Paolo Monti - Available in the BEIC digital library and uploaded in partnership with BEIC Foundation. The image comes from the Fondo Paolo Monti, owned by BEIC and located in the Civico Archivio Fotografico of Milan.
Goffredo Parise was one of the most talented and maverick authors of his generation. He wrote several literary works, ranging across different styles and genres. From the early Sixties until his death in 1986, he contributed to major Italian newspapers and journals with short stories, reports from abroad, comments on social and cultural matters, literary reviews, and correspondence with readers. He also worked as a literary consultant and as a playwright and screenwriter.
Parise was born to a single mother and an unknown father in 1929, the year that marked the beginning of the Great Depression. His childhood environment of lower-middle-class workers, impoverished suburbs, godly old spinsters, bigots, and eccentrics would later appear in many of his literary works.
Parise's first book The Dead Boy and the Comets (1951) was translated in the United States by Marianne Ceconi Gifford for Farrar Straus, thanks to the support of Gioconda Savini and Giuseppe Prezzolini. Shortly thereafter, Parise made his way to Milan, where he started working as an editor for Garzanti, one of Italy’s major publishing houses. Shortly after his arrival in Milan, Parise started writing his third book, Don Gastone and the Ladies (Il prete bello, 1954), a humorous tale set in a small town, involving a handsome priest, some pious old ladies, two street kids and a charming prostitute. The novel became a literary sensation, and was quickly translated by prominent figures for refined publishers all around the world. In the United States, Stuart Hood produced a fine translation for Knopf (1955), which would later be used for two paperback editions, one of which was unauthorized.
Parise's later novels were met with resistance by Italian critics but, nonetheless, were appreciated in Europe and re-published over the following years. In 1961 Parise visited the United States for the first time, working on a movie project that was not developd further after his return in Italy. By the time Il padrone (1965) was released, Parise was a leading voice in Italy. The book provoked an intense debate. It overstepped current industrial literature with a powerful narrative that was both satirical and tragic, and could not be reduced to political or ideological schemes. The novel received immediate interest on both sides of the Iron Curtain, with a prompt edition in the United States by Knopf (The Boss, 1966).
Parise’s reflections continued in his following literary works, as well as reports from the faults between the eastern and western block: Vietnam, Biafra, Laos, Yugoslavia. These work were successful in the Soviet galaxy, but were not translated in English. Later on he visited the United States once again, writing a long critical report that was published on the major Italian daily newspaper, «Corriere della Sera», and then published again as a book.
1970 marked a turning point in Parise’s life and work. He found, bought, and refurbished a tiny house on the Piave River, in the countryside near Treviso, where he lived as often as he could. Intimate or intense moments in this new life, as well as memories from the past, were fashioned into short stories named Sillabari (literally, Abecedaries, but the resulting two volumes were translated as Abecedary and Solitudes, 1972, 1982). This was Parise’s final literary project and was awarded with the prestigious Strega Prize. The idea was to write one short story about each feeling, in the manner of a dictionary from A to Z. The first story, “Amore” [Love], appeared in January 1971; the last story, “Solitudine” [Solitude], came almost ten years later, in January 1980. Over this decade Parise’s articles on daily newspapers and journals became more frequent: he commented on the ongoing cultural transformations and he intervened in public debates on abortion, religion, education, pornography, economic growth, and family relationships. From 1974 on, his health worsened relentlessly. He died in Treviso in 1986.
Gioconda Savini Prezzolini
Writer, literary critic, academic, journalist, publisher
Belpoliti, Marco, and Andrea Cortellessa. 2016. Goffredo Parise. Milano: Marcos y Marcos.
Parise, Goffredo. Bruno Callegher, and Mauro Portello (eds.). 2001-2005. Opere. Milan: Mondadori.
Parise, Goffredo. Silvio Perrella (ed.). 2001. New York. Milano: Rizzoli.
Pellizzato, Giulia. 2021. Prezzolini e Parise : un'amicizia transoceanica. Edizione critica e commentata del carteggio (1951-1976). Firenze: Leo S. Olschki.
Rodler, Lucia. 2016. Goffredo Parise, i sentimenti elementari. Roma: Carocci.