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Carlo Michelstaedter (3 June 1887 - 17 October 1910) was an Italianmarker writer, philosopher, and man of letters.

Life

Carlo Michelstaedter was born in Goriziamarker, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian County of Gorizia and Gradisca, as the youngest of four children in a well-to-do Italian-speaking Jewish family. From his father Alberto, the head of an insurance office and president of the Gabinetto di Lettura goriziano, he received a push towards literary study; from his mother Emma Luzzatto, a great love for family and country.

He was a scrappy and introverted boy, but by the end of high school (completed in Gorizia), he developed into a brilliant, athletic, intelligent youth. He enrolled in the department of mathematics in Viennamarker, but soon moved to Florencemarker, a city he savored for its arts and language. There he formed friendships with other students, and in the end enrolled in the department of letters of the local Istituto di Studi Superiori (1905). He majored in Greek and Latin, and selected for his laurea thesis a philosophical study of persuasion and rhetoric in ancient philosophy. In 1909 he returned to Gorizia and set himself to work on the thesis.

By about the fall of 1910, he completed his work, finishing the appendices by 17 October. He was surely very tired, and that day he had a fight with his mother, who complained he hadn't wished her a happy birthday. Left alone, Carlo took a loaded pistol he had in the house and killed himself. One of his friends from Florence, a Russian woman, had also committed suicide, and probably also a brother who lived in Americamarker. Friends and relatives published his works and collected his writings, now in the Biblioteca Civica di Gorizia.

Thought

Tracing the development of Michelstaedter's ideas is difficult: His philosophical vision seems to have formed suddenly, and his brief life didn't allow for time to explore other directions. For him common life is an absence of life, narrow and deluded as it is by the god of pleasure, which deceives man, promising pleasures and results that are not real, although he thinks they are. Rhetoric, -- that is the conventions of the individual, the weak, and society -- comprise social life, in which man overpowers nature and himself for his own pleasure. Only by living in the present as if every moment were the last can man free himself from the fear of death, and thus achieve Persuasion; that is, self-possession. Resignation and adapting onself to the world, for Michelstaedter, is the true death.

Works

  • Dialogo della salute 1909
  • Poesie 1905-1910
  • Persuasione e la rettorica, translated as Persuasion and Rhetoric with an introduction and commentary by Russell Scott Valentino, Cinzia Sartini Blum, and David J. Depew (Yale Universitymarker Press, 2004, ISBN 0-300-10434-0)
  • Epistolario
  • Diario e scritti vari
  • Opere, edited by G. Chiavacci, Sansoni, Firenzemarker 1958
  • Scritti scolastici, edited by Sergio Campailla, Goriziamarker 1976
  • Another English translation of La Persuasione e La Rettorica exists, by Wilhelm Snyman and Giuseppe Stellardi, with an introduction by Giuseppe Stellardi, published by University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, South Africa, January 2007


References

Much of the content of this article comes from the equivalent article in the Italian-language Wikipedia, http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlo_Michelstaedter, retrieved 12 October 2005.



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