Papini in 1921
January 9, 1881|
|Died||July 8, 1956
|Occupation||essayist, journalist, literary critic, poet, novelist|
|Genres||prose poetry, fantasy, autobiography, travel literature, satire|
|Subjects||political philosophy, history of religion|
Early life 
Born in Florence as the son of a modest furniture retailer (and former member of Giuseppe Garibaldi's Redshirts) from Borgo degli Albizi, Papini was baptized secretly to avoid the aggressive atheism of his father and lived a rustic, lonesome childhood. At that time he had felt a strong aversion to all beliefs, to all churches, as well as to any form of servitude (which he saw as connected to religion); he also became enchanted with the impossible idea of writing an encyclopedia wherein all cultures would be summarized.
Trained as a schoolteacher, he taught for a few years after 1899, then became a librarian. The literary life attracted Papini, who founded the magazine Il Leonardo, together with Giuseppe Prezzolini, in 1903, then joined Enrico Corradini's group as co-editor of Il Regno. He started publishing short-stories and essays: in 1906, Il tragico quotidiano ("The Tragic Everyday"), in 1907 Il pilota cieco ("The Blind Pilot") and Il crepuscolo dei filosofi ("The Twilight of the Philosophers"). The latter constituted a polemic with established and diverse intellectual figures, such as Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Friedrich Nietzsche - Papini proclaimed to the death of philosophers and the demolition of thinking itself. He briefly flirted with Futurism and other violent and liberating forms of Modernism (Papini is the character in several poems of the period written by Mina Loy).
Before and during World War I 
After leaving Il Leonardo in 1907, Giovanni Papini founded Anima together with Giovanni Amendola. His Parole e sangue ("Words and Blood") essay of the period showed his fundamental atheism.
He broke off with Prezzolini, co-editor of Anima, and the paper ceased to appear. Papini founded Lacerba, published between 1913 and 1915 (right before Italy's entry into World War I). In 1912, he published his best-known work, the autobiography Un uomo finito (tr.: "The Failure").
His 1915 collection of prose poetry Cento pagine di poesia, followed by Buffonate and Maschilità, and the 1916 Stroncature - Papini faced Giovanni Boccaccio, William Shakespeare, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but also contemporaries such as Benedetto Croce and Giovanni Gentile, and less prominent disciples of Gabriele D'Annunzio. A critic wrote of him:
Giovanni Papini [...] is one of the finest minds in the Italy of today. He is an excellent representative of modernity's restless search for truth, and his work exhibits a refreshing independence founded, not like so much so-called independence upon ignorance of the past, but upon a study and understanding of it.
He published verse in 1917, grouped under the title Opera prima. In 1921, Papini announced his newly-found Roman Catholicism, publishing the international bestseller essay Storia di Cristo ("The Story of Christ"). 
Fascism and later years 
He moved towards Fascism, and his beliefs earned him a teaching position at the University of Bologna in 1935 (although his studies only qualified him for primary school teaching); the Fascist authorities confirmed Papini's "impeccable reputation" through the appointment. In 1937, Papini published the only volume of his History of Italian Literature, which he dedicated to Benito Mussolini: "to Il Duce, friend of poetry and of the poets", being awarded top positions in academia, especially in the study of Italian Renaissance. An Antisemite, he believed in an international plot of Jews, applauding the racial discrimination laws enforced by Mussolini in 1938. Papini was the vice president of the Europäische Schriftstellervereinigung (i.e. European Writers' League), which was founded by Joseph Goebbels in 1941/42. When the Fascist regime crumbled (1943), Papini entered the Franciscan convent in La Verna.
Largely discredited at the end of World War II, he was defended by the Catholic political right. His work concentrated on different subjects, including a biography of Michelangelo, while he continued to publish dark and tragic essays. He collaborated with Corriere della Sera, contributing articles that were published as a volume after his death.
According to The Spectator, NATO allegedly encouraged Papini, in 1951, to publish a fake interview with Pablo Picasso, to dramatically undercut his pro-Communist image. In 1962, the artist asked his biographer Pierre Daix, to expose the fake interview, which he did in Les Lettres Françaises.
- Un uomo finito (1912)
- Storia di Cristo (1921)
- Pane e vino (1926, poems)
- Gog (1931)
- Sant’ Agostino (1929)
- Dante vivo (1933)
- Storia della letteratura Italiana (1937)
- Italia mia (1939)
- Mostra personale (1941)
- Imitazione del padre (1942)
- Saggi sul Rinascimento (1942)
- Cielo e terra (1943)
- Santi e poeti (1947)
- Lettere agli uomini del papa Celestino VI. (1947)
- Passato remoto (1948)
- Vita di Michelangiolo nella vita del suo tempo (1949, 1951)
- Le pazzie del poeta (1950)
- Il libro nero (1952)
- Il diavolo (1953)
- Concerto fantastico (1954, stories)
- Il bel viaggio (1954, together with Enzo Palmieri)
- La spia del mondo (1955)
- L’aurora della letteratura italiana (1956)
- La felicità dell’infelice (1956)
Works in english translation 
- Four and Twenty Minds, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1922.
- The Story of Christ, Hodder and Stoughton, 1923 [Rep. as Life of Christ, Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1923].
- The Memoirs of God, The Ball Publishing Co., 1926.
- A Hymn to Intelligence, The Laboratory Press, 1928.
- A Prayer for Fools, Particularly Those we See in Art Galleries, Drawing-rooms and Theatres, The Laboratory Press, 1929.
- Laborers in the Vineyard, Longmans, Green and Co., 1930.
- Dante Vivo, The Macmillan Company, 1935.
- The Letters of Pope Celestine VI to All Mankind, E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1948.
- The Devil; Notes for Future Diabology, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1955.
- Nietzsche: An Essay, Enigma Press, 1966.
- "The Circle is Closing." In Lawrence Rainey (ed.), Futurism: An Anthology, Yale University Press, 2009.
- "Philosophy in Italy," The Monist, Vol. XIII, No. 4, July 1903.
- "What Pragmatism is Like," Popular Science Monthly, Vol. LXXI, October 1907.
- "Rudolph Eucken," The Open Court, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 5, May 1924.
Short Stories 
- "His Own Jailer," The Living Age, December 9, 1922.
- Biography partially taken from the introduction to Gog by Ettore Allodoli
- Bondanella, Peter, ed. (2001). "Papini, Giovanni (1881-1956)," Cassell Dictionary Italian Literature, Continuum International Publishing Group.
- The Failure, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1924.
- Goldberg, Isaac (1919). "The Intellectual Ferment in Post-Bellum Italy," The Bookman, Vol. L, No. 2.
- Sanctis, Sante de (1927). Religious Conversion, a Bio-Psychological Study, K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., ltd., 1927.
- "Giovanni Papini is the author of the Storia di Cristo (The Story of Christ), which marked his conversion to Catholicism. But his conversion has not checked his output, nor devitalized his art, which continued as before in the stream of Carducci. His greatest novel is Un uomo finito (A Man — Finished), one of the fundamental works of the modern fiction in Italy. Papini's influence has been immense. His proud spiritual impulses, his restless ardour, his wealth of new and provocative ideas, and his crashing judgments, have been a strong stimulus to the younger generation, and have drawn to his side, if only temporarily, even writers of real independence." — Pirandello, Luigi (1967). "Italy." In Tendencies of the Modern Novel, Books for Libraries Press, Inc.
- Beckett, Samuel (1934). Papini's Dante, Hodder and Stoughton, 1934.
- Franzese, Sergio (2004). "Giovanni Papini." In John Lachs and Robert B. Talisse, ed., American Philosophy: An Encyclopedia, Psychology Press.
- "Dichte, Dichter, tage nicht!" - Die Europäische Schriftsteller-Vereinigung in Weimar 1941-1948 by Frank-Rutger Hausmann, 2004, ISBN 3-465-03295-0, p. 210
- Michelangelo, his Life and his Era, E. P. Dutton, 1952.
- "Apology for a False Picasso 'Quote'," Life, Vol. LXVI, No. 2, January 17, 1969.
- Jorge Louis Borges, pref. a Giovanni Papini, Lo specchio che fugge, Parma-Milano, Franco Maria Ricci, 1975
Further reading 
- Colella, E. Paul (2005). "Reflex Action and the Pragmatism of Giovanni Papini," The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, New Series, Vol. 19, No. 3.
- Collins, Joseph (1920). "Giovanni Papini and the Futuristic Literary Movement in Italy." In Idling in Italy: Studies of Literature and of Life, Charles Scribner's Sons.
- Filippis, M. de (1944). "Giovanni Papini," The Modern Language Journal, Vol. 28, No. 4.
- Gironella, José María (1958). "The Death and Judgment of Giovanni Papini," Modern Age, Vol. II, No. 3.
- Giuliano, William P. (1946). "Spiritual Evolution of Giovanni Papini," Italica, Vol. 23, No. 4.
- Golino, Carlo L. (1955). "Giovanni Papini and American Pragmatism," Italica, Vol. 32, No. 1.
- James, William (1906). "G. Papini and the Pragmatist Movement in Italy," The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, Vol. 3, No. 13.
- Phelps, Ruth Shepard (1923). "The Poet in Papini," The North American Review, Vol. CCXVII, No. 811.
- Traversi, D. A. (1939). "Giovanni Papini and Italian Literature," Scrutiny, Vol. VII, No. 4.
- Waterfield, Lina (1921). "Giovanni Papini," The Living Age, No. 4016.
- Wilson, Lawrence A. (1961). "A Possible Original of Papini's Dottor Alberto Rego," Italica, Vol. 38, No. 4.
- Article on Papini at Books and Writers
- Article on Papini at Britannica Online
- A website about Giovanni Papini in Italian
- A list of Papini's books translated in English
- "Un uomo finito": website for the theater play about Giovanni Papini and John Henry Newman (in italian)