Memory and the realization of the nothingness: On a letter from Vittorio Sereni to Giuseppe Ungaretti

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Ungaretti’s problematic relationship with his city of birth sheds light on the interplay between memory and oblivion in his poetry and prose. The shuttling back and forth between these poles marks the nature of his unfulfilled desire to recreate a lost Alexandrian atmosphere. Language opacity in Ungaretti is coupled with his attempts to represent a city—as he writes—that is suffocated by the sun and whose hidden ancient port is submerged by the sea depths. Blinding light and the darkness of the deep waters make the understanding of Ungaretti’s Alexandria a delicate process. In a letter to his friend Ungaretti, Sereni writes that he is preparing a poem but he is blocked at the stage where Ungaretti’s poetry comes into play. Is Sereni referring to a specific poem? The block persisted and is never explicitly resolved by Sereni. I argue that Ungaretti’s presence in Sereni’s poems is to be understood as a long process of reflection that comes to fruition only in Sereni’s late poems of “Stella variabile.” Sereni reconsiders the themes of light and of the city in his own poetry, but he realizes that those images are drowned in the recognition of the unalterable human limitations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-129
Number of pages19
JournalForum Italicum
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • Alexandria
  • Sereni
  • Ungaretti
  • memory
  • nothingness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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