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Arrigo Boito's Short Stories


Arrigo Boito (1842-1918) is the author of the four tales presented here for the first time in English translation: The Black Ensign, Clenched Fist, Iberia, and Trapeze. Outside of Italy, he is known almost exclusively as the composer of Mefistotele, an opera for which he himself wrote the libretto. He is in fact equally esteemed as a consummate librettist, above all for the remarkable texts he created for Giuseppe Verdi’s last two masterpieces, Otello, and Falstaff. But in his homeland, he ranks rather high among the literati as a significant poet in the period when Italian political unification (1860-1870) was at long last realized, and he and a number of other young literary rebels generally referred to as the "Scapigliati" (the disheveled or disorderly ones) wrote works meant to shock the complacent insular culture of the Italian bourgeoisie into a broader European context. The chief targets of their polemic were religion – more specifically Roman Catholicism – and the prevailing maudlin romanticism of the time, so unlike the writings of Manzoni, Foscolo, and Leopardi in the earlier decades of the century.

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