In December 2011 an international conference took place in Oxford to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Italo Svevo, and to take stock of the continuing influence exerted by his work at the start of the third millennium. With over 100 participants from all over the world, the conference represented a unique moment of reflection and exchange of ideas among the foremost Svevo specialists. Resulting from that meeting, the 38 papers included in this two volume publication represent the cream of current scholarship on one of the best known (in Italy and abroad) among the Italian writers at the turn from the 19th to the 20th century.
Svevo’s masterpiece, La coscienza di Zeno (1923), was one of the most significant Modernist novels, admired by the likes of J. Joyce, T. Mann and E. Montale, and has become one of the major narrative works in the Italian language. Taking advantage of the unique richness of the cultural background of its Triestine author and drawing abundantly from the Germanic philosophical tradition (Schopenhauer in particular), the novel was also one of the very first works of fiction to dialogue with Freudian discourse and with Darwinian theories, at the same time effecting a true revolution in terms of literary style; its legacy (as shown by several contributors) is visible in terms of direct and indirect influence on many Italian and non-Italian writers in the course of the 20th century, and beyond.
These two volumes will be an indispensable companion to the work of all those (students, teachers, researchers, or simple readers) who wish to understand the momentous transformations taking place in Italy and in Europe at the dawn of the past century and leading to the two World Wars and the shaping of new models of society. Svevo’s work is not only a mirror of his own time from an unusual and particularly revealing perspective, but also an exceptionally lucid analysis of the fundamental questions elicited by those changes, and their effects on human behaviour.