin to immerse themselves in their memories of it. It becomes part and parcel of their existential predicament that wherever they are, they will soon yearn to be elsewhere. They find it hard to select a destination, and in the early phases of the novel they are often sidetracked. There is a sense in which Rome remains the center of their conceptual universe no matter where they are, but they cannot be content to remain or return there. Perhaps, for Giorgio at least, Rome is symbolic of life itself; he finds it impossible to leave the city in any meaningful sense, even though he does not want to be there.

Villa Cesarini

Villa Cesarini. House in Albano, not far from Lake Nemi, at which Giorgio and Ippolita stay while on their first excursion. Their mail catches up with them there, bringing them news from other places, renewing their restlessness and drawing them back to Rome.

*Guardiagrele

*Guardiagrele (gwahr-dyah-GRAY-lay). Town in Chieti Province in which Giorgio was born and where various members of his divided family still live. He returns there in response to a call of duty, while Ippolita visits her own family in Milan. Guardiagrele lies on the lower slopes of the Majella mountain, overlooking the valley of the river Foro. The cold remoteness of the surrounding peaks underscores Giorgio’s alienation from various members of his family and the world.

Hermitage

Hermitage. House at San Vito on Italy’s Adriatic coastline, situated on a plateau that rises precipitately above the sea. Vasto Point, Mount Gargano, and the Treniti Islands are visible in one direction, Cape Moro and Cape Ortona in the other. Giorgio rents the house in order to begin a “new life” with Ippolita. When the life in question proves unsatisfactory, the promontory that extends from the plateau provides the launching pad from which Giorgio and Ippolita leap to their deaths.

The changing aspects of the distant city of Ortona–brilliantly white at first, but bathed, when the lovers look in that direction for the last time, in the gaudily problematic light of a fireworks display–mirror some of the extremes of Giorgio’s moods. The Hermitage does provide a temporary haven from the lovers’ existential malaise, but they find it hard to accommodate themselves to local ways. Giorgio becomes briefly fascinated with the local fishermen of the Trabocco and allows himself to be lulled into a stupor by the stifling warmth of the climate, but the respite thus gained cannot last. The addition of a piano to the house’s sparse facilities provides a further measure of relief, but the echoes of Richard Wagner’s music that it enables the lovers to conjure up only serve to feed Giorgio’s malaise.

*Castalbordino

*Castalbordino. Site of a shrine in the province of L’Aquila at which the Virgin Mary is supposed to have appeared in 1527. When Giorgio and Ippolita visit in the course of an excursion from the Hermitage, they discover a vast crowd in which the maimed, the mad, and the miserable jostle one another, competing for space with animalistic fervor as they implore the Virgin Mary (the Madonna) to grant them release from their suffering. This spectacle raises Giorgio’s distaste for the world and its ways to a new intensity.

BibliographyJullian, Philippe. D’Annunzio. Translated by Stephen Hardman. London: Pall Mall Press, 1972. A comprehensive study of the man and his works. The Triumph of Death is discussed in chapter 5.Klopp, Charles. Gabriele D’Annunzio. Boston: Twayne, 1988. A compact but thorough study of the man and his works.Praz, Mario. The Romantic Agony. Translated by Angus Davidson. New York: Oxford University Press, 1933. This classic study of Romanticism and Decadence makes abundant reference to D’Annunzio. Section 24 of chapter 4 considers Ippolita as a femme fatale.Rhodes, Anthony. The Poet as Superman: A Life of Gabriele D’Annunzio. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1959. A biography with some critical discussion. The Triumph of Death is discussed.
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