Ottone was drafted and sent to the Kras Plateau; he returned with a few medals,
and then he went back to live there, depicting in his paintings
the solid and hostile humanity to which he, too, belonged».
This is perhaps Rosai’s most sincere and important work of literature. In his prolific life as an artist, he never stopped writing, translating his restlessness and sensitivity into figures and colours, but also into words. Protagonists of his painting are the simple realities and harshness of life, which he experienced in years of suffering and solitude. From his wartime experience – in 1915 he volunteered for service and fought with the Arditi on Mount Grappa – he drew new stimulus, a new spark of the «furor» that was already emerging from his painting, and which he was never to abandon. The non-conformist spirit and brotherly camaraderie experienced at the front line would leave an indelible mark on the personality of Rosai, a fascist and an anarchist at the same time, a tormented and sensitive soul, impetuous and passionate. Il libro di un teppista is striking because it refrains from praising any heroism, if not that of his companions, no “super manhood” if not that of a “delinquent” who lived on flasks and medals, marches, fevers, mess and lice, «grappa-fuel» and «snail-trains», mess tins and spoons ... a human and intimate vision of war, suffering and sharing, a much needed opportunity to reflect on the world we live in.
Ottone Rosai (1895-1957), Florentine painter, heir of the Macchiaoli and admirer of Cézanne, was always viscerally attached to his city where he lived the years of futurism and fascism. For a long time unacknowledged, the Venice Biennale of 1956 consecrated him as an internationally acclaimed artist. He inflected the ideologies of interventionism and fascism according to his artistic vision. His most famous writings are Il libro di un teppista (1919), Via Toscanella (1930), Dentro la Guerra (1934) and Vecchio autoritratto (1951).