Atlas Obscura brings us a tale of sex, poetry and fascism with the story of Gabriele d’Annunzio. Read on, True Believers:
It can be hard to reconcile the incredible charisma of Hitler written about in history books with recordings of his speeches in which he looks like a madman. Some might conclude that perhaps Germans didn’t notice how off-putting he was because his style of declamation was widely used at the time and has simply fallen out of fashion.
But Hitler’s speeches weren’t normal or spontaneous. Neither were Mussolini’s. Both of them were to a large extent imitating one man: an Italian poet named Gabriele d’Annunzio, who lived between 1863 and 1938. He was a war hero and famous libertine, and he essentially invented Fascism as an art project because he felt representative democracy was bourgeois and lacked a romantic dramatic arc.
D’Annunzio was a thrill-seeking megalomaniac best described as a cross between the Marquis de Sade, Aaron Burr, Ayn Rand, and Madonna. He was wildly popular. And he wasn’t like anyone who came before him.
“You must create your life, as you’d create a work of art. It’s necessary that the life of an intellectual be artwork with him as the subject. True superiority is all here. At all costs, you must preserve liberty, to the point of intoxication,” d’Annunzio writes in Il Piacere, an ambiguously autobiographical novel published in 1889. “The rule for an intellectual is this: own, don’t be owned.”Italian cultural histories say d’Annunzio brought Italy into the 20th century. More accurately, he introduced Italy to nihilism. He glorified a world of the senses, pleasure and beauty at all cost. (Conveniently, these costs were often fronted by other people. He was continually bankrupt.)
He proposed an ethic of intense feeling, decadent and proto-Futurist: sex and violence, even if they hurt people, were ultimately good because they were beautiful and sensational—the more baroque, the better.
Read more, budding poets.
Probably more deserving of the title Polymath than anyone from either the 20th or 21st centuries (or the 25th for that matter). Best known for his work fronting the Brutal Swedish Black Metal From Sweden Black Metal Band, Traumatic Insemination, and their chart destroying metal hit 'Transvaginal Mosh' not to mention the Alt-country crossover smash, 'Hellbound and Down'. Currently in the studio working on their 13th album, a rock opera based on the 1974 Sean Connery blockbuster 'Zardoz' tentatively titled ' Exterminate the Brutals (Penises everywhere)'. Author of the seminal work on Internet Bios and Resume Writing, 'Imaginary Triumphs of the Will'. First person to solve a LeMarchand's Cube in less than a minute. He is currently working on his PHA* in Medieval Metaphysics at Miskatonic University Online.
*Pretty Helly Awesome.