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Salvatore Quasimodo
Born(1901-08-20)20 August 1901
Modica, Sicily, Italy
Died14 June 1968(1968-06-14) (aged 66)
Naples, Campania, Italy
Resting placeCimitero Monumentale, Milan, Italy
Literary movementHermeticism (poetry)
Notable awardsNobel Prize in Literature

Salvatore Quasimodo (Italian: [salvaˈtoːre kwaˈziːmodo]; August 20, 1901 – June 14, 1968) was an Italian poet and translator. In 1959, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature "for his lyrical poetry, which with classical fire expresses the tragic experience of life in our own times".[1] Along with Giuseppe Ungaretti and Eugenio Montale, he was one of the foremost Italian poets of the 20th century.


Quasimodo was born in Modica, Sicily, to Gaetano Quasimodo and Clotilde Ragusa. He spent his childhood in Roccalumera. In 1908 his family moved to Messina, as his father had been sent there to help the local population struck by a devastating earthquake. The impressions of the effects of natural forces would have a great impact on the young Quasimodo. In 1919 he graduated from the local Technical College. In Messina he also made friends with Giorgio La Pira, future mayor of Florence.

Salvatore Quasimodo was introduced to the Scottish Rite Freemasonry[2][3] by his father, who was a member of the Masonic LodgeArnaldo da Brescia”.[4] The Grand Orient of Italy has recognized Quasimodo as one of his most notable brothers.[5]

In 1917 Quasimodo founded the short-lived Nuovo giornale letterario ("New Literary Journal"), in which he published his first poems. In 1919 he moved to Rome to finish his engineering studies, but poor economic conditions forced him to find work as a technical draughtsman. In the meantime he collaborated with several reviews and studied Greek and Latin.

In 1929, invited by Elio Vittorini, who had married Quasimodo's sister, he moved to Florence. Here he met poets such as Alessandro Bonsanti and Eugenio Montale. In 1930 he took a job with Italy's Civil Engineering Corps in Reggio Calabria. Here he met the Misefari brothers, who encouraged him to continue writing. Developing his nearness to the hermetic movement, Quasimodo published his first collection, Acque e terre ("Waters and Earths") in that year.

In 1931 he was transferred to Imperia and then to Genoa, where he got acquainted with Camillo Sbarbaro and other personalities of the Circoli magazine, with which Quasimodo started a fruitful collaboration.[6] In 1932 he published with them a new collection, Oboe sommerso, including all his lyrics from 1930 to 1932.

In 1934 Quasimodo moved to Milan. Starting from 1938 he devoted himself entirely to writing, working with Cesare Zavattini and for Letteratura, the official review of the Hermetic movement. In 1938 he published Poesie, followed by the translations of Lirici Greci ("Greek Poets") published by Corrente di Vita in 1939.

Though an outspoken anti-Fascist, during World War II Quasimodo did not take part in the Italian resistance against the German occupation. In that period he devoted himself to the translation of the Gospel of John, of some of Catullus's cantos, and several episodes of the Odyssey. In 1945 he became a member of the Italian Communist Party.

In 1946 he published another collection, Giorno dopo giorno ("Day After Day"), which made clear the increasing moral engagement and the epic tone of the social criticism of the author. The same theme characterized his next works, La vita non è sogno ("Life Is Not a Dream"), Il falso e il vero verde ("The False and True Green") and La terra impareggiabile ("The Incomparable Land"). In all this period Quasimodo did not stop producing translations of classic authors and collaborating as a journalist for some of the most prestigious Italian publications (mostly with articles about the theatre).

In the 1950s Quasimodo won the following literary awards: Premio San Babila (1950), Premio Etna-Taormina (1953), Premio Viareggio (1958) and, finally, the Nobel Prize for Literature (1959). In 1960 and 1967 he received honoris causa degrees from the Universities of Messina and Oxford, respectively.

A white marble gravestone on the wall of a chapel, with only the name and dates of birth and death inscribed
Quasimodo's grave at the Cimitero Monumentale in Milan in 2015

In his last years the poet made numerous voyages to Europe and America, giving public speeches and public lectures of his poems, which had been translated in several foreign languages.

In June 1968, when he was in Amalfi for a discourse, Quasimodo was struck by a cerebral hemorrhage. He died a few days later in the hospital in Naples. He was interred in the Cimitero Monumentale in Milan.

Poetic language

Traditional literary critique divides Quasimodo's work into two major periods: the hermetic period until World War II and the post-hermetic era until his death. Although these periods are distinct, they are to be seen as a single poetical quest. This quest or exploration for a unique language took him through various stages and various modalities of expression.

As an intelligent and clever poet, Quasimodo used a hermetical, "closed" language to sketch recurring motifs like Sicily, religion and death. Subsequently, the translation of authors from Roman and Greek Antiquity enabled him to extend his linguistic toolkit. The disgust and sense of absurdity of World War II also had its impact on the poet's language. This bitterness, however, faded in his late writings, and was replaced by the mature voice of an old poet reflecting upon his world.

Global policy

He was one of the signatories of the agreement to convene a convention for drafting a world constitution.[7][8] As a result, for the first time in human history, a World Constituent Assembly convened to draft and adopt the Constitution for the Federation of Earth.[9]


  1. ^ "Nobelprize.org". Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  2. ^ "Scrittori, poeti e letterati massoni". Gran Loggia d'Italia degli Alam (in Italian). Archived from the original on Jun 20, 2013. Retrieved Sep 20, 2018..
  3. ^ "Famous personalities and History of the Scottish Rite Freemasonry". massoneriascozzese.it (in Italian). Archived from the original on Dec 19, 2008. Retrieved Sep 20, 2018.
  4. ^ "Man of our century". Giordano Bruno Masonic Lodge (in Italian). Archived from the original on Dec 19, 2011. Retrieved Sep 20, 2018.
  5. ^ "Massoni e padri d'Italia, ecco gli elenchi. Dei vip" [Freemasons and fathers of Italy.]. Grand Orient of Italy. 4 February 2017.
  6. ^ "Biografy". Messina Province. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  7. ^ "Letters from Thane Read asking Helen Keller to sign the World Constitution for world peace. 1961". Helen Keller Archive. American Foundation for the Blind. Retrieved 2023-07-01.
  8. ^ "Letter from World Constitution Coordinating Committee to Helen, enclosing current materials". Helen Keller Archive. American Foundation for the Blind. Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  9. ^ "Preparing earth constitution | Global Strategies & Solutions | The Encyclopedia of World Problems". The Encyclopedia of World Problems | Union of International Associations (UIA). Retrieved 2023-07-15.