Manlio Sgalambro

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Manlio Sgalambro (Italian pronunciation: [ˈmanljo zɡaˈlambro]; 9 December 1924 – 6 March 2014) was an Italian philosopher and writer, born in Lentini.[1]


Birth and death are the two uniquely real moments. The rest is dream, interrupted by some insignificant flashes of vigil.

— Manlio Sgalambro, Aria di Federico (from Il cavaliere dell'intelletto)

Philosophical production[edit]

Sgalambro did not have titles or degrees for business cards: how he became a writer of philosophy – whose books are translated into French, German and Spanish – is a mystery that he was not able to explain.

Beginning In 1945 he worked jointly with the review Prisma (directed by Leonardo Grassi): the first writing is Paralipomeni all'irrazionalismo.

In 1947 he matriculated at the University of Catania:

I did not matriculate into Philosophy because I studied it by myself. I liked penal law and so I chose the faculty of Jurisprudence.[2]

— Manlio Sgalambro

From 1959 on along with Sebastiano Addamo, he wrote for the magazine Incidenze (founded by Antonio Corsano). His first article for the journal was Crepuscolo e notte (that has been printed again in 2011). In the intervening period of time, he wrote for the journal Tempo presente (directed by Nicola Chiaromonte and Ignazio Silone).

In 1963, at the age of 39, he got married. The incomes coming from the citruses (heredited from his father) was not enough anymore, so he chose to integrate it by do a thesis for a degree and teaching at school.

In the late 1970s he to organize his thoughts in systematic work. Then at the age of 55, he sent his first book, La morte del sole, to the editor Adelphi:

And it rested there for two years. But since I am done in this way, I did not ask anything. Then my wife received a call. They asked me to go to Milan, to forge contact with the editor.[3]

— Manlio Sgalambro

In the following years, with the same editor, he published: Trattato dell'empietà, Anatol, Del pensare breve, Dialogo teologico, Dell'indifferenza in materia di società, La consolazione, Trattato dell'età, De mundo pessimo and La conoscenza del peggio e Del delitto.

In the meanwhile, in the early 1990s, with some friends he established a small editorial activity in Catania: De Martinis. On the inside, Sgalambro managed pamphlets, publishing a pair of works (Dialogo sul comunismo and Contro la musica) and printed some operas by Giulio Cesare Vanini and Julien Benda.

Collaboration with Battiato[edit]

In 1993 he encountered Franco Battiato, accidentally, during the presentation of a common friend's poetry book. After few days, Battiato asked him to a meeting to propose to him the libretto for the opus Il cavaliere dell'intelletto about Frederik II of Hohenstaufen:

A year ago I didn't know him. Since then we have been worked together. He says to be just a philosopher, but according to me he is a talent that stimulates and enriches me. It seems impossible to me, today, returning to write the lyrics for my things.[4]

From 1994 until his death he collaborated on almost everyone of Franco Battiato's projects. For him he wrote:

  • the libretti of the opera Il cavaliere dell'intelletto, Socrate impazzito, Gli Schopenhauer and Campi magnetici;
  • the lyrics of many pop music albums (L'ombrello e la macchina da cucire, L'imboscata, Gommalacca, Ferro battuto, Dieci stratagemmi, Il vuoto, etc.);
  • the screenplays of the movies Lost Love, Musikanten (about the last years of Beethoven's life) and Niente è come sembra, of the television transmission Bitte keine réclame and of the documentary Auguri don Gesualdo (about Gesualdo Bufalino).

Starting in 1998 he penned song lyrics for Patty Pravo (Emma), Fiorella Mannoia (Il movimento del dare), Carmen Consoli (Marie ti amiamo) and Milva (Non conosco nessun Patrizio).

In 2000 he published the single La mer, containing the cover of the famous song by Charles Trenet.

In 2001 he published the album Fun club, produced by Franco Battiato and Saro Cosentino, containing evergreen songs like La vie en rose (by Édith Piaf) and Moon river (by Henry Mancini), but even the ironic Me gustas tú (by Manu Chao).

In 2007 hen lent his voice to the DC-9 airliner of the Italian airline Itavia in Pippo Pollina's opera Ultimo volo about the infamous Ustica disaster.

In 2009 he published the single La canzone della galassia, containing the cover of The galaxy song (taken from Monty Python's The meaning of life), sung with the Sardinian-English group Mab.







  • Tre poesie (2004).
  • La canzone della galassia (2009).



  • Arthur Schopenhauer, La filosofia delle università (Adelphi, 1992 – ISBN 978-88-459-0943-6).
  • Giulio Cesare Vanini, Confutazione delle religioni (De Martinis, 1993).
  • Julien Benda, Discorso coerente sui rapporti tra Dio e il mondo (De Martinis, 1994).
  • Giuseppe Tornatore, Una pura formalità (De Martinis, 1994).
  • Maurizio Cosentino, I sistemi morali (Boemi, 1998).
  • Ottavio Cappellani, La morale del cavallo: trattato dei cavalieri (Nadir, 1998).
  • Tommaso Ottonieri, Elegia sanremese (Bompiani, 1998).
  • Domenico Trischitta, Daniela Rocca: il miraggio in celluloide (Boemi, 1999).
  • Salvo Basso, Dui (Prova d'autore, 1999).
  • Manlio Sgalambro & Davide Benati, Segrete (La pietra infinita, 2001).
  • Mariacatena De Leo & Luigi Ingaliso, Nell'antro del filosofo: dialogo con Manlio Sgalambro (Prova d'autore, 2002 – ISBN 978-88-86140-99-7).
  • Manlio Sgalambro, Silvia Batisti & Rossella Lisi, Opus postumissimum: frammento di un poema (Giubbe rosse, 2002).
  • Manlio Sgalambro & Antonio Contiero, Dolore e poesia (La pietra infinita, 2003).
  • Vincenzo Mollica, Franco Battiato: l'alba dentro l'imbrunire (Einaudi, 2004).
  • Riccardo Mondo & Luigi Turinese, Caro Hillman: venticinque scambi epistolari con James Hillman (Bollati Boringhieri, 2004 – ISBN 978-88-339-1436-7).
  • Antonio Contiero, Galleria Buenos Aires (Aliberti, 2006 – ISBN 978-88-7424-151-4).
  • Luca Farruggio, Bugie estatiche (Il filo, 2006 – ISBN 978-88-7842-425-8).
  • Bruno Monsaingeon, Incontro con Nadia Boulanger (Rue Ballu, 2007 – ISBN 978-88-95689-04-3).
  • Cristina Valenti, Ustica e le sue arti: percorsi tra impegno creatività e memoria (Titivillus, 2007 – ISBN 978-88-7218-186-7).
  • Franco Battiato, In fondo sono contento di aver fatto la mia conoscenza (Bompiani & L'ottava, 2007).
  • Anna Vasta, I malnati (I quaderni del battello ebbro, 2007 – ISBN 978-88-86861-59-5).
  • Michele Falzone, Franco Battiato: la Sicilia che profuma d'oriente (Flaccovio, 2008 – ISBN 978-88-7804-440-1).
  • Arnold De Vos, Il giardino persiano (Samuele, 2009).
  • Angelo Scandurra, Quadreria dei poeti passanti (Bompiani, 2009 – ISBN 978-88-452-6328-6).
  • AA.VV., Catania: non vi sarà facile si può fare lo facciamo (ANCE, 2009).
  • Franco Battiato, Don Gesualdo: con i contributi di Manlio Sgalambro e Antonio Di Grado (Bompiani & Kasba comunicazioni, 2010).
  • Domenico Cipriano, Novembre (Transeuropa, 2010 – ISBN 978-88-7580-116-8).
  • Carlo Guarrera, Occhi aperti spalancati (Mesogea, 2011).








  • Daniele Consoli, La verità sul caso del signor Ciprì e Maresco (Zelig, 2004).
  • Guido Cionini, Manlio Sgalambro: il consolatore (Nexmedia, 2006).
  • Franco Battiato, Auguri don Gesualdo (Bompiani & Kasba comunicazioni, 2010 – ISBN 978-88-452-6586-0).



  • Manlio Sgalambro & Franco Battiato, Il cavaliere dell'intelletto: opera in due atti per l'ottocentenario della nascita di Federico II di Svevia (1994).
  • Manlio Sgalambro & Franco Battiato, Socrate impazzito (1995).
  • Manlio Sgalambro & Franco Battiato, Gli Schopenhauer (1998).
  • Igor Stravinsky, L'histoire du soldat (1999).
  • Franco Battiato, Campi magnetici: i numeri non si possono amare (2000).
  • Pippo Pollina, Ultimo volo: orazione civile per ustica (2007).
  • Manlio Sgalambro, Carlo Guarrera & Rosalba Bentivoglio, Frammenti per versi e voce (2009).




  • In Di passaggio (from L'imboscata) he declaims in ancient Greek:

Ταυτο τενι ζων και τεθνηκος και εγρηγορος και καθευδον και νεον και γηραιον ταδε γαρ μεταπεσοντα εκεινα εστι κακεινα παλιν ταυτα.

— Heraclitus, Fragments
  • In Invito al viaggio (from Fleurs) he declaims (in Italian):

I invite you to the voyage in the land that is like you. The misty sunlights of those cloudy skies have for my spirit the charm of your treacherous eyes, shining brightly. There all is order and beauty, luxury, peace, and pleasure; the world falls asleep in a warm glow of light; see on the canals those vessels sleeping: their mood is adventurous to satisfy your slightest desires.

  • In Corpi in movimento (from Campi magnetici) he declaims (in Italian):

If, in speaking of my points, I think of some system of things, e.g., the system: love, law, chimney-sweep… and then assume all my axioms as relations between these things, then my propositions, e.g., Pythagoras' theorem, are also valid for these things.

— David Hilbert, Letter to Frege of 29 December 1899

Since 1996 he participates in almost every Franco Battiato's tours:

  • In '97 he declaims in Latin on Battiato's song Areknames (from Pollution), renamed for the occasion Canzone chimica:

Bacterium flourescens liquefaciens, Bacterium histolyticum, Bacterium mesentericum, Bacterium sporagenes, Bacterium putrificus…

— Manlio Sgalambro, Canzone chimica
  • In 2002 he sings a new version – with lyrics adapted philosophically – of Accetta il consiglio (taken from The big Kahuna), published the next year in live album Last summer dance.


  • In Perduto amor he acts Martino Alliata, philosophy teacher of the leading character (Corrado Fortuna).
  • In Musikanten he acts a noble man from Siena.



  1. ^ Silenzi, Andrea (6 March 2014). "È morto Manlio Sgalambro, filosofo, scrittore e poeta. Per anni è stato il coautore di Battiato" (in Italian). La Repubblica. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Mariacatena De Leo & Luigi Ingaliso, Nell'antro del filosofo: dialogo con Manlio Sgalambro (Prova d'autore, 2002).
  3. ^ Giorgio Calcagno, Sgalambro: il filosofo è uno spione (from La stampa of August 28, 1996).
  4. ^ Liliana Madeo, Battiato: note per un filosofo (from La stampa of September 19, 1994).

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