Marinetti & Futurism

February 20: On this day in 1909 the Italian poet F. T. Marinetti published "The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism," launching the movement which, in radical or watered-down forms, spread across Europe, influencing modern art, literature, communications theory, and other cultural forms. The Futurist movement celebrated the techno-discord it saw on the horizon -- the rush of cars, the collapse of community, the shock of the new and now. The eleven specific points in the Manifesto glorified the driver at the wheel, the smashing of the museums, the literature written with "the racer's stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap," the great crowds of New Man "excited by work, by pleasure, and by riot," the new aesthetic in any form: "We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed." It even celebrated the overthrow of its own beliefs: "The oldest of us is thirty: so we have at least a decade for finishing our work. When we are forty, other younger and stronger men will probably throw us in the wastebasket like useless manuscripts -- we want it to happen!"

 

The Italian Futurists had an attraction to Mussolini and Fascism, but they also had a sense of humor. Among their many promotions and manifestos -- on art, language, music, cinema, noise, "lust" -- was The Futurist Cookbook, published in 1932. This was based on the earlier "Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine," in which Marinetti urged his countrymen to give up pasta, not just because they would need to be thin in order to ride the ultralight aluminum trains, but because macaroni was a "symbol of oppressive dullness, plodding deliberation, and fat-bellied conceit." Marinetti's fellow Italians thought him a showman, a visionary, and perhaps right about much, but they scoffed at his nouvelle cuisine: one thing to advocate a pared-down language free of "the high wall of syntax and the weirs of grammar," quite another to call for a pasta-less future. The American National Macaroni Manufacturers Association was apparently alarmed enough by the idea to send Mussolini a telegram of protest.


Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.