Fernanda Pivano

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Fernanda Pivano in 2006
Fernanda Pivano with husband Ettore Sottsass at their home in Milan, 1969

Fernanda Pivano (18 July 1917 – 18 August 2009) was an Italian writer, journalist, translator and critic.

Early life[edit]

Born in Genoa in 1917, as a teenager she moved with her family to Turin where she attended the Massimo D'Azeglio Lyceum. In 1941 she received a laurea (doctoral degree) with a thesis on Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, which earned her a prize from the Center for American Studies in Rome. In 1943 her first translation, part of the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, was published by Einaudi. In the same year she received a degree in philosophy.


In 1948, Pivano met Ernest Hemingway, resulting in an intense relationship of professional collaboration and friendship. In the following year Mondadori published her translation of A Farewell to Arms. She made her first trip to the United States in 1956. Throughout her professional life she has contributed to the diffusion of the most significant American writers in Italy, from the great icons of the Roaring Twenties, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker and William Faulkner, through the writers of the 1960s (Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti), to young writers of recent decades including Jay McInerney, Bret Easton Ellis, David Foster Wallace, Chuck Palahniuk and Jonathan Safran Foer. Pivano was also interested in African-American culture: for example she published many Italian versions of Richard Wright's books. In 1980 and again in 1984 Pivano interviewed Charles Bukowski at his home in San Pedro, California. These interviews became the basis for her book, Charles Bukowski, Laughing with the Gods first published in the USA by Sun Dog Press in 2000.

In the summer of 2001 she toured the United States to film the documentary A Farewell to Beat, written by Andrea Bempensante and directed by Luca Facchini. The movie is a celebration of the Beat Generation featuring notable American writers, including Jay McInerney, Bret Easton Ellis and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Pivano also wrote about popular music and was an admirer of Fabrizio de André and Bob Dylan. In 2006 Fernanda Pivano decided to tell once again Spoon River Anthology in the book Spoon River, ciao (Dreams Creek, 2006), where her unpublished texts describe the pictures by American photographer William Willinghton taken in the real landscapes told by Edgar Lee Masters in the Anthology.[citation needed]


Fernanda Pivano died, aged 92, in Milan on 18 August 2009.[1]

The funeral took place on 21 August in the Basilica di Carignano in Genoa. After the cremation, she was buried in the cemetery of Staglieno, Genoa.


In March 2010, Bompiani published Diari/2 edited by Enrico Rotelli with Maria Rosa Bricchi: the second volume of the biography that collects the years ranging from 1974 to 2009.


  • 1947: La balena bianca e altri miti, Mondadori.
  • 1964: America rossa e nera, Vallecchi.
  • 1972: Beat Hippie Yippie, Arcana.
  • 1976: Mostri degli Anni Venti, Formichieri.
  • 1976: C'era una volta un Beat, Arcana 1976.
  • 1971: L'altra America negli Anni Sessanta, Officine Formichieri.
  • 1982: Intervista a Bukowski, Sugar.
  • 1985: Biografia di Hemingway, Rusconi.
  • 1986: Cos'è più la virtù, Rusconi.
  • 1988: La mia kasbah, Rusconi.
  • 1955: La balena bianca e altri miti, Il Saggiatore.
  • 1996: Altri amici, Mondadori.
  • 1996: Amici scrittori, Mondadori.
  • 2001: Hemingway, Rusconi.
  • 1997: Dov'è più la virtù, Marsilio.
  • 1997: Viaggio americano, Bompiani.
  • 1997: Album americano. Dalla generazione perduta agli scrittori della realtà virtuale, Frassinelli.
  • 2000: I miei quadrifogli, Frassinelli.
  • 2000: Dopo Hemingway. Libri, arte ed emozioni d’America, Pironti.
  • 2001: Una favola, Pagine d'arte.
  • 2002: Un po' di emozioni, Fandango.
  • 2002: Mostri degli anni Venti, La Tartaruga.
  • 2002: De André il corsaro, with C. G. Romana e M. Serra, Interlinea.
  • 2004: The beat goes on, Mondadori.
  • 2006: Spoon River, ciao with pictures by William Willinghton, Dreams Creek.
  • 2006: Ho fatto una pace separata, Dreams Creek.
  • 2007: Lo scrittore americano e la ragazza perbene, Tullio Pironti Editore.
  • 2008: Complice la musica, BUR.
  • 2008: Diari (1917–1973), a cura di Enrico Rotelli con Mariarosa Bricchi, Bompiani.
  • 2010: Diari/2 (1974–2009), a cura di Enrico Rotelli con Mariarosa Bricchi, Bompiani.
  • 2010: Libero chi legge, Mondadori.
  • 2011: Leggende americane, Bompiani.

Spoon River[edit]

Her starting-step into literature was due to her request to understand the difference between original and translated texts and Cesare Pavese gave her both texts of Spoon River:

[...] "Ero una ragazza quando ho letto per la prima volta Spoon River: me l'aveva portata Cesare Pavese, una mattina che gli avevo chiesto che differenza c'è tra la letteratura americana e quella inglese".

[...] "I was just a kid when I read Spoon River for the first time: Cesare Pavese brought it to me, one morning when I had asked him what was the difference between American and English literature."


Saint Vincent Prize for Journalism (1964)
Monselice Prize for Translation (1975)
San Gerolamo Prize (1983)
Giovanni Comisso Prize for literature (1985)
Estense Prize (1998)
Art, Science and Peace Prize (2002)
Grinzane Cavour Prize (2003)
Tenco Prize (2005)
Vittorio De Sica Prize for literature (2006)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Addio a Fernanda Pivano Importò la cultura "beat"" (in Italian). Corriere della Sera. 18 August 2009. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 

External links[edit]