In primo piano · Interventi

D’Annunzio in Japan. The timeless myth of the poet-hero

articolo in italiano

In the Opac catalogue of the University of Tokyo there are 247 works on or by Gabriele D’Annunzio, at least 8 of which are prior to 1899. Muramatsu underlies that D’Annunzio is, together with Dante, one of the most read and translated Italian poets in the period in which Western culture, specifically the Italian one, was spreading in the Land of the Rising Sun, such as is demonstrated by the bibliography of Japanese publications on Italian topics by the Italian-Japanese Association, from the Meiji period up to the twenty-fifth year of the Shōwa period.

D’Annunzio (1863-1938), indeed, enjoyed an extraordinary fame in Japan, both at the popular level and among Academics, the poet was the main character of an extraordinary enthusiasm and predilection that led him to be a real myth in Japan, especially in the early twentieth century. On the other hand, the Abruzzese poet was now a personality of international level. His name redounded far beyond the Italian borders, in Europe as in America, and his works, nowadays appreciated in all around the world, were read and translated even for the Japanese audiences.

For six months, from 2013 to 2014, as part of celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the poet’s birth, the Komaba Museum Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the University of Tokyo and the Kyoto University Museum hosted a series of exhibitions, meetings, and conferences entirely dedicated to the Italian poet, which were followed by publications (such as the collection of essays D’Annunzio ni Muchu dattakoro by Mariko Muramatsu) which underline the centrality of D’Annunzio’s work in Japan in the early twentieth century, up to re-evaluate its influence on the modes of subsequent Japanese literature.

On the other hand, D’Annunzio has always had a special feeling of affection and devotion for Japan, as evidenced by the exchanges and correspondences that the poet had with the Eastern country. The Archive of Vittoriale once again constitute a very important repertoire of sources, documents, letters and testimonies that suggest the myth of the poet Vate: D’Annunzio was the Hero of Fiume, the Esthete and arbiter elegantiarum that renovated Italian literature with new modes and themes, his productions and his vision of life and modernity are still timeless today, and still reserve very important critical points and continuous fascinations. In the premises of the Vittoriale are kept the letters of the dense correspondence held by D’Annunzio with his Japanese admirers, and a variety of documents such as magazines, books, dedications, official and celebratory letters, poems written on rice paper, which all suggest a macrocosm of ideological and literary, cultural and human correspondences, to the point of determining the affirmation of D’Annunzio’s myth in the Land of the Rising Sun.

In fact, we can find a lot of references to “Japonaiserie” in works such as Cronache mondane and Il Piacere, a sign that oriental taste and exoticism were well suited to enrich the aestheticism and artistic creed of the poet in the Roman period, who grew up in the aristocratic salons of Umbertine Rome and filled with interesting readings and oriental attractions (such as La maison d’un artiste by Edmond De Goncourt and the Poemes de la libellule, with the prints of a Japanese illustrator).

Therefore, while D’Annunzio describes the enthusiasm for Japanese decorations of Roman houses and collects one of his Outa occidentale in Chimera, in the Far East he is the European-poet of human passions and the poet-patriot par excellence. Many of his works, including novels, plays and poems, have been translated by well-known Japanese poets and writers, including Jun Ishikawa, Bin Ueda, Chōkō Ikuta, Ōgai Mori. Translations have preferred novels such as Il Piacere, L’Innocente, Le vergini delle rocce, released in various editions, Le martyre de Saint Sébastien and above all Il Trionfo della morte, the most read and loved, and through this we understand how D ‘Annunzio had enormous fame, especially among the non-academic public: Il Trionfo della morte, for instance, fascinated Japanese audiences so much that Morita’s play, entitled Shadow and Form, was intended by the author as a sort of continuation of this D’Annunzio’s novel. Although the Vate had long ago planned a trip to Japan, and despite repeated invitations from Tokyo, the travel dreamed remained unfulfilled.

There remain the many testimonies of admiration, collected in the Vittoriale Archive, plus an original katana preserved in the Blue Bath as a gift and recognition of value and esteem. There remain the magazines sent by Kodansha, with the request for questionnaires to be filled in. The poems sent to the poet, the celebratory speeches, the many certificates of merit, such as the letter signed by 16 people who declare themselves moved by listening to a lecture given in Tokyo by «Professor Shimoi» and his friend «Professor Kurushima», on the exploits of Fiume and on the encounter between them and the poet;  How to forget Kaion Mishima’s request, translated by Shimoi, to compose a song for young Japanese people, the debut of which sums up D’Annunzio’s eternal fame in Japan then and still today: “Personification of patriotic love, Divine poet of passions, you heroically replaced pen with the sword, in the moment of imminent crisis in your homeland. This heroic action of yours is similar to the samurai spirit that our country proudly transmits from ancient times to today and is comparable either to the sumptuous and solemn summit of the high mountain or to the resplendent and rich flowering of cherry trees in spring. We Japanese are burning with admiration for his famous name”.




Laura D'Angelo

Laura D’Angelo è scrittrice e poetessa. Dopo la laurea con lode in Lettere classiche e Filologia classica, consegue un Dottorato di ricerca in Studi Umanistici. Docente di materie letterarie, pubblica articoli accademici su riviste scientifiche e saggi in volumi collettanei, approfondendo lo studio della letteratura e della poesia contemporanea. Giurata in diversi Premi nazionali di poesia e narrativa, partecipa a convegni internazionali e svolge attività di critica letteraria, curando presentazioni di libri e interviste. Ha scritto per diverse testate giornalistiche ed è autrice di riviste culturali e letterarie. Tra i suoi testi scientifici: Dante o dell’umana fragilità, in «Sinestesieonline», a. X, n. 32, 2020; L’Isottèo di Gabriele D’Annunzio e la poetica della modernità, in Un’operosa stagione. Studi offerti a Gianni Oliva, Carabba, Lanciano, 2018; Gabriele D’Annunzio e le case della memoria, in Memories &Reminiscences; Ricordi, lettere, diari e memorialistica dai Rossetti al Decadentismo europeo, Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi, Chieti-Vasto, 20-21 novembre, 2019, in «Studi medievali e moderni», a. XXIV – n. 1/2020; Music and Soul: Gabriele D’Annunzio and his Abruzzo Homeland, in Bridges Across Cultures, Proceedings, Vasto, 2017; Dante tra web e social network, in «Studi medievali e moderni», a. XXV – n. 1-2/2021; L’etica dell’acqua, in «Gradiva», International Journal of Italian Poetry, n.62/2022,  ed. Olschki, Firenze; La “Prima antologia di poeti dialettali molisani” di Emilio Ambrogio Paterno, in «Letteratura e dialetti», vol. 16, 2023; Da “Cuore” a L’appello” per una scuola dell’inclusione, in «Nuova Secondaria Ricerca», n.8, aprile 2023. Ha pubblicato inoltre il volume di prose poetiche Sua maestà di un amore (Scatole Parlanti, 2021), semifinalista al Concorso di Poesia “Paolo Prestigiacomo” e il volume Poesia dell’assenza (Il Convivio editore, 2023). Sta recentemente approfondendo lo studio della poesia e della letteratura molisana.

One thought on “D’Annunzio in Japan. The timeless myth of the poet-hero

Comments are closed.