Fillippo Tommaso Marinetti

Born 1876, Alexandria, Egypt

Died 1944 Bellagio, Italy


Marinetti studied at a Jesuit school in France and received a degree in literature in Paris and then graduated in law from the University of Genoa. In 1902, Marinetti published his first book, an epic poem in French, La conquête des étoiles which already shows his strong tendency towards the use of allegory, and a baroque style of imagery which is sometimes excessive and bombastic. In 1905 in Milan he started an international review, Poesia, together with Sem Benelli and Vitaliano Ponti. The issues of this publication show how Marinetti moved within a few years from a position of respect towards traditional poetical values, to the fiercely destructive attitude of early Futurism. The movement was born from a strong act of volition; the desire to create a new literary formula that would reflect the new age. The political renaissance was to be followed by a literary and artistic renaissance. In the Paris Le Figaro of February 11, 1909 Marinetti published the first Futurist Manifesto. This manifesto, like those that followed, is written in a narrative style using extremely elaborate allegories; its texture is so dense that it is not surprising his readers were baffled. Within a few years Marinetti had literally invented the prototype of this historical avant-garde, which Dada and Surrealism were to follow. In this sense, Futurism is the first authentic avant-garde movement: a group whose members shared an elective affinity, with an ideology which is not limited to the arts but includes politics, morals and manners. While Cubism is confined to one art, Futurism opens itself to multiple forms of expression by creating a global ideology. Marinetti and his followers have their say in every sphere, in literature, theater, cinema, politics, dance, eroticism, photography, cuisine, etc. The movement is animated by a “totalitarian” impetus. The Futurists’ aim, like the Surrealists’ later, is to change not only life’s exterior conditions, but also man’s innermost depths. Between 1909 and 1920 (the so-called “heroic” period of the movement) Marinetti and a handful of brave spirits laid the milestones of modern art in dizzying succession. The best people gathered around him. Marinetti is the moving spirit of the movement. In this sense his multi-faceted personality is absolutely new: he is patron, impresario, organizer, expert in maieutics, breeder and trainer of artistic minds and personalities, friend of Futurists, loving, though at times rough, companion of everyone. Among the main figures who belonged to the movement or revolved around it were Boccioni, Balla, Palazzeschi, Govoni, Papini, and Soffici. As a theorist and polemicist, Marinetti is at his best in what he himself called the “art of writing manifestos.” With Marinetti it becomes a symbolic, paradoxical, incandescent and terroristic medium. Marinetti’s series of manifestos is rich and fascinating; from the Founding Manifesto to the allegorical and narrative Let’s Kill Moonlight, from the “technical manifestos” theorizing the use of “words-in-freedom,” to the witty and inventive Variety Theater, and many more. Marinetti’s free-word compositions Battle Weight + Smell, 1912 and Zang Tumb Tuuum, 1914 are very important literary documents, but contain little poetry. With his explosive novel 8 anime in una bomba, 1919, Marinetti used his own free-word theory as a scaffolding for a more complex literary composition. He was now able to accept what he had earlier rejected: sentimental and narrative contents, psychology, and a swift, springy syntax that allows for metaphors, analogies, colors—here Marinetti’s poetic inspiration reaches its highest peak.