Vasco Pratolini

VASCO PRATOLINI was born in Rome in 1917. Between the two world wars he grew up in Florence in a working-class section that stretches from behind Piazza Signoria to the church of Santa Croce.

Pratolini went to live alone after he had trained as a typographer. And at this time he was able to study and learn as he had long desired, and he set himself on a course of self-education that included the reading of Dante, Manzoni and Dickens, among others. His health deteriorated seriously, and he spent two years in several sanitariums for the cure of tuberculosis. On his return to Florence he began to write short pieces, concentrating on memories of his childhood in the working-class environment there.

His acquaintance with the writer Elio Vittorini in Rome, and with other intellectuals influenced both his literary and political ideas. Pratolini rejected the elitist and self-contained hermetic mode of writing then fashionable, for a realistic portrayal of the lower classes in provincial settings. This puts him in the same realistic camp as writers like Moravia, Gadda, Silone, and Verga before them. From a passive Fascist he became a socialist, a turn of conscience that led him to fight with the partisans in 1943-45.

In Florence from August 1938 to August 1939 Pratolini and the poet Alfonso Gatto jointly edited a magazine, Campo di Marte, whose avowed purpose was “to educate the people” about all the arts. From the first issue the dottrina fascista came under fire as being “out of phase with the real needs of our times;” and it could have been no surprise to the editors when the publication of their cultural magazine was suppressed.

Pratolini wrote other successful novels, set in Florence, such as La cronaca dei poveri amanti, Le ragazze di San Frediano, and Metello, each combining a lyrical tone with a particular social perspective — an artistic melding of private and public history. Family Chronicle was written rapidly in 1945, in a pause between the writing of other longer novels.

Pratolini was also well-known as a screenwriter and worked on many neorealist films, perhaps most notably, Rocco and His Brothers. Pratolini died on January 12, 1991.

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