Svevo, Italo (1861–1928) By Van Den Bossche, Bart
Italo Svevo was born as Aron Ettore Schmitz in 1861 in Trieste, a city in the north-east of Italy that until 1919 was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Due to the economic woes that hit his bourgeois family, he was forced to work as a bank clerk, albeit without giving up the dream of a literary career. Initially interested mainly in theatre, he published a couple of short stories and two novels, Una vita [A Life] (1893), and Senilità [As a Man Grows Older] (1898). During the first decades of the twentieth century, Svevo’s interest in literature seemed to have waned, at least in appearance, both because of the limited success of his work and his busy professional life. In the same period, however, he made a close friend of James Joyce (who lived in Trieste from 1905 to 1914) and discovered Freudian psychoanalysis, two important factors in the genesis of his third novel, La coscienza di Zeno [Zeno’s Conscience] (1923), soon recognized as one of the ground-breaking novels of international modernism. Encouraged by this success, Svevo planned a fourth novel and published several short stories. Svevo died in 1928 from the injuries sustained in a car accident.