Michele Cantarella

1899 - 1988

Italia, Stati Uniti

persona fisica

Alba de C├ęspedes

Writer, poet

Michele Cantarella was born in Catania in 1899. During World War I, he served in the Italian Army as lieutenant of the Alpine Troops, and in 1917 he became a member of the Italian Republican Party. In 1921 he moved to the United States, where he first studied at Boston University and then at Harvard College. Although he now resided in the U.S., he kept in contact with the antifascist movement in Italy, and in 1927 he was one of the founders of «The Lantern», the first magazine in the English speaking world to be overtly antifascist; Mary Donovan, Powers Hapgood, Catherine Huntington, Creighton Hill, Gardner Jackson and C. W. Whitemore were among those who contributed to the magazine. In 1939 Gaetano Salvemini founded the Mazzini Society — Cantarella became a member alongside Lionello Venturi, Carlo Sforza, and Aldo Garosci. In 1929 Cantarella became professor of Italian language and literature at Smith College in Northampton, and that same year he married Helen Paquin, who would later become a French instructor at Smith College.

Already involved in antifascist activities after the Great War, during World War II Cantarella  and his wife took a leave of abscence from Smith College to serve for the U.S. government — Michele Cantarella was head of the Italian section of the War Department’s Information; his wife Helen Cantarella translated into English books of Italian writers in exile, such as Gaetano Salvemini, Carlo Sforza, e Giuseppe Antonio Borgese. At the end of the war, the Cantarellas resumed their positions at Smith College, where Michele Cantarella would teach until 1964. In February 1950 Cantarella wrote to Alba de Céspedes — at the time residing in Washington D.C. — to invite her to hold a lecture at Smith College on the Italian contemporary literature.

After the war ended Cantarella also resumed working on the book Bibliografia Salveminiana (Cantarella and Salvemini first met in 1927), published in Rome in 1986. In 1938 Cantarella published on «Books Abroad» (Vol. 12 no. 1, 1938) Italian Writers in Exile: A Bibliography, a bibliography compiled of the most notable works published — in Italian and other foreign languages — by Italian writers in exile dating from 1922. In 1949 he also published Guida bibliografica degli scrittori italiani in esilio (1925 — 1945) on «Belfagor» (Vol. 4 No. 3, 1949), a list of works by Italian writers in exile published abroad during the fascist dictatorship. Michele Cantarella died in 1988 in Spriengfield, Massachusetts, aged 88.

Related Vectors

Alba de C├ęspedes

Writer, poet


Archivio Storico AME, fasc. Alba De Céspedes. Fondazione Arnoldo e Alberto Mondadori (FAAM), Milano.

Bonsanti, Marta e Claudia Borgia. «Mazzini Society». Sistema Informativo Unificato per le Sovrintendenze Archivistiche https://siusa.archivi.beniculturali.it/cgi-bin/siusa/pagina.pl?TipoPag=prodente&Chiave=52328

Bonsanti, Marta e Emilio Capannelli. «Cantarella Michele». Sistema Informativo Unificato per le Sovrintendenze Archivistiche https://siusa.archivi.beniculturali.it/cgi-bin/siusa/pagina.pl?TipoPag=prodpersona&Chiave=52356

Giacquinto, Eleonora. «Istituto Storico della Resistenza in Toscana. Elenco di Consistenza del Fondo Michele Cantarella». Istituto Storico della Resistenza in Toscana https://www.istoresistenzatoscana.it/pdf/inventario%20cantarella.pdf

Smith College Libraries. «Helene and Michele Cantarella papers» https://findingaids.smith.edu/repositories/4/resources/1416

The New York Times. «Michele Cantarella, Anti-Fascist Leader, 88» https://www.nytimes.com/1988/01/23/obituaries/michele-cantarella-anti-fascist-leader-88.html

Author Eleonora Bellini