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A System That Excludes All Systems

Giacomo Leopardi's «Zibaldone di pensieri»

Emanuela Cervato

For many decades Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone di pensieri has been seen as a collection of temporary thoughts and impressions whose final expression is to be found in the published poems (the Canti) and satirical dialogues (the Operette morali). The conceptual consistency of the work was thereby denied, privileging Leopardi the poet over Leopardi the thinker.

This book shows that such a perceived lack of coherence is merely illusory. The Zibaldone is drawn together by an intricate web of references centring around topics such as the ambivalent concept of nature; the Heraclitean «union of opposites» (ancients and moderns, poetry and philosophy, reason and imagination); and the tension between the desire for happiness and the impossibility of its realization. Largely unknown to the English-speaking world until its translation in 2013, the Zibaldone is Leopardi’s intellectual diary, the place where dialogue with the ancient classical traditions evolves into modern encyclopaedism and what has been described as «thought in movement». It establishes Leopardi as one of the most original and radical thinkers of the nineteenth century.


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Chapter 1: From Poet to Philosopher


Chapter 1 From Poet to Philosopher Ever since its publication the Zibaldone has been the object of intense scrutiny and debate concerning its character and role vis-à-vis Leopardi’s oeuvre. Its first edition in 1898, published under the title Pensieri di varia filosofia e di bella letteratura [Thoughts on Assorted Philosophy and Belles- lettres], is an important turning point in the exegesis of Leopardi’s thought, albeit it would be necessary to wait until the post-war years for the value and impact of this text to be fully appreciated.1 The enormous amount of 1 The first edition appears on the centenary of Leopardi’s birth in seven volumes published by Le Monnier. Edited by Giosuè Carducci, who prefers the title chosen by Leopardi for his Partial Indices, it is followed in 1937 by a new version in two volumes (with the title given by Leopardi to his 1827 Index, Zibaldone di pensieri) edited by Francesco Flora for Mondadori and later included in the 1956 edition of Tutte le opere [Collected Works]. In 1969 appears Walter Binni and Enrico Ghidetti’s edition for the Florentine publisher Sansoni and in 1991 the Garzanti edition by Giuseppe Pacella, enriched with notes and an extensive analytical index. This edi- tion is followed in 1997 by the one prepared by Rolando Damiani for Mondadori (‘I Meridiani’ series) and the one for Newton Compton (Grandi tascabili economici series) edited by Lucio Felici with indices by Marco Dondero and Wanda Marra. The Zibaldone has also been published in the photographic...

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