Collaborative Artistic Theory And Practice. ‘Le ragioni dei gruppi’. Collective Writing In Futurism

by Francesca Medaglia

Co-authorship in fiction is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that entails different types of collaboration. In my opinion, it can be seen as a planned and deliberate collaboration between two (or more) authors leading to an innovative mutual interpenetration, which can result in an unforeseen improvement of each author’s contribution in terms of content, language and style. Hence, the different types of collaboration between authors are likely to be influenced by the historical and social context within which they are embedded.

During the first two decades of the 20th century, in Italy and elsewhere, aesthetic communication and artistic language started to depart radically from old forms. Futurist artists were at the forefront of this movement in their refusal of traditional forms of artistic expression, striving to overcome the past. However, this did not necessarily imply inventing a new future. It became soon clear that Futurism could encourage artists to deal with those issues that would later become the basis of contemporary literature, e.g. the speed, globalisation and industrialisation of literature. The advent of Futurism led to a new avant-garde period that would later allow authors to search and subvert ‘old traditions’ as well as seek authorial ‘multiplication’. This change was felt as necessary since it would help the literary world to survive the frantic innovations that those years brought about, amplifying speed in everyday life and especially in writing.


Some futurist examples

Futurist poetry, painting and theatre are by now well known; in contrast, Futurist narrative and co-written novelistic production in particular have received limited attention. The peculiar way of writing and the themes dealt with by Futurist authors helped to make the complex phenomenon of authorial depersonalisation easier to grasp. This process was frequently used by Futurist authors, allowing them to merge single and multiple selves. They created plenty of Futurist co-authored novels. Among the many co-authored novels, I have selected two which I will illustrate two case studies below.

Un ventre di donna: romanzo chirurgico (1919), a joint epistolary novel by F.T. Marinetti and E. Robert. This novel is based on an event that occurred to Enif Robert during World War I. She had to undergo a hysterectomy, which prompted her to write about this painful experience and the several operations related to it. Marinetti, at that time on the battlefield at the Italian front, wrote letters, warnings, slogans and suggestions to his friend Robert so as to comfort her while she was forced to lay in bed. As a result, narration in this novel proceeds according to the scheme of dialogic narrative, meaning that one author replies to the other so as to complete and transform the text. Consequently, there is a continuous flow and exchange of information, which contribute to a change in perspective; in other words, one single narrative subject can be transformed and shaped according to the point of view from which an author looks at it. This is a literary work written by a man and a woman which shows its two authors’ differences in terms of style, even though they both belong to the same avant-garde movement. Some parts display a strong subversive, experimental style including the words-in-freedom technique; conversely, some other parts convey some sort of intimacy. The two authors actively contributed to writing the text and this is demonstrated by the fact the it is based on a conversation that engages and helps both authors to develop their ideology. With Marinetti’s help, Enif Robert wrote about her relationship with pain and the way her intimacy was violated. Marinetti helps Robert with his letters, advising her to accept his ‘futurist cure’ in order to overcome a difficult moment and, at the same time, to become a ‘real’ woman.


Il Novissimo segretario galante: 400 lettere d’amore per ogni evenienza (1928) by I Dieci is a ‘Handbook of Seduction’, a practical guide, imbued with malice and irony, which explains to the hypothetical reader the futuristic techniques to succeed in seducing a woman. The guide is made of twenty hypothetical exchanges between lovers, in which are explained the ways to woe a woman through personal tales and experiences. Even if only the first volume was written, I Dieci’s original plan was to write six different books representing the stages of love: approaches, first dance, jealousy, love troubles, memories, breaking up.


Further reading:

F. Medaglia, La scrittura a quattro mani, Lecce-Brescia, Pensa MultiMedia, 2014.

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