D`Annunzio, Gabriele (b. March 12, 1863, Pescara, Italy--d. March 1, 1938, Gardone Riviera, on Lake Garda)
Italian poet, novelist, dramatist, short-story writer, journalist, military hero, and political leader, the leading writer of Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
D'Annunzio was educated at the University of Rome. When he was 16 his first poems, Primo vere (1879; "In Early Spring"), were published. The poems in Canto novo (1882; "New Song") had more individuality and were full of exuberance and passionate, sensuous descriptions. The autobiographical novel Il piacere (1898; The Child of Pleasure) introduced the first of D'Annunzio's many passionate Nietzschean-Superman heroes; another appeared in L'innocente (1892; The Intruder). D'Annunzio had already become famous by the time his best-known novel, Il trionfo della morte (1894; The Triumph of Death), appeared. It and his next major novel, Le vergini delle rocce (1896; The Maidens of the Rocks), featured viciously self-seeking and thoroughly amoral Nietzschean heroes.
D'Annunzio continued his prodigious literary production until World War I. His most important work in poetry was the lyrical collection Laudi del cielo del mare della terra e degli eroi (1899; "In Praise of Sky, Sea, Earth, and Heroes"). The third book in this poetic series, Alcyone (1904), a re-creation of the smells, tastes, sounds, and experiences of a Tuscan summer, is considered by many his greatest poetic work.
In 1894 D'Annunzio began a long liaison with the actress Eleonora Duse, and he wrote several plays for her, notably the tragedies La Gioconda (performed 1899) and Francesca da Rimini (performed 1901). He eventually broke off the relationship and exposed their intimacy in the erotic novel Il fuoco (1900; The Flame of Life). D'Annunzio's greatest play was La figlia di Iorio (performed 1904; The Daughter of Jorio), a powerful poetic drama of the fears and superstitions of Abruzzi peasants.
New plays and a novel followed, but these failed to finance D'Annunzio's extravagant lifestyle, and his indebtedness forced him to flee to France in 1910. When World War I broke out, he returned to Italy to passionately urge his country's entry into the war. After Italy declared war he plunged into the fighting himself.
In 1919 D'Annunzio and about 300 supporters, in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles, occupied the Dalmatian port of Fiume (Rijeka in present-day Croatia), which D'Annunzio believed rightly belonged to Italy. D'Annunzio ruled Fiume as dictator until December 1920, at which time Italian military forces compelled him to abdicate his rule. The port became Italian in 1924. D'Annunzio subsequently became an ardent fascist, but he exercised no further influence on Italian politics.
D'Annunzio's colorful life made him one of the most striking personalities of his day. His literary works are marked by their egocentric perspective, their fluent and melodious style, and an overriding emphasis on sensual gratification.