The Poets of Rapallo: How Mussolini’s Italy shaped British, Irish, and US writers
Oxford University Press, US$35 hb, 248 pp
How best to tell the history of literature? – a long, chronological survey tracing broad arcs of development, or as a tight focus on a single, transformative year? The dedicated study of a single writer’s life, or the story of a movement, of several writers brought together for a time by some common cause? In recent years, the history of modernist literature has enjoyed these and other treatments. In Poets and the Peacock Dinner: The literary history of a meal (2014), Lucy McDiarmid takes as her subject a single evening: a dinner, held in West Sussex on 18 January 1914, in honour of the poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and attended by six other poets, including W.B. Yeats and Ezra Pound. That famous evening serves to focus a wide-ranging discussion of literary friendship and romance, collaboration and rivalry.
In her new book, The Poets of Rapallo, Lauren Arrington instead chooses a place: the picturesque Italian seaside town of Rapallo, ‘nestled in a placid bay on the Ligurian coast’, where in the late 1920s and early 1930s several British, Irish, and American writers and artists lived and holidayed.