The Damned Authors of World Literature
From the “cursed poets” to the “lost generation” up to Bukowski, here are authors who most embodied the idea of the damned writer in literature
“If you look into the abyss for a long time, the abyss will look inside you”. The statement, by the famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, seems to well represent the existential condition of some great personalities of literature. Equipped with an out of the ordinary sensitivity for all the nuances of life and the human soul, writers and poets explore feelings and emotions right down to their deepest, darkest and most disturbing sides, often being devoured by them.
Charles Baudelaire even before them, Parisian poet born in 1821, contributed to creating the myth of the bohemian, of the genius that goes with recklessness. Also dedicated to extreme experiences, including the use of drugs, Baudelaire lives harrowing passions, including that for his lover Jeanne Duval, actress and theater dancer illegitimate daughter of a prostitute, with whom the poet begins a relationship in the 1842. For her, who represents carnal and sinful love, he squanders half of her father’s estate. But Baudelaire also experiences mystical, pure, ideal love in the relationship with Madame Sabatier. Love and death, the evil of living and the tension towards the ideal, the divine – a sentiment that the poet calls “Spleen” – is spoken of in the poems of “Flowers of evil”, the title of which alludes to seduction and the fascination that evil knows how to exercise on us.
Edgar Allan Poe
But the figure of the damned genius was not born in Paris, on the contrary, he has no country or time. Already Edgar Allan Poe, born in Boston in 1809, seemed to carry the mark of a curse. Orphaned at the age of 2, in 1826 he breaks up with his adoptive father, who does not want to cover the debts incurred during the years spent at the University of Virginia due to his dissipated life. He marries Sarah Elmira Royster, a love thwarted by her father, and earns a living by writing. On the death of his wife, alone and reduced to poverty, he sinks into depression and falls prey to alcoholism. Master of the gothic tale, as well as being one of the forefathers of the detective novel, in his works often disturbing colors and a painful introspection dominate.
From America to Ireland, Oscar Wilde, born in Dublin in 1854, perhaps more than anyone else embodies the image of the extravagant and excessive esthete. In life as in his work, he cultivates a taste for paradox and the cult of beauty as a value in itself, overturning the canons of morality that is contemporary to him. Homosexual, he lets himself be overwhelmed by the passion he suffered for Alfred Douglas, who initiates him into the world of prostitution. Tried and convicted for his homosexuality, he spent a few years in prison. The last years of his life were marked by economic difficulties and illness, but despite this, until his death in 1900, he did not give up drinking champagne every day.
Best Writers, Novelists, Journalist of All Time
Another generation of “cursed writers”, known as “the lost generation”, still lived in Paris in the 1920s. This is what writer and journalist Ernest Hemingway calls it, which is one of the best known representatives, in “Festa mobile”. A lover of extreme experiences, endowed with a distinctly narcissistic personality and marked by a strong sense of death, Hemingway has a very turbulent life. This nature pushes him to enlist to fight in the First World War, to travel, to expose himself to dangerous situations in which to constantly test himself. After the war, in Paris, he meets Gertrude Stein, who in her studio, shared with her brother, puts together one of the oldest collections of Cubist art and hosts numerous artists and writers. It was she who initiated him into the avant-garde and literary career and pushed him in 1924 to participate in the feast of San Firmino in Pamplona. From this experience he draws numerous ideas for the novel “Fiesta”, his first novel.
One of the fundamental encounters in Hemingway’s life is the one with the poet Ezra Pound, another American expatriate in Paris – he too frequents the circles of the lost generation and Hemingway considers him a teacher. Born in America, he spends most of his life in Europe and in the 1920s he is in the French capital, where he meets Gertrude Stein, meets artists such as Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, writes and participates in that lifestyle that Hemingway calls “Moveable feast”.
Francis Scott Fitzgerald
Also in Paris in those years are Francis Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda Fitzgerald, protagonists of one of the most tormented love stories in literature. The two travel for a long time to Europe, England, Italy, France, where in the capital they frequent Gertrude Stein’s salon. Restless, psychically unstable, Zelda has long been considered the cause of the author’s downfall, who would have forced her to lead a crazy standard of living. But recent testimonies have brought out a different image of the author of “The Great Gatsby”, that of a man prone to alcoholism since his university years at Princeton, authoritarian and uncompromising, who prevents his wife from expressing herself, accuses her of plagiarism. Her novel, “Save the Waltz,” written while she is hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic, sends him into a rage. Both are famous figures of “cursed writers”.