The first literary documents in Friulian date back to the mid-13th and early 14th century. They surface from piles of practical papers, at the time when Friulian was used as a chancery language, but they cannot be considered as the start of a literary tradition. If there is no production in the 15th century, the following century witnessed a flourishing of texts, and the appearance of literary societies in embryonic state.
The first authors emerge (Morlupino, Sini, Strassoldo), linked to different strands or endowed with a multi-faceted personality (Biancone, Donato).
The 17th century is dominated by the Brigata udinese (Udine Brigade) and the fervent inspiration of Ermes di Colloredo, whilst Eusebio Stella too writes in the 17th century, an independent author for the variety of language and contents.
Between the 17th and the 18th centuries, alongside the epigones of Ermes di Colloredo, there is an increase in literary production in the neighbouring areas of Friuli, and Gorizia takes part with Gio Maria Marussig, Gian Giuseppe Bosizio, Marzio di Strassoldo.
Pietro Zorutti, long considered to be the Friulian poet par excellence, greatly influences the 19th century with a literary production that stems from an easy vein, that chooses central Friulian as the medium to reach a broad audience. Studies in Friulian, its lexicon and the number of documents drawn in the language make great strides whilst Caterina Percoto makes its appearance as the first great Friulian woman prose writer.
From around the end of the 19th century, literary production is no longer scarce. In fact the number of writers increases but, above all, literary tradition renovates and links Friulian writing to modern contributions. Pier Paolo Pasolini advocated that Friulian was an ‘intact’ medium capable of conversing with European literatures and, at the end of the second World War he decides to distance himself from Zorutti and what was known as ‘zoruttismo’, i.e. a tendency towards rather superficial ‘dialectalism’, whilst the road is already paved for troubled and dense expressions.
The birth of literature intertwines with many factors. Following the complex fabric of language and society, historical contexts and cultural models that hide behind documents, authors and their poetics, undoubtedly entails limits. However, also for the Friulian language and its literature, it is possible to follow the thread that, sometimes loose and sparse sometimes tight and fast-paced, intertwines to give us a multi-faceted canvas with features and originality of its own. The first Friulian literary texts date back to the mid-14th and early 15th centuries. In this period, also the use of the local idiom in written documents for practical use is intense. Alas, this literary wealth is sudden and short-lived. Friulian as an every-day or ‘chancery’ language is soon replaced and its presence vanishes, until it completely disappears in the early 16th century. Fragments are however found in more ancient documents, as a trace left to reveal «gocce della fiumana di parole che pronunciarono gli uomini di quel tempo» [drops of the flood of words spoken by the people of those times] (Cantarutti) under the ‘guise’ of Latin. Census rolls, accounting papers, administrative notes and books of treasurers, are the place where Friulian can be found in writing, initially unexpectedly, sometimes only in names of places or of people, and later, as in the lists of confraternities, with short complete sentences.
In the area of Cividale, where in the 14th century Padua scholars are called to lecture on law and where an interesting Schola notariorum flourishes, among bits of didactic activity we find a series of exercises involving translations from Friulian into Latin that, through a language which is not exactly a faithful mirror of the spoken language, give us effective pictures of the time and important linguistic information. These documents, from the first 13th century statements to the most elaborate writings after 1350, outline a relatively thick geography, but leave many grey areas, considering that this evidence is stored in the main centres where the cultural life of the Patriarchy developed.
Cividale, the ancient Forum Iulii, seat of the Lombard Duchy, somehow holds the record in giving us the texts of the origin of the language. In the period of the Ghibelline Patriarchy (1077-1250), when the patriarchs, the feudal nobility and the warriors have Germanic origins, its court as well as the linguistic and literary models imported remind us that medieval Friuli is multilingual. In fact, besides Latin, German makes its entrance as a ‘literary’ or official language. Later on, with the new patriarchs who were no longer from beyond the Apls, the region opens up to the influences coming from the peninsula: Provençal, Tuscan-Venetian or ‘Italianizing’.
The first poems in Friulian reached us from these centuries. They are, however, isolated and occasional compositions that, due to their extemporariness and difficult temporal setting, do not allow to set a starting point for Friulian literature. As Pellegrini writes, « the same cultural picture, the history of literary activity, its forms and recipients, the frailty and dispersion of the recoverable evidence, remain in the dark». The ballad Piruç myo doç inculurit, written in ancient cividalese (dialect spoken in the Cividale area) with its typical –o endings for the feminine words (manaço ‘minaccia’ (threat)), is ascribable to Antonio Porenzoni Notary Public, noted on the back of a notarial deed of 1380, is a learned example of courtly lyrics, and shows its features in the refined lexicon: Piruç myo doç inculurit, quant yo chi vyot, dut stoy ardit. Per vo mi ven tant ardiment e si furç soy di grant vigor ch’yo no crot fa dipartiment may del to doç lial amor per manaço ni per timor, çi chu vul si metto a strit. […] [Piruç mio dolce colorito, / quando io ti vedo, tutto sto ardito. // Per voi mi viene tanto ardimento / e così fortemente sono di gran vigore / che io non credo di allontanarmi / mai dal tuo dolce leale amore / né per minaccia né per timore, / chiunque voglia si metta a contesa] (Traduzione di R. Pellegrini. Piruç states that there are several explanations for this).
Typical of the Cividale area is also the amorous debate Biello dumnlo di valor (dumnlo, meaning ‘donna’ [woman], always with the typical –o ending) noted on the exercise book of Simone di Vittore da Feltre Notary Public at a later date (1416), and perhaps being part of a minstrelsy repertoire. Another amorous debate, the so-called Soneto furlan (E là four del nuestri chiamp), by an anonymous author and written in an unknown time period, that due to both the rather licentious topic and the difficulties in reading was only published in the middle of last century and had better be transmitted orally due to the numerous faults in the text.
The 16th century
Apart from a spell against the wolf and an idle tale ascribed to Nicolò de Portis from Cividale (with yet some typical features such the feminine ending in –o), the 15th century is silent with regard to literary evidence. At the turn of the century, Pietro Capretto chose the «lengua trivisana» (language spoken in the Treviso area) to vernacularize the Constitutioni de la Patria del Frivoli aimed at «li populi furlani» /the Friulian people) and this might deprive Friulian of its scope though in the humble sphere of administration records. The 16th century started with new issues, the historical conditions changed and difficult events gripped the peninsula. Fallen under Venetian rule, Friuli echoed the question of the Italian language that led to accepting the illustrious Tuscan as the vernacular deemed suitable for literary communication, took part to the dissemination of the Petrarchan model for lyrical poetry and, above all, it portrayed a changed picture of the written use of Friulian. The language basically disappeared from practical papers and records which tended to be written in a form of Italian vernacular, but emerged «with a wealth of metric exercises» in poetry (Pellegrini). Many texts can be ascribed to the 16th century and seem to thrive in a sort of literary society with Udine and the relationships intertwining around it as its core, i.e. small literary societies where verses circulate within a restricted community of readers and writers with similar taste. Apart from an anonymous canzoniere (a collection of tales of love) written in 1513 with the defamatory hues of the chirivari, i.e. satire at the expense of a non-canonical married couple (old groom and young bride), the wealth of 16th-century compositions that survived to the present day, though occasional and often anonymous, mostly date back to the second half of the century. They are generally written with the aim of entertaining and carry the Friulian language in the furrow of the reactions to the prestige of the Tuscan language. The verses lend themselves to humour and fun, but the authors that we know so well give us the idea of a rather lively panorama. Though conforming in part to some sort of central Friulian or, in any case to a ‘levelled’ Friulian, they belong to marginal areas compared to Udine. Nicolò Morlupino, a Notary Public from Venzone (active between 1528 and 1571), Girolamo Sini (1529-1602) from San Daniele, and Girolamo Biancone from Tolmezzo (with «uncertain personal data» as reported by Pellegrini), are renowned for their praise of the Friulian language. Chel vuarp chu za chiantà chun grech latin (That blind man who sang in Greek) is the famous composition by Morlupino in defence of writing poetry in Friulian (Jo sarès un menchion / A favellâ e no jessi intindut / Dentre de ville là ch’io soi nassut, «I would be a fool / to speak without being understood / in the country where I was born», Pellegrini[Translated into English by O.Bisegna]), where the stance in favour of the local idiom vis-à-vis other codes, however corresponds to a stylistic choice rather than an ideology. It cares for variety and free relationships between languages In laude de lenghe furlane di Girolamo Sini (A par che al Mont cui chu scrif in rime / Al sei tignut a falu par Toscan […] Iò l’hai par un abùs, parcè ch’un stime / Chu chel cil sool seij rich e vebi a man / Dut chel di biel chu chiaat in cur human, «People think that who writes in rhyme / must do so in Tuscan […] In my opinion this is an abuse, because people believe / that only that sky is rich and holds / all the beautiful things that dwells in the human heart»), whilst the superiority of Friulian seems to be announced by Girolamo Biancone in the sonnet, with its long tail, Furlans, voo havees lu vant in plan e in mon(t). In this sonnet, Biancone states that the Friulian language is suitable for ‘silly stories’, parlour games, nonetheless, what he writes should not be read in simplistic terms. In fact, it is this very author that in his sonnets and octaves adjusts, for the first time, this language to high content keynotes, a «thoughtful religiosity» and an «intimate and hurtful expression» (Cantarutti).
The register used is constant, a feature that stands out also in translations, just like in this sonnet borrowed from Petrarch that does not aim at copying or even contaminating or upsetting, but at remaking the model: Io no pues vivi in paas e non hai vuere, e tremi in miez dal cuur duquant glazaat. Trop alt io monti e no mi moof di tiare. Du’l mont è mio e sì non hai dal flaat. […] [I cannot live in peace and I do not fight, / and I shiver in a half frozen heart. / Too high I climb and yet do not leave the ground. / The whole world is mine and I am breathless] (Translated by O. Bisegna).
Two more authors are worthy of mention as regards the 16th century. The canzoniere by Giuseppe Strassoldo (born in Strassoldo around 1520 and vicar to the Beligna Monastry) is not very wide; he writes love verses borrowing aulic notes which cause him to be erroneously defined as ‘petrarchist’. Giovan Battista Donato (born in Venice but of Friulian adoption), who spent most of his life between Gruaro and Porto, strikes a discordant note. Giovan Battista Donato distanced himself especially from those who praised Friulian (conversely he defended marginal varieties as opposed to central Friulian), and was characterised by great freedom in adopting different codes, as well as by a sparkling multilingual game that was partly suggested by the Ventian environment. His poetry blends western and central Friulian traits or adopts micro-varieties with lively compliance. Prose too was quite interesting (il Testamint di barba Pisul Stentadizza), an unprecedented example of lexical wealth and syntactic creation. Pellegrini thought that Donato had a «sparkling yet unfocused personality», and this explains the reason behind the «failed emergence of a literary Friulian on the right side of the Tagliamento river». If Donato and Biancone need to be examined in depth for their remarkable personality, the 16th century does not simply boast anonymous verses but also compositions by known authors that exhalt the dignity and use of the Friulian language. The translation, or better the conversion into parody, of the Raging Orlando (first song, transmitted by two non-authographed manuscripts preserved at the Vatican Library and the Civic Library of Udine, and part of the second song, the octaves of which are transmitted by an 18th century copy) can be traced back to the second half of the century. This translation is linked to a well-known strategy of “reflective Italian literature” that presents a twisted version of classic compositions, quite different from the original text, and peppers them with details of the lower part of the body. A comparison of the original with the revised text can give an idea of the process, that is not targeted for the general public but highly-educated recipients, capable of understanding the irrevent side. Friulian does not derail from its burlesque use, for entertainment purposes. Glis polzettis, gl’infangh, gl’amors, glis armis, glis balfueriis, plases e i grangh rumors chu for dal timp ch’al cuul haver lis tarmis e ziir cerchiant chui chu grattas iu Mors […] [The girls, the young, the love affairs, the arms, / the stunts, attentions and the loud noises / of the times the Moors had itchy bums from crawlies / and went in search for people to scratch them] (Translated by O. Bisegna) Original: Le donne, i cavallier, l’arme, gli amori, le cortesie, l’audaci imprese io canto, che furo al tempo che passaro i Mori d’Africa il mare, e in Francia nocquer tanto […]
At the height of battle of Lepanto (1571), amidst the exultation at the victory over the Turks, the commemorative series, that exalt Venice and insult the defeated infidel, welcome the verses in local language with abundance of details, transmitted by both printed texts and manuscripts. It is in this context that, for the first time, popular participation «comes to the fore of Friulian literary news» thanks to a «mestri sartoor / Zuan dal Toos» (thus a dress-maker) that claims to have written one of those texts.
Baroque 17th century and the 18th century
The 17th century is the century of academies and Baroque. In literature, poetry celebrates wonder and intelligence, the search for amazement though complex syntactic constructions and witty metaphors. In Udine, the taste for gathering in literary societies is evident in the Brigata udinese, a poets society with members (three Notaries Public, a painter, a magistrate, two priests and a lawyer) that adopt curious pseudonyms, namely Lambin (Girolamo Missio), Mitit (Brunello Brunelleschi), Nator (Daniello Sforza), Ritit (Giovanni Pietro Fabiaro), Ritur (Francesco di Cucagna), Rumtot (Gasparo Scarabello), Ruptum (Plutarco Sporeno) and Turus (Paolo Fistulario). The initial group comprising Turus, Lambin and Rumtot extended its membership to other people, but it is Turus- Fistulario who transcribed the compositions of the brigata onto a manuscript housed at the Civic Library of Udine and currently in bad state of preservation. The themes are linked to the exchange of rhymes between poets and rhyming poems to celebrate special events. These are mostly humorous and focused on love themes, with a trend to emphasize and eventually exaggerate the poet’s technical ability and play on surprising metaphors. But what matters is experimentation, and «all-round» (Pellegrini).
In the translation of verses 57- 72 of the fourth song and 7-51 of the fifth song of The Frenzy of Orlando (or more literally Raging Orlando), Paolo Fistulario does not seek the parody or ridiculous remake, on the contrary, it tries to comply with the model, composing it without betraying it, bending the Friulian language to the high register.
This holds true for the four sonnets «Di Turus si chu chel dal Petrarchie», in Petrarch’s style, where change starts to become evident. Svergonzantmi ben spes ch’ anchimò io tasi, signore Stelle, lis vuestris belezzis, io pensi al timp ch’Amor chu lis soos frezzis fazè sì chu niun’altre al mont mi plasi. […] [Often ashamed of still remaining silent / Lady Star, your beauty, / I think of the time when Love and its arrows / was such that I liked no other in this world] (Translated by O.Bisegna) Original: Vergognando talor ch’ancor si taccia, donna, per me vostra bellezza in rima, ricorro al tempo ch’i’ vi vidi prima, tal che null’altra fia mai che mi piaccia. […] Though with evident deviations, it is the system of equivalences that provides the measure of rhetoric ability and the novelty is noted on the language plane.
The corpus of the brigata (224 poems of which 40 were published) deserves appropriate reading not only for the changing tones but also for the wealth of lexical and linguistic information, and for the new features it provides on the context in which the authors lived. The classical example taken from the canzoniere, always by Fistulario, is Lu zuuch dal biel floor (game of the beautiful flower, by Ariosto), a short poem dedicated to Mitit- Brunelleschi that, through a parlour game between boys and girls, depicts the environment of the Udine area with lively traits and interesting cues for the history of the language. Thus, in the first half of the century, Udine provides evidence of a literary dialogue that has reached us thanks to the work and probably the role played by Fistulario, a dialogue which seems to be restricted to the area of the city.
On the other hand, the work by Eusebio Stella (1610-1671), the author who dared use very realistic and uninhibited language, secretly spread in Spilimbergo, perhaps thanks to the closed loop, with particular emphasis on the sexual sphere.
It should not be forgotten that the control of the Counter-reform was active in the 17th century, with the long list of banned books and their covertly reading. The compositions by Stella, almost three hundred texts collected in an autograph code preserved at the Civic Library of Udine, deal with a large variety of topics, ranging from praising jokes, yet focused on the licentious tale, and display versatile intelligence as well as unprecedented open-mindedness.
These characters have placed Eusebio Stella, in the second half of the 20th century, among the most interesting Friulian poets, but the 17th century was dominated by the figure of Ermes di Colloredo, who reaped undeniable endorsement and success in his time, such as to deserve the handwritten circulation of his works and critical fortune which were completely new to literature in Friulian. Born in the castle of Colloredo di Montalbano from a noble family, the poet spent his adolescence (1637-1644) as a page in Florence. He then became a man of arms in Germany and Dalmatia, and for a brief period at the court of Vienna, but he quickly waived both life in the army and at court, preferring the tranquillity of his house in Gorizzo near Codroipo, where he composed verses for a ring of friends (and for his beloved Polimia).
Considered as the «father of Friulian literature» which he says «it is fully aware of its artistic abilities» (Chiurlo), Colloredo is an author endowed with great expressive power and rich inspiration, who feels free to range from the serious genre to the burlesque one, as well as to the criticism of customs. The following century, which witnessed the dissemination of many a copy of handwritten and non-autographed copies of his verses, consecrated him as a canon, a model of language and taste, differentiating him from the Baroque 17th-century style, of which he reflects some of the key themes though with originality: Chel tic e toc, cu conte ogni moment ju pass, che il timp misure in nestri dan, e veloz trapassand dal mes a l’an, cun chei pass nus condûs al monument. Polimie, pense pur, che a chel concent anchie i flors dal to volt e spariran, e ad onte dal to fast prest finiran la to crudel beltat e il miò torment. […] [That ticking, counting every moment / those steps time measures to our detriment, / and moving quickly from month to year / it leads us to the tomb by those very steps. / Polimia, do think that then / also the flowers will disappear from your face, / and, in spite of your splendour / your cruel beauty and my torment will end soon].
The transmission of the manuscripts, the use of a Friulian language that is close to today’s koiné, contribute to set the features of literary Friulian that, starting from Colloredo, then stabilises on its central varieties. The publishing of his manuscripts proposed in 1785 (Udine, Murero) is of crucial importance. Although it did not create a true tradition, Colloredo’s legacy which straddles the two centuries, will be found in some authors that continued working along the explored strands, but above all started using the koiné. The names of these authors are Antonio Dragoni (1632-1702), Giusto Fontanini (1666-1736), koiné being anthologized by a sonnet that closely follows the burlesque strand (A di un plevan ch’al veve la massarie brutte), Bernardino Cancianini (1690?-1770), and Gabriele Paciani (1712-1793) from Cividale.
While this uniform famework of reference starts consolidating, perhaps as a reaction or due to its own maturity, also the marginal varieties of Friulian become more widespread between the 17th and the 18th centuries. It is the area of Gorizia that starts imposing itself, through the works of Gio Maria Marussig (1641-1712), Gian Giuseppe Bosizio (1660-1743) and Marzio di Strassoldo (1736- 1797). The works of Marussig place a lot of emphasis on chronicle, and more specifically on gruesome facts, that the 17th is century renown for, but developed with personality (see Le morti violenti o subitane successe in Goritia o suo distretto, the description of over two hundred deaths occurred between 1641 and 1704, where the verses are completed and sometimes act as real support to greatly effective drawings). Bosizio is the author of difficult translation from Virgilio, that are interesting for diverging reasons. We know nothing about the version of the Eclogues. La Georgica di Virgili translated into viars furlans is handwritten (until 1857) whilst La Eneide di Virgili translated into viars furlans berneschs is published in Gorizia in 1775. If the Georgics pursue the equivalence with Latin, though always change the adopted metre, and are particularly relevant for their wealth of lexicon linked to the abudance of peasant technical terminology, whereas, Eneide, by its title, denounces the deforming, ‘mocking’ perspective.
Hexameters are written in octaves of hendecasyllables, that, though closely following the model, input many humorous parts, excessively dilating the theme cues or including utterly anachronistic information.
In the 18th century, some manuscripts and printed works still come from western Friuli and the Carnia area, which bear a light-hearted preach and the parody of a will, but the verses are scarce. As a result one cannot state that the century was particularly vivid.
Printed works of the last decades (and from different geographical areas: central Friuli, Collored, Gorizia, Bosizio) remain nonetheless important, whilst in highly-educated environments individuals meditate on the features of the language and pulpit preaching in Friulian becomes more widespread.
The 19th century
Between the 18th and the 19th centuries a singular figure, the one of a peasant poet called Florindo Mariuzza, was often found at village festivals. With the musical accompaniment of his brother, Secondo, and the help of a guitar and a mandolin, the amorous and playful repertoire of his compositions tries to adapt to the various places such as to be considered some «sort of ante litteram singer-songwriter» (Kersevan).
His verses, that play with the rhythms that are typical of the language, became part of local heritage, but Mariuzza also refers, by ideology of entertainment and decommitment, to the person that will be considered as the poet par excellence: Pietro Zorutti.
The almanac genre was quite popular with Zorutti, a pocket booklet that besides calendar information, contained forecasts and intermezzos in rhyme.
Originally from eastern Friuli (he was born in Lonzano del Collio in 1792), Pietro Zorutti lived in Udine where he worked as a clerk for the Austrian Tax Authorities, spending the time allowed at his estate in Bolzano of San Giovanni al Natisone. His «Strolic» appeared in 1821 and was published, apart from a short pause, until 1867, when he died. This periodical magazine (a genre that is repetitive and entails an ongoing relationship with the readers) published most of his production, stemming from a generous vein that earned him the title of the most popular poet of the 19th century, but which is also the cause of subsequent criticism of his work. His poetry ranges from the natural-sentimental romance, to comedy, epigram, with unlimited inventiveness, drawn by the ease of rhymes. It is no coincidence that his most famous poem is an endless praise to Plovisine (light rain). Plovisine minudine Lizerine Tu vens ju cussì cidine Senze tons e senze lamps, E tu das di bevi ai chiamps. Plovisine fine fine Lizerine Bagne bagne un frighinin L’ort del puar contadin. […] [Light rain, / drizzle, / that falls silent, / without sound or flashes, / quenching the thirsty fields. // Light drizzle, / light rain, / wet a little bit / the vegetable patch of the poor peasant]. With his ‘common sense’, the philosophy of ‘letting something pass’, with the poetry of decommitment (his satire is superficial and does not touch upon power), Zorutti expressed the feelings of one part of the Friulian society (the small bourgeoisie of Udine), but the general reader consent contributed to conceiving the idea that Friulian is suitable for witticism, entertainment as an end in itself, as well as for the mannered portrait of nature.
In the 19th century, Friuli, that in the second half of the century passed from Austrian ruling to the Kingdom of Italy, but only as regards the central and western part (Gorizia remained linked to the Austrian-Hungarian empire), however shows a considerable quantity of texts and authors in Friulian. Thanks to the almanacs printed in the Gorizia area, authors try a type of prose that is more suitable for communication, useful writing, meant to educate the peasant masses, and therefore of great importance, even if influenced by Italian. Refined and rich lexicon marks instead the entrance in Friulian literature of the first woman author, Caterina Percoto (1812-1887). Like Zorutti she belonged to an impoverished aristocratic family of eastern Friuli (she was born in San Lorenzo di Soleschiano) and, except for rare intervals of time, she lived at her family’s estate which she took care of. She became a writer, known for her prose in Italian and Friulian thanks to the guidance and friendship of illustrious names (Francesco Dall’Ongaro, Niccolò Tommaseo, Giosuè Carducci). Her novels and legends reflect the 19th century plan of disseminating a new kind of literature among urban populations with educational and patriotic goals. The proses in Friulian (first published in magazines and then in volumes), partly original and partly the reworking of popular subjects, achieve stylistically high results. Caterina Percoto shows linguistic confidence and sensitivity, and her page flows effective, sometimes lean, faithful to the narrative’s theme. One of the texts that are mentioned the most, Lis striis di Gjermanie, which describe the meeting of German and Friulian witches and their separation following a baleful event (probably the war), cleverly combines images taken from popular beliefs, descriptive ability and moral purpose. Both Pietro Zorutti and Caterina Percoto write in a Friulian language that alienates marginal elements. Their choices indicate the route for a common written language.
Straddling two centuries
In the mid-19th century and the first part of the following century it becomes difficult to follow the developments of written Friulian from close. Zorutti’s example prevails as far as poetry is concerned, but authors with more pronounced sensitivity emerge, Italian influences are perceived though with some delay (Giovanni Pascoli writes alongside Giacomo Leopardi), and writers search for new expressive possibilities.
This latter aspect is especially evident in translations, that are attempted by both classical and modern writers, including foreign authors. As regards the Friulian language there is an alternating of those who adhere to the central rule and those that opt for the variant. Pietro Bonini (1844-1905), in his Versi friulani (1898) and Nuovi versi friulani (1900), beside sonnets that reflect the influence of Leopardi, Foscolo and Carducci, presents a significant number of versions that meet the desire to «show the possibilities of the Friulian language». Pieri Corvat (i.e. Pietro Michelini, 1863-1933), is known for Il Quarantevot, a «tragicomic» description in sonnets, though with a strong sense of reality, of the Udine movements. Vittorio Cadel (1884-1917), painter and aviator who died in Macedonia, left love compositions, sonnets and villotte, mainly in the Friulian language spoken in the Fanna area. Also Giuseppe Malattia della Vallata (1875-1948) exploited a western variety of Friulian, spoken in the Barcis area, in his verses and in the curious collection of Villotte friulane moderne. Very peculiar is the work of V.G. Blanch (Luigi Rodaro, 1859-1932), who through his Linguaggio friulano (1929), besides its original verses should be noted for the broad and new choice of translations. As a practical demonstration of the similarities between Catalan and Friulian, these include a series of versions with parallel text by Catalan authors that overall anticipate the «discovery» made by Pasolini two decades later (Pellegrini). Still taking account of the individual experiences, here it is worth mentioning Emilio Nardini (1866- 1932), Enrico Fruch (1873-1932), Argeo (Celso Cescutti, 1877-1946), Giovanni Lorenzoni (1884-1950). Fruch, from Rigolato, abbandons the Carnia version in favour of Central Friulian. Starting at the end of the 19th century, he starts from Zorutti’s stance that slowly refines itself, and his verses display some sort of humanitarian socialism that is near to Pascoli’s ideology.
Pascoli’s lesson (Giovanni Pascoli of the Poemetti) is deeper in Lorenzoni, though within poetry that has a «comforting rather than difficult» character (A. Ciceri). Emilio Nardini is not devoid of suggestions, whilst Argeo, whose more intense production dates back to the early 20th century, is far from Zorutti’s playful easiness.
In this first part of the century, prose experimentation is still limited. The interweave of literary works and folk stories, with interest prevailing more or less in ethnographic data, is more strongly felt in the work of Luigi and Giovanni Gortani from Carnia.
Thus, the literature of the years preceding 1915-18 is more serious and considered, but does not allow for clean breaks with tradition or precise trendy definitions, except for the spur to follow the footsteps of Italian poetry.
However, the second half of the 19th century witnessed the flourishing of studies on Friulian. The regard for folklore produces collections of songs, proverbs and sayings (the publishing of villotte or «Friulian folk songs» by Leicht, Gortani, Teza, Arboit, Ostermann. The works of Jacopo and Giulio Andrea Pirona help the creation of the project of a Friulian vocabulary, published in 1871, and in 1873 G.I. Ascoli, a glottologist from Gorizia, gives the Friulian language its first scientific description in the Saggi ladini. At the turn of the centuries some magazines that collect precious contributions on language, literature and folk traditions become valid tools for research and the collection of ideas and common efforts. Aftre the season of the «Pagine friulane» published in Udine by Domenico Del Bianco (1888-1907), Gorizia becomes the birthplace of «Le nuove pagine », edited by Giovanni Lorenzoni, which are short-lived (from 1907, for six issues) and replaced, with the help of Ugo Pellis, by «Forum Iulii» (1910-1914), an extremely rich periodical magazine that, in addition to historical and artistic topics, also deals with studies on language as well as texts and versions in Friulian. Thanks to these initiatives and their promoters, both before and during the Great War, Gorizia shows its Friulian character, and it is here that in 1919 the Friulian Philological Society is established and then moved to Udine with the aim of preserving Friuli’s heritage of language and traditions. However, within the Society some of the choices made are in line with Fascism that turns this north-eastern region into the bulwark of Latinity against the Slavic-German world. But also provocative dissenting voices are heard in the twenty-year period concerned.
Here worthy of notice is Giovanni Minut (1896-1967), author of harsh social protest and anti-Fascist poems. Also Giovanni Schiff (pre Zaneto, 1872- 1947) and Giuseppe Driulini (Siôr Barbe, 1854-1949) enter in a controversy with fascism on the pages of catholic magazines. A number of literary experiences are wothy of notice among those gathering around the Friulian Philological Society, giving rise through their studies to a phase of important scientific liveliness (initiatives include the publication in 1935 of the Nuovo Pirona, edited by G.B. Corgnali and E. Carletti, that extends the vocabulary of 1871, integrating it with the material by G.A. Pirona). Bindo Chiurlo (1886-1943), editor of the Antologia della letteratura friulana (1927), as well as significant editions (Colloredo, Percoto, Zorutti), is a refined poet, that however uses the Friulian language only for minor compositions. Ugo Pellis (1882-1943), untiring collectors for the Italian Linguistic Atlas (Atlante Linguistico Italiano) is also the author of verses, interesting rhythmic prose and unpublished translations in the Friulian language spoken in the Aquileia area. Finally, Ercole Carletti (1877-1946), with his irregular verses, the sudden repeated onomatopoeias and symbolism that is the symptom of a restless feeling, reaches the climax of Friulian poetry in this period, announcing the change of the aftermath of the Second World War.
The 20th century breakthrough
The Philological Society reaps the harvest of 19th-century developments, anticipating further ongoing strides ahead. The turning point in Friulian literature instead shows in its breakdown. While 1942 marks 150 years since the birth of Pietro Zorutti with almost unanimous acclaim, two authors resolutely distance themselves, namely Pier Paolo Pasolini and Giuseppe Marchetti. As regards language and poetry the break with tradition occurs outside Friuli. ‘Zoruttismo’, despite dissenting voices, restricted the expressive possibility of Friulian poetry. It is thanks to Pasolini (Friulian mother from Casarsa) that Friulian asserted itself for the first time, beyond regional border, as a complete and modern tool. In 1942, a short collection of poems entitled Poesie a Casarsa published in Bologna, immediately noted by Gianfranco Contini, where Friulian is used in a totally new manner. This Friulian is «practical and imperfect […] a hybrid mix of the Casarsa dialect» of his mother and koiné drawn from the Nuovo Pirona (Belardi and Faggin).
The poems are nonetheless revolutionary: thanks to the sensitivity and refined culture of Pasolini these poems are «outside […] dialect» and beside great modern literatures. In this variant that is «initially not written» but later mastered by him, Friulian is above all the language of poetry, a young and unexplored land, the world which expresses a universe that is «out of time and history» (Belardi e Faggin). Il nini muart Sera imbarlumida, tal fossàl a cres l’aga, na fèmina plena a ciamina pal ciamp. Jo i ti recuardi, Narcìs, ti vevis il colòur da la sera, quand li ciampanis a sùnin di muart. [The dead child / Bright evening, in the ditch / the water rises, a pregnant woman / walks through the field. / I remember you, Narcissus, you had the colour / of the evening, when the bells / knell]. (Translation by O. Bisegna) In the same way it depicts a poetic code that needs to be renewed, along with the traditions of «small Romance countries». From 1942 to 1949 Pasolini lived in Casarsa, he taught and initiated a group of young and very young people to poetry. In 1945 Pasolini founded Academiuta di lenga furlana and in 1944 he launched a number of magazines (four «Stroligut» and the «Quaderno romanzo» in 1947), where a sort of modern writing emerged. Thanks to this exercise, the publication of small editions by the poets of the Academiuta (Cesare Bortotto, Tonuti Spagnol, Nico Naldini), also resorting to translations from French and Italian contemporary authors, the Friulian language took on what Contini, reviewing Poesie a Casarsa, had defined as «the true nobility of a minor language» (in «Corriere del Ticino», 24 April 1943). In 1949 Pasolini is forced to abandon Friuli and the Friulian season comes to a halt, in 1954, with the collection of poems entitled La meglio gioventù, a sort of «desperate tribute to the far myth, to a happy and uncontaminated Friuli» (Pellegrini). Twenty years later, in 1975, faced with the collapse of peasant culture, La nuova gioventù will be its tragic countermelody.
The lesson learnt in Casarsa was fruitful. Also worthy of notice are two authors who wrote poetry in the same years and who, despite being united by the modernity of their research, cannot be included in the circuit of the Academiuta. Pasolini shows admiration for Franco de Gironcoli (1892-1979), an illustrious doctor from Gorizia who lived in Conegliano who in 1944 and 1945 wrote his first short collections of poetry in the dialect spoken in Gorizia, and the verses collected in 1951 in the Elegie in friulano (Poesie in friulano will be published in 1977). Flattering opinions are also expressed on Riccardo Castellani, in Casarsa in the years of the Academiuta. Born from a father from the Carnia area, he starts publishing on the «Stroligut», later distancing himself from Pasolini. For his canzoniere, Ad óur dal mont (1976), Castellani is considered a classic author of Friulian literature (Belardi and Faggin). Pasolini’s legacy is collected, though differently, but the group of Risultive, (Spring water), founded in 1949 under the spur of Giuseppe Marchetti. Marchetti and Pasolini meet in an effort to widen the scope of the use of Friulian, to give it wide dignity as a language. According to Pasolini this can be achieved through poetry, though the complete freedom of individual creation. Marchetti instead advocates the use of a single model, applicable to both all kind of social communication, as it happens in the pages of the periodical magazine called «La Patrie dal Friûl», and to literature. The programme of Risultive declares its faithfulness to tradition, despite the need for renovation and considering a new awareness of the language. Among the members of the group there are authors (Dino Virgili, Otmar Muzzolini, Aurelio Cantoni) united by the will to use common Friulian, as a shared tool and without restrictions. Virgili adopts the romance form through L’aghe dapît la cleve, paving the way to other experiences, Riedo Puppo will develop the tale form, whereas Alviero Negro and Aurelio Cantoni the theatre one.
Also other initiatives are undertaken in line with tradition.
«Il Tesaur», a magazine edited by G.F. D’Aronco (which then involved N. Pauluzzo, F. M. Barnaba, P. Someda de Marco, C. Bortotto) is published in 1949. «Scuele libare furlane » is published in 1952 upon the initiative of Domenico Zannier, who in 1967 collects in the anthology La cjarande some authors including the budding Umberto Valentinis. Although Novella Cantarutti appears in the first issue of the «Risultive», she cannot be ascribed to a particular school. Close to both Marchetti and Pasolini, her writing follows very personal routes, in terms of both linguistic choice (the marginal variety from Navarons, spoken by her mother), and in terms of freedom of expression, that ranges from poetry to tales, performing at the same time an untiring ethnographic research.
The cultural scene that began to develop in the 1960s deserves a thorough review on its own merits, owing to the extremely interesting work that was produced by individual poets or literary projects and the growing number of initiatives embarked upon. There is space here to mention only a few names, but those that belong to authors in more recent years are enough to outline a fresh flowering of Friulian literature.
The anguished title alone of Libers… di scugnî lâ, Leonardo Zanier’s first foray into poetry, immediately calls to mind the wound caused by emigration. Zanier’s poetry is unmistakable, in both its tone and content, as well as in the local dialect used (the Carnic dialect of Maranzanis, Udine), whose blend of lyricism and irony expresses the anger and hope that grips the younger generations.
Salustri, published in 1968, is a collection of poems by Umberto Valentinis, an extremely subtle writer who has explored the rich vein of his inspiration in a profound series of poems. The trauma caused by the earthquake (1976) and people’s ensuing need to rediscover their “roots” led to a wealth of writings in general and poetry in particular, with several authors converting or returning to their mother tongue – after initially writing in Italian, Amedeo Giacomini, Elio Bartolini and Siro Angeli all turned to local languages and dialects for a more authentic voice.
In view of the inexorable demise of the peasant culture in which the Friulian language developed, some accepted the challenge of modernity. Among Clape Culturâl Aquilee’s many initiatives was a series edited by Gianni Nazzi in which foreign classics could be read in Friulian translation, thus underlining the local idiom’s status as a language in its own right. The process of enriching the language through translations (and by introducing a number of neologisms and contemporary expressions) gave rise to a number of lively collectives, from which emerged another notable author, Angelo M. Pittana.
But alongside the many examples of writers backing the Friulian language’s claim to be recognized, demanding it be supported and urging that it develop a literary standard, other voices were singing to a different tune and for these “Friulian was a private idiolect” (Pellegrini). The Sot/Sora group that would meet in the library of Montereale Valcellina, where Rosanna Paroni Bertoja, Federico Tavan and Antonio De Biasio would discuss issues before going their separate ways, was virtually a small academy. Though later moving to Milan, Beno Fignon was also from Montereale. Others – Elsa Buiese, Celso Macor, Lionello Fioretti, Giacomo Vit (an entertainer in the Majakovskij group in Corcovado), Francesco Indrigo, Nelvia Di Monte and Giorgio Ferigo – necessarily have to remain only names here, although each had his own strongly individual personality. In concluding this brief overview, it is worth mentioning Ida Vallerugo and Pierluigi Cappello, who, in spite of their differences, had much in common in their innovative energy. They shared a passion for creating a language of their own (Vallerugo’s very special idiom being derived from the Friulian dialect variant spoken in Medino, Cappello’s more select and closer to the standard language), a depth and urgency that are the stuff of poetry, and the interweaving of life and poetic reflection that led to the creation of the “Biblioteca di Babele”, a poetry publishing venture founded in Meduno in 1999.
Literary competitions, the best known of which are the Premio San Simon and the Premio San Simonut in Codroipo, the Concorso Zâl par Furlan in Spilimbergo, Emozions d’ingjustri in Basiliano, the Celso Macor in Romans d’Isonzo, the Glemone îr, vuei e doman in Gemona, In trê riis dei Colonos in Villacaccia, the Renato Appi literary prize in Cordenons, the Premio Giso Fior international Friulian poetry competition in Verzegnis, the prize for the translation of Greek and Latin into Friulian of the Società Filologica Friulana with the Gli Stelliniani association, the Concorso Lenghis – Società Filologica Friulana, the Concorso Estroverso of Tavagnacco and the Concorso Vôs de Basse of San Giorgio di Nogaro, certainly hold a mirror up to the present literary scene.
Franco Marchetta, who died in 2014, was the author of fiction and plays in both Italian and Friulian and three times the recipient of the San Simon prize, which since 1980 perhaps best reflects the state of literature in the Friulian language. His many works include the novels Madalene (1997) and Gilez, and the essays Il sium di chescj furlans in fughe, Cronichis di Saveri Sengar (2011), U- (2012), Achì no ai viodût une pavee and Il numar 1089. According to Marchetta, in order for Friulian to be a proper language it needs first of all to produce fiction that bears comparison with Italian and international works. His own works were fashioned in the most ingenious manner, by forcing himself out of the straight jacket of traditional Friulian fiction and exploring new approaches to prose composition.
An anagram of the word “sium” forms the name for the group Usmis, a cultural movement of young people from Friuli that gravitated around the magazine of the same name and revolutionized the Friulian cultural scene, breaking away from traditional stereotypes and introducing a new mentality and a fresh sensibility that was open to the most varied new cultural influences. Usmis was the crucible that forged many of the “new” artists and intellectuals in Friuli, such as Maurizio Mattiuzza, who is extremely active in Friuli’s cultural circles, both through Usmis and with the Trastolons, a poetry collective of which he is a founder member. Mattiuzza has published two collections of poetry, La cjase su l’ôr (1997) and L’inutile necessitâ(t) (2004). He has contributed lyrics for the songs of the singer-songwriter Lino Straulino and together they released Tiere nere and took part in Mosaic, a live recording of Lino performing at the RTSI auditorium in Lugano.
The Trastolons are a group that deserve close attention. These anarchic poets from lowland Friuli broke away from Usmis to develop their concept of writing in a language with no rules – only those dictated by poetry – and the result, “trastolon Friulian”, is how they believe they can best expresses themselves. Thus they produce what amounts to poetry with multiple authors, using an open, mixed, hyperbolic, musical, Babel-like language. The collective began producing their first literary efforts in 1996 and their first book was published in 1998, with the poetry manifesto Tons trastolons, followed in 2001 by the post-ironic book-cum-cd Tanamai, in which the first authors Lussia di Uanis (aka Lucia Pinat), Raffaele BB Lazzara, Stefano Moratto, Maurizio Mattiuzza, Fabian Riz, Guido Carrara and Vera Puema were joined by various other figures engaged in the linguistic “movement” and associated with the free cultural circles of Friuli. Several subsequent collaborations and cross-fertilizations led to the “Tavan poetic strike” of 2014.
Stefano Moratto, who writes both poetry and prose, especially in the Friulian language, is also a member of Usmis and of the Trastolons poetry collective, as well as contributing to magazines and anthologies. He has published: Tons trastolons, poets cence leç par une lenghe caraibiche (Trastolons 1998), Tananai (Trastolons 2001), Donald dal Tiliment (2001), which was adapted in 2007 as a radio play broadcast on the regional radio station of Rai (Italy’s national tv and radio broadcaster), Mugulis, I ultins piratis dal Tiliment (2005), Isulis (2010) and Kebar Krossè (2016). The collective also includes Checo Tam (Francesco Tami), who won the San Simon literary competition in 2000 with La maree nere e altris contis, as well as the CEC screenplay prize for Viatores. He published the science fiction novel/radio play Sense (2002) and various tales in La Comugne, a now defunct literary magazine, travel pieces in La Patrie dal Friûl, a Friulian-language magazine, and music reviews. After collaborations with the Trastolons poetry group in Tananai (2001) and narrating the Friulian poem Biello Dumlo in Lingua, a cd produced by the English band In the Nursery (1998), he became the lead singer in the Friulian band Francis and the Phantoms, which was awarded the 2008 Premio Friuli.
Another important and innovative experience is the magazine La Comugne, which was founded in 1997 and whose final issue – no. 25 – came out in 2015, was another important innovative conduit for literary expression. The idea behind this periodical was to provide an “open space” that would welcome unknown writers as well as established authors. The magazine would accommodate all kinds of genres, ranging from fiction and cartoons to essays and scripts by the young and the not-so-young who felt at home in a publication that was always prepared to help anyone looking for a means of self-expression. Several authors cut their teeth on the magazine at one time or another. The last issue saw pieces by Marco Cuoco, Laurin Zuan Nardin, Santiago Zanier, Giacomo Trevisan, Gianfranco Pellegrini, Stefano Gasti, Raffaele Serafini and Luca De Clara.
Contecurte, a blog consisting of short stories designed to be read, commented upon and perhaps improved, appeared in 2009 as an interesting new arrival in the field. The blog format is ideal to ensure a “free” approach to this activity. In this platform, authors and readers are able to meet face-to-face, so to speak, and a story can be altered even after it has been published if the author believes it can be improved. The blog’s creators and managers are also keen to contribute in their small way to the development of the Friulian language, trying to stick to the official spelling and doing a little editing on the stories to help those who don’t yet feel up to writing in the Friulian language, although they speak it. And the “contecurtârs” are not few in number, which goes to show that there is indeed a considerable interest in writing in Friulian. One of the creators and “hosts” of Contecurte is Raffaele Serafini, who has published pieces in several collections and won the San Simon prize in 2015 with Soreli jevât a mont and again in 2017 with Contis sot spirt, going on to publish his own collections of short stories: Contis di famee and Altris contis di famee. Serafini is full of enthusiasm and energy and a desire to share experiences with others – all things that help literature move forward.
The field of poetry is certainly not short of outstanding figures, such as Anellina Colussi, Eddi Bortolussi, Egle Taverna, Enzo Driussi, Franca Mainardis, Giacomina De Michieli, Giuseppe Mariuz and Novella Del Fabbro, whose works enrich and enliven the contribution of the Friulian language to the genre.
Consult the materials
|The friulian literature: from the origins to the 19th century|
|The friulian literature: from the 19th century to the present|