Desire and Resistance in Two Poems by Aldo Palazzeschi
by Kristin Szostek Chertoff
Although sexuality has become a common theme in studies of Aldo Palazzeschi’s work, criticism has not yet fully explored how some of his earliest poems interact with the prevailing cultural assumptions and attitudes circulating when they were written and first published. This study approaches two poems—“Habel Nassab” (1909) and “I fiori” (1913)—that portray a poet protagonist’s emotionally disturbing encounter with a man who dominates through femininity, weakness, and innocence. The analysis investigates similarities between these stylistically diverse poems and explores how they operate within contemporary views of effeminate homosexual men, often labeled “pederasti” in Italy. The author considers Palazzeschi’s poems alongside comparative sketches of homosexuality, effeminacy, and pederasty, including Paolo Valera’s scandalous reports on the perverse underbelly of Milan in the 1880s, André Gide’s 1902 L’Immoraliste, and prewar essays by F.T. Marinetti, Italo Tavolato, and Giovanni Papini. Through this analysis, the author demonstrates how sexuality intersects with broader themes that recur throughout Palazzeschi’s work, and establishes how the texts both reflect and confront their socio-historical context.