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Umberto Saba
(March 9, 1883 - August 26, 1957) Italy

Umberto Saba

Poet, writer


Umberto Saba was the pseudonym of bisexual poet and novelist Umberto Poli. He was born in Trieste, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He had Italian citizenship through his father. His mother was Jewish. His father abandoned the family before Umberto was born. From 1903-1904, he attended the University of Pisa, where he studied archaeology, German, and Latin. In was in this period that he began to complain of a nervous disorder, which was to become more severe with time.

Quitting school, Saba worked for a time as an apprentice and was a cabin-boy on a merchant ship. From 1907-1908 he served in the military in Salerno. He married Carolina Wölfler in 1909, and they had a daughter, Lina, the following year.

In 1910 that Poli adopted the pseudonym Saba. In 1911, he went to Florence, where he published his first volume of poetry and used his new name as author. The following year found him in Bologna, where he continued to write poetry, publishing in newspapers and magazines. His first efforts were coldly received by critics. Saba served in the army from 1915-1918, but was never sent to the front.

Umberto SabaIn 1919 he returned to Trieste and purchased an antiquarian bookstore, the "Ancient and Modern Bookstore." The business produced enough income to support him and his family. He self-published the first edition of his Songbook in 1921 (successive, enlarged editions followed, and eventually it grew to contain over four hundred poems, spanning fifty years).

A bisexual, Umberto Saba wrote poems that expressed his love both of his wife and daughter and of adolescent boys. Although unfinished, in his novel Ernesto, published posthumously in 1975, the writer charts the early homosexual experiences of an adolescent boy at the turn of the century. Ernesto is one of the rare examples of the coming-out novel in Italian literature. In Ernesto he revisited not only the scenes but also the moods of his puberty.

By 1928, Saba was suffering from depression, and frequently contemplated suicide. A friend advised psychoanalysis, which he began the following year.

In 1938, he was forced to sell his bookstore to a friend and "disappear", due to the adoption of racial laws by Fascist Italy . He frequently moved, and fled clandestinely to Paris for a brief period, and to Florence soon thereafter, where he hid in an attic, and then, in 1939, to Rome, where he hid in the home of fellow-poet Giuseppe Ungaretti.

The first great critical acclaim of Saba's work was the 1946 award of the Viareggio Prize. His stature continued to grow and, in 1953 he received an award from the Lincean Academy, and two honorary degrees from the University of Rome.

Saba's mental state declined from 1950 on. He spent long periods in clinics, and began to use morphine. He died at the age of 74 in Gorizia, nine months after a heart attack, and a year after the death of his wife.


Sources: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - and: http://www.glbtq.com/

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