Andrea Zanzotto

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Andrea Zanzotto (born October 10, 1921 in Pieve di Soligo , † October 18, 2011 in Conegliano ) was an Italian poet .


Zanzotto's childhood was marked by the frequent absence of his father, a miniature and landscape painter who had supported the socialist leader Giacomo Matteotti . Accused after his murder and unable to find work, he spent several years in France. Zanzotto, the oldest of five siblings, where he lost a sister when he was 8 and one when he was 16, grew up in close contact with his grandmother, who taught him the old language of his homeland, a village in Veneto . After his return, the father continued to be politically active against fascism , so that the family's situation remained precarious.

While studying literature in Padua , Zanzotto studied French and German poetry, learned Greek and Hebrew, and at the same time taught as a substitute teacher in local areas. In 1942 he received his doctorate with a thesis on Grazia Deledda and published his first poems and stories. Initially exempted from military service because of his asthma , he was called up for non-active service in 1943. After the autumn armistice, he made his way to his village, which was behind the line held by the fascists, and joined a resistance group in which he was entrusted with the drafting of leaflets and propaganda pamphlets. His village was occupied by the fascists, he hid with his group in the hinterland, was finally caught and did labor service until the liberation.

Since he was initially rejected as a teacher in his home country after the war, he emigrated to Switzerland, where he made his way to school in the canton of Vaud , but also as a waiter and bartender. He made contact with poets such as Eugenio Montale and Giuseppe Ungaretti . In the meantime his father became mayor of Pieve de Soligo, Zanzotto returned and took a teaching position for Italian, history and ancient languages in Vittorio Veneto . He remained a teacher until 1975, married in 1959 and had two sons. Recurring anxiety caused him to undergo several psychoanalytic treatments and aroused his interest in psychoanalytic theory, especially that of Jacques Lacan .

In addition to his lyrical production, he translated numerous authors from French and worked as a screenwriter for Fellini . In 1987 he was awarded an Antonio Feltrinelli Prize and in 1993 the City of Münster Prize for European Poetry .


Zanzotto was a controversial writer all his life. B. turned against ideological appropriations of poetry. For him, poetry should express the totality of human existence - in society and in nature - and at the same time be aware of its methods.

In his first volume of poetry, Dietro il paesaggio (“Behind the Landscape”) from 1951, he conjured up the landscape of his childhood, which is both a green lap and a bloody grave. The happy states of the ego refer to the death associated with “snow” and “silence” as a vanishing point.

In the following volumes he increasingly addressed the problem of language, which is "absolute" and "perishable", which blocks access to being, but enables autonomous creation. Zanzotto encounters this with diverse, sometimes paradoxical and contradicting designs, elegiac elevations alternate with views of nothingness, love of nature with thoughts of self-destruction. In the 1960s he increasingly incorporated ironic and parodic elements, and resorted to scientific and colloquial language.

Finally, in the sensational La Beltà (“splendor”) from 1968, there followed the playful, stammering smashing of language, with children's language and nonsense effects , without, however, completely giving up the reference to an extra-linguistic reality.

His later works retain the playful, experimental gesture, but are often more easily accessible again due to their orientation towards specific topics and motifs. They articulate complex literary contexts, whereby Zanzotto questions the existing traditions, but also renews them again and again.


  • Refraction of light , Selected poems Italian-German, selected and translated by Donatella Capaldi, Ludwig Paulmichl, Peter Waterhouse, Vienna, Graz: Droschl 1987
  • Lorna, gem of the hills - Lorna, gemma delle colline , edited and translated by Helga Böhmer and Gio Batta Bucciol, Tübingen: Narr 1990 (Italian Library 4)
  • Factory Edition Planet Belta , translated by Donatella Capaldi, Maria Fehringer, Ludwig Paulmichl and Peter Waterhouse, Basel, Bolzano, Weil am Rhein, Vienna: Urs Engeler Editor and Folio Publisher :
    • La Beltà / Splendor , Poems Italian-German, 2001 (Volume 1)
    • Gli Sguardi i Fatti e Senhal / Signals Senhal , Poems Italian-German, 2002 (Volume 2)
    • On the plateau and other places , stories, 2004 (Volume 3)
    • The world is different. Poetics , 2010, translated by Karin Fleischanderl (Volume 4)
    • Village game , with contributions by Donatella Capaldi and Peter Waterhouse, 2013.


  • Manfred Lentzen: Italian poetry of the 20th century. From the avant-garde of the first decades to a new inwardness. Analecta Romanica series, issue 53. Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1994, ISBN 3-465-02654-3 , pp. 314-327.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Börsenblatt : Andrea Zanzotto is dead , October 18, 2011
  2. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung : Verskampf around the world. On the death of the Italian poet Andrea Zanzotto , October 20, 2011, p. 30