Council for Ligurian Linguistic Heritage

Ligurian Council

Ligurian literature

The Council is making available an anthology of literature in the Ligurian language, created by Alessandro Guasoni and commissioned by us.

Readers will be able to get an idea of the gradual evolution of Genoese and Ligurian literature over the centuries, both in terms of its language and its contents: from the epic-civil poetry of the Genoese Anonymous or Foglietta, to the baroque and gongorist inspiration of Cavalli; from the comic poetry of Piaggio, to the landscape-intimist lyricism of Firpo. All trends are presented, defining the image of a complex literature that is still enjoyable to read today.

This work is released under the CC BY-ND 4.0 free license.

12th–13th century

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, literary and official texts are all still in Latin, which in those days was the language of educated people. In Latin we find the Annals by Caffaro, with the account of how the threat of Frederick Barbarossa was thwarted; in Latin is also the Chronica civitatis ianuensis by Iacopo da Varagine, which recounts the victories of Meloria (1284) against the Pisans and Laiazzo (1294), against the Venetians; and again by Iacopo is the Legenda aurea, with its lives of saints, often marvellous and full of wonders. The poets of Provençal expression are also important: as in other parts of Italy, the second language of culture after Latin, in Genoa is that of the troubadours; among them, since they were born in Genoa, we remember Lanfranco Cigala, Bonifacio Calvo, Luchetto Gattilusio. Towards the end of the 12th century it was a Provençal, Raimbaut de Vaqueiras, who was the first to use Genoese in a literary context – albeit in jest – in his Altercation with a Genoese woman. The first inscription in Genoese on a tombstone dates from 1259, while a Crusade song, which is the first evidence of an autonomous literary use, dates from 1269. The Genoese vernacular only fully asserted itself with the work of the Genoese Anonymous, perhaps a monk, who lived between the end of the 13th and the beginning of the following century, the first of our poets, animated by a great political and civil, as well as religious, passion.

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14th–15th century

In the 14th and 15th centuries – although these were times of internal struggles and subjugation to foreign domination, to France or Milan – Genoese was increasingly used in private writings and official documents. A production of religious texts also grew and spread, mostly translated from French, or from Latin by way of French, such as the Questioim de Boecio, which are a Genoese version of De consolatione philosophiae, from the French translation by Jean de Meung. A laudatory production also spread, based on Central Italian models, sometimes with some autonomous characteristics, and we can count among this moral-didactic literature the tratao de li VII pecai mortali by Jerome of Bavaria. These hagiographical writings also include those of Luca Paterio, and other anonymous ones such as the author of the Istoria de lo complimento de lo mondo and Croniche e overe de papi e imperaoi, where among other things we find the stories of the magician Merlin and King Arthur, adapted from the «materia di Bretagna» and the life of Charlemagne, what has come down to us from the «Carolingian cycle». Among the lives of the saints, the Miraculi de la biâ vergem sancta Maria stand out, where the anonymous author inserts narrative digressions that sometimes lead to tales of mystery and horror. Worthy of note is De Barllam et Jossaffà, a Christianised version of the life of Buddha. Other hagiographic and moral treatises include Lo libero de frai Gillio, a translation of the Dicta Beati Aegidii, attributed to a companion of St Francis, and the Via de lo Paraiso with advice to women on how to be good wives. The first known author from Savona appears: Alerame Traversagni, with his vernacularisation of the Legenda de Sancta Elizabeth of 1455. Written in Genoese is Biagio Assereto’s letter and report on the battle of Ponza (1435), when Genoa was under Milanese rule. In the second half of the 15th century, the Genoese writings show a progressive decline of the language, gradually undermined by the progress of a local Italian, increasingly becoming tuscanised, due to the rising fame of Italian literature. In 1473 the first calendar in Genoese appeared, titled La raxone de la Pasca, which was also the first printed text published in Liguria.

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16th century

The 16th century was politically dominated by the figure of Andrea Doria, and in literary terms by Foglietta’s «reform», against the by then prevailing Tuscanisation, which can be seen in various songs supporting one lordship or another, while Liguria changed hands from one power to another, with consequent revolts, massacres and invasions, as in the Opera e lamento de Zena che tracta de la guerra et del saccho dato per gli Spagnoli (1522). Doria emerged victorious from the reshuffle of cards, with his astute tactics of alliances and his reform of the state, while in literature Foglietta restored a moderately archaising language, which wanted to give the Genoese language back its relative autonomy and thus took on a political significance. Noteworthy poets in 16th century Genoese have been handed down to us through the collection Rime diverse in lengua zeneize, reprinted several times throughout the century, and after Foglietta, a poet of both lyrical and social and political inspiration, come Barnaba Cigala Casero, Benedetto Schenone and a poet of uncertain identity, all to varying degrees Petrarchists, but Cigala was also the initiator of the custom of encomiums in verse for the election of Doges. Mention should also be made of Vincenzo Dartona, translator of the first canto of Orlando Furioso and Bernardo Castelletto. In terms of prose, in the face of the advance of the Toscano, certain official customs continued, such as the speeches of Doge Matteo Senarega, on the occasion of the end of his term of office and to greet Prince Gio.Andrea Doria on his return with the fleet.

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17th century

What has been called the “siglo de los genoveses” because of the enormous wealth accumulated by the patrician families and the splendour of the palaces, saw in Ligurian literature the triumph of Baroque and conceptualism; names to remember are Giuliano Rossi, Pantaleo Grimaldi Murassana, Gio. Francesco Baffico, Fulgenzio Baldani, Pier Giuseppe Giustiniani and others, but above all Gian Giacomo Cavalli, who acclimatised the contemporary European experiences of culteranismo in Liguria, with an exceptional patron in the upper echelons of Italian literature, Savona-born Gabriello Chiabrera. Theatre underwent great development in 17th-century Genoa; the meeting of the world of the Commedia dell’Arte with that of academic theatre gave rise to scripts in Genoese, or with parts in Genoese, and one therefore speaks of multilingual comedies. However, the difficulty of understanding and the lack of familiarity with the Ligurian language made it necessary to translate the Genoese parts, or suppress them, when actors worked outside Liguria. These theatre authors include Anton Giulio Brignole Sale, Francesco Maria Marini, Giovanni Andrea Spinola, Pier Giovanni Capriata and Giovanni Agostino Pollinari. In the second half of the century, a slow political and economic decline began; between Piedmontese plots to seize the Republic, the increased influence of France and other factors, less and less remained of Genoese independence and culture; Carlo Andrea Castagnola’s work, which deals with the bombardment of Genoa by the French fleet and the city’s proud stoicism in enduring it, constitutes a momentary revival of patriotic and civil themes.

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18th century

The events of 1746 were followed by a strong revival of civil and patriotic poetry, with a large part of Stefano De Franchi’s work dedicated to the uprising against the Austrians and Balilla’s deed; other notable authors who dealt with the subject were the anonymous versifiers of Trionfo dro popolo zeneise and Libeaçion de Zena; and above all Gaetano Gallino, with his Cadeña Zeneise. In the meantime, since the beginning of the century, a number of poets expressing themselves in the local dialects had begun to appear in the Rivieras and hinterland, such as Stefano Rossi of Taggia, Luca Maria Capponi of Triora, Gian Lorenzo Federico Gavotti of Sassello, Luciano Rossi of Campoligure. The 18th century was also the century of the translation into Genoese of Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, a task carried out by a pool of scholars, directed by De Franchi. Other noteworthy poets, after De Franchi, are Ambrogio Conti and other anonymous poets, collected in a manuscript preserved in the library of the Società Economica of Chiavari, the Canto Unico, or in flyers that frequently celebrated current events, such as the victories of the Ligurian navy, like Toralbo Armonico’s poem on Captain Maglione. With the arrival of Napoleon and the end of the Oligarchic Republic, we see the appeareance of (supposedly) popular poets who, under pseudonyms, sing the praises of the new political direction; we recall «Cittadino Piceda» and «Baciccia Degradao»; a certain Antonio Durazzo imagines a Dialogue between two patricians, temporarily imprisoned in the Hall of the Minor Council, who still cannot realise that their rule is over. The poet Antonio Pescetto, on the other hand, of Genoese origin but who lived in Savona, after singing about the city’s nobility, devoted himself, after the Revolution, to celebrating the Democratic Republic and patriotic festivities; only to then sing the praises of the Savoyard governor after the annexation to Piedmont.

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19th century

It was the century of the annexation to Piedmont, after the Congress of Vienna (1815), which was not too agreeable to the Ligurians, and then of the Italian Risorgimento; it began with the work of Martino Piaggio, the famous author of the Lunario del Signor Regina, a moderate and prudish cantor of the bourgeoisie, who did not, however, lack a little social satire and a naive faith in progress. Having lost its political autonomy, Genoese literature gradually decayed towards folklorism, comic poetry, a mannered populism, with momentary returns to the serious tradition. In 1835, unknown enemies of monarchical absolutism retrieved a theatrical parody from Metastasio, Achilles in Sciro, already performed at the end of the previous century against the oligarchy, and appropriately brought up to date. Among the authors of lunar almanacs, Stefano Parodi, who was even more reactionary than Piaggio, should be remembered; while among the continuators of the Reginian almanac, but with liberal ideas, there was Giovanni Casaccia, also author of a famous Genoese-Italian dictionary; Luigi Doria, Luigi Domenico Farina, Giambattista Vigo, Andrea Pollano. Another noteworthy almanac author is the liberal priest Luigi Pedevilla, who for many years carried on the Lunäio do Sciô Tocca. Theatre authors include Federico Alizeri and Luigi Persoglio. Savona, too, experienced the phenomenon of lunaristic publishing with O Canocciale de Savoña and O microscopio e telescopio. Among its poets: Francesco Rocchino, Francesco Pizzorno, Andrea Rocca, Agostino Bruno, Filippo Noberasco father and son, Francesco Marengo. Among the authors of the Risorgimento, we then recall Luigi Stallo in Genoa, who in 1853 wrote Vixon d’un emigrou italian (vision of an Italian emigrant), ardent with a patriotic and Mazzinian spirit; among the comic poets who found themselves in the columns of the magazine O Successo, on the other hand, we recall Pietro Galliano and Aurelio Capponi. In the second half of the century, a vast production of journalistic prose also developed, and in periodicals such as O Balilla and O Stafî there were investigations and reports, historical novels as well as others inspired by current events, works by Edoardo Michele Chiozza and Giuseppe Poggi. However, the poet commonly considered the most representative of the second half of the 19th century is Nicolò Bacigalupo, with whom literature in the Genoese language turns decisively towards comedy and parody, in the acceptance of its subordinate role to Italian literature, also in the theatrical sphere: Bacigalupo is in fact the author of Govi’s first and most famous comedies.

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20th-21th centuries

The 20th century saw an even exaggerated production of poetry in Ligurian. In the mixture of customs, people and mentalities due to the two world wars, the unpredictable development of the means of communication and transport, the expansion of trade and the economy on a global scale, local languages such as Ligurian regressed as never before, so much so that it provoked an endangered culture syndrome in many people and thus caused a revival in philological studies on the subject, as well as in prose and poetry production, as a reaction. Among the Novecento authors, but still linked in many respects to the 19th century, mention must be made of Carlo Malinverni, Federico Gazzo, Alessandro Monti. The production of comedic and stereotypical works continues with Aldo Acquarone, G. B. Rapallo (Baciccia). In a middle way the Savona anarchist printer Giuseppe Cava, the Genoese Ettore Chiappe, Augusto Tessada, Filippo Angelo Castello, Marino Merello, Nora Massa; towards a partial renewal Italo Mario Amgeloni, Francesco Puppo, Alfredo Gismondi, Carlo Domingo Adamoli, Alberto Boccaleone, Pietro Lombardo and G. B. Costa, Luigi Poggi; in 1930, the journalist Arturo Salucci published an anthology of sonnets in Genoese, where one can find traces of the production of sometimes unknown, sometimes interesting authors. Authors linked, in one way or another, to Govian theatre were Emerico Valentinetti, Ugo Palmerini, Sabatino Lopez; while others remained strangers to it, such as Emilio Del Maestro, Luigi Anselmi, Oliviero Olivari, Emilio Tixi, Norberto Sopranzi. A singular experiment is the lyrical work Scheuggio Campaña, with verses by Aldo Martinelli, Emanuele Canesi and Giovanni Monleone. The most significant poet of the first half of the 20th century remains Edoardo Firpo, although his primacy is sometimes questioned. In the meantime, production in the other Ligurian dialects has expanded somewhat, with the works of Filippo Rostan, from Ventemiglia, Marcel Firpo, from Menton, Gin De Stefani and Vincenzo Jacono, from San Remo, all presented in the pages of the neo-felibrist magazine A Barma Grande. Among the La Spezia poets we must name Ubaldo Mazzini, among the Oltregiogo poets Ettore Zunino and Angelo Daglio, among the Alassio poets Ettore Morteo, in Ovada Colombo Gajone. In the post-World War II period, a revival of civil themes, witnessed by the booklets relating to the Lauro d’Oro competition, was accompanied by the movement of Firpo’s imitators, who were inclined to think that the only lyric poet in Genoese poetry was him, and some even had interesting results, almost superior to those of the master, such as Sandro Patrone and Vito Elio Petrucci; along the same lines Roberto Della Vedova, Antonio Canepa, Flora Mancini, Luigi Cornetto. Other lyric poets outside the Firpi line were Guido Nilsen, Silvio Opisso, Rita Cuneo, Rosita Del Buono from Savona, Mario Lertora and Piero Bozzo. In the 1970s, with the increased interest at a national level for literature in “dialect”, a flourishing of poets of various inspirations can also be observed in Liguria, such as Giuliano Balestreri, Sergio Sileri, Angelo De Ferrari, Ernesto Pisani, Emma Midolo, Jean Aicardi, Pia Bandini, Giovanni Ghione, Giorgio Grassi, Rodolfo Badarello, Mario Accornero, Armando Giorgi, Luciano Caprile; Among the most significant names that emerged between the 1960s and 1980s were Plinio Guidoni, who was also active as a playwright, and Roberto Giannoni, both of whom were involved in a profound transformation of literature in the Genoese language and were nationally known. Other authors who emerged shortly afterwards were Fiorenzo Toso, Alessandro Guasoni, Daniele D. Caviglia, and in this first quarter of the 21st century, Bruna Pedemonte, Andreina Solari, Danila Olivieri, Anselmo Roveda, Enrica Arvigo, the reggae singer and “street poet” Marco Carbone. As far as Riviera poetry is concerned, mention must be made of Cesare Vivaldi, from Imperia, who started out from post-World War II neo-realism to arrive at the lyricism of today; Giuseppe Cassinelli from Dolcedo, Pietro Baccino from Giusvalla, Renzo Villa, Andrea Capano and Dionisio Bono from Ventimiglia, Franco D’Imporzano from Sanremo, Eugenio Giovando, Eugenio Lubrano and Renzo Fregoso from La Spezia, Paolo Bertolani from Serra di Lerici, Livio Gianolla from Arcola, Bruno Rombi from Calasetta, Maria Pia Viale from Vallebona, Natalino Trincheri. Prose, too, has undergone a certain development, starting with the tales and anecdotes of Guido Pastor from Buggio, to the Sestresi tales and fables of Elsa Pastorino Alloisio, and the other anecdotes with an everyday theme collected by Maria Terrile Vietz. The theatre had its authors, revealed by the Anna Caroli prize, among them the aforementioned Plinio Guidoni, and others such as Enrico Scaravelli, Gianni Poli, Enrico Berio.

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Essential bibliography

The first anthology of Ligurian poets is the same one that has given us the works of sixteenth-century authors: Rime diverse in lingua genovese (Bartoli, Pavia, 1583), reprinted several times up to the beginning of the following century.

Another, smaller anthology accompanies the 1745 edition of Cavalli’s A Cittara Zeneise (Franchelli, Genoa).

The next another anthology of Ligurian literature is C. Randaccio’s Dell’idioma e della letteratura genovese (Forzani, Rome, 1894).

Soon after comes F. Donaver, Antologia della poesia dialettale genovese (Libreria Editrice Moderna, Genoa, 1910).

In 1930, A. Salucci published Çento sunetti zeneixi (Libreria Editrice Moderna), an anthology reserved, as per its title, to sonnets; the same year we also have O Cicciollâ – Antologia dialettale savonese, edited by F. Noberasco and I. Scovazzi (Lodola, Savona).

Between 1950 and 1951 a series of articles by E. Firpo appeared in the newspaper L’Unità, later collected in a volume by the title La poesia dialettale genovese (S. Marco dei Giustiniani, Genoa, 1981).

In 1960 it was the turn of M. Boselli, La poesia ligure dalle origini a Edoardo Firpo (Di Stefano, Genoa).

In 1963 we have Priamâ – Antologia della poesia dialettale savonese, edited by R. Del Buono Boero, A. Barile and I. Scovazzi (A Campanassa, Savona).

Between 1986 and 1989 four volumes of the anthology Semmo gente de Liguria came out, edited by M. Delpino, (Edizioni Tigullio–Bacherontius, S. Margherita Ligure).

Later on, the extremely comprehensive Literatura genovese e ligure by F. Toso (Marietti, Genoa, 1989–1991) was published, in six volumes, and then reprinted, with changes, in 2000 and 2010, for the published “Le Mani” (Genoa–Recco). At the same time, the same author published a historical synthesis of literature in Liguria entitled Profilo storico della letteratura ligure in the bulletin of the association “A Compagna”.

In 1997, P. Guidoni published Saggi sulla letteratura genovese, edited by L. Coveri, F. Toso, R. Trovato (A Compagna, Genoa), a collection of essays and articles already published by the author on various occasions.

In 1999 we have Emigranti do rie, an anthology of poets in twentieth-century Ligurian, edited by F. Toso, for the publisher «In forma di parola» (Bologna), as the second issue of the 19th year of the magazine In forma di parola.

In 2019 Poets in Ligurian between the Twentieth Century and the Year Two Thousand was published, edited by A. Guasoni (Edizioni Cofine, Rome).