Today I’m going to talk about a theme that, according to me, is particularly interesting. I’ve discovered this literary “topos” during the Italian Literature lesson and I want to share with you my thoughts about it.
The figure that I want to analyse is the INEPT, the main character in Italo Svevo’s works.
The author, writing in the first decades of the 20th century, interprets the common sense of fear, horror and confusion caused by the First World War, and anticipated Sigmund Freud’s theories about psychoanalysis, materializing them in the figures of Alfonso Nitti in “Una Vita”, Emilio Brentani in “Senilità” and Zeno Cosini in “La Coscienza di Zeno”.
But, who is the inept?
The inept is the man who can’t face his life. He realises that his existence is flowing away and he is only a spectator of it. He gives the responsibility for this to other people or tries to shelter in a literary vision of reality (this attitude is called “bovarysm”, because it reflects the point of view of M.me Bovary, the character of Flaubert’s most famous work).
Now we know what the inept is, so we can explore the characters that I mentioned before.
The first is Alfonso Nitti, a young intellectual who falls in love with Annetta, but is afraid to create a stable relationship with her. He initially escapes from it, and, when he realises that Annetta is his real love and returns to her, he discovers that his beloved is engaged with another man. While trying to solve the situation, he complicates it, and is finally challenged to a duel. He commits suicide in order to avoid the defiance.
Reading the second work, “Senilità”, we encounter the character of Emilio Brentani. He falls in love with Angiolina, but, because of his idealised conception of the beloved woman, Emilio doesn’t realise that she’s betraying him with other men. While his sister, Amalia, is dying because of her love pain, he meets Angiolina to end the relationship, but the romantic and literary goodbye he has imagined doesn’t take place and the dialogue degenerates into an exchange of insults. At the end, he loses both Angiolina, who goes to Vienna with her new boyfriend, and his dead sister, remaining alone.
The third, and, according to me, the most interesting figure in Svevo’s works is Zeno, an unsuccessful student (he continues to study in turn Chemistry and Law and vice versa, but is incapable to finish one of them), son (his father considers him an inept), administrator (his father had nominated another person to manage his son’s inheritance) and man (he marries one of three sisters, the only one he doesn’t actually like). His guilt is, according to the protagonist, his addiction to smoke.