The Futurist Manifestor
by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, February 1909
The Futurist Manifesto, written by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, was published in the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dell’Emilia in Bologna on 5 February 1909, then in French as “Manifeste du futurisme” in the newspaper Le Figaro on 20 February 1909. It initiated an artistic philosophy, Futurism, that was a rejection of the past, and a celebration of speed, machinery, violence, youth and industry; it was also an advocation of the modernisation and cultural rejuvenation of Italy.
The limit of the Italian literature at the end of the 19th century, its lack of strong contents, its quiet and passive laissez faire, are fought by futurists (see art. 1, 2, 3), and their reaction includes the use of excesses intended to prove the existence of a dynamic surviving Italian intellectual class.
In this period, in which industry is of growing importance in all Europe futurists need to confirm that Italy is present, has an industry, has the power to take part in the new experience, and will find the superior essence of progress in its major symbols: the car and its speed (see art. 4). (Nationalism is never openly declared, but is evident).
Futurists insist that literature will not be overtaken by progress; rather, it will absorb progress in its evolution, and will demonstrate that such progress must manifest in this manner because Man will use this progress to sincerely let his instinctive nature explode. Man is reacting against the potentially overwhelming strength of progress, and shouts out his centrality. Man will use speed, not the opposite (see art. 5 and 6).
Poetry will help Man to consent his soul be part of all that (see art. 6 and 7), indicating a new concept of beauty that will refer to the human instinct of aggression.
The sense of history cannot be neglected: this is a special moment, many things are going to change into new forms and new contents, but Man will be able to pass through these variations, (see art. 8) bringing with himself what comes from the beginning of civilization.
In article 9, war is defined as a necessity for the health of human spirit, a purification that allows and benefits idealism. Their explicit glorification of war and its “hygienic” properties influenced the ideology of fascism. The Futurist Party, for example, became part of the Combatto Fascisti before the latter’s assuming power. F. T. Marinetti was very active in Fascist politics until he withdrew in protest of the “Roman Grandeur” which had come to dominate Fascist aesthetics.
Article 10 states: “We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice.”
This manifesto was published well before the occurrence of any of the 20th Century events which are commonly suggested as a potential meaning of this text. Many of them could not even be imagined yet. For example, the Russian Revolutions of 1917 were the first of the sort “described” by article 11, yet the first of those occurred eight years after the Manifesto’s publication.
The effect of the manifesto is even more evident in the Italian version. Not one of the words used is casual; if not the precise form, at least the roots of these words recall those more frequently used during the Middle Ages, particularly during the Rinascimento
1. We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness.
2. Courage, audacity, and revolt will be essential elements of our poetry.
3. Up to now literature has exalted a pensive immobility, ecstasy, and sleep. We intend to exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap.
4. We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath – a roaring
car that seems to ride on grapeshot is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
5. We want to hymn the man at the wheel, who hurls the lance of his spirit across the Earth, along the circle of its orbit.
6.The poet must spend himself with ardour, splendour, and generosity, to swell the enthusiastic fervour of the primordial elements.
7. Except in struggle, there is no more beauty. No work without an aggressive character can be a masterpiece. Poetry must be conceived as a violent attack on unknown forces, to reduce and prostrate them before man.
8. We stand on the last promontory of the centuries!… Why should we look back, when what we want is to break down the mysterious doors of the Impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We already live in the absolute, because we have created eternal, omnipresent speed.
9. We will glorify war – the world’s only hygiene – militarism, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.
10. We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.
11. We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure, and by riot; we will sing of the multicoloured, polyphonic tides of revolution in the modern capitals; we will sing of the vibrant nightly fervour of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; factories hung on clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke; bridges that stride the rivers like giant gymnasts, flashing in the sun with a glitter of knives; adventurous steamers that sniff the horizon; deep-chested locomotives whose wheels paw the tracks like the hooves of enormous steel horses bridled by tubing; and the sleek flight of planes whose propellers chatter in the wind like banners and seem to cheer like an enthusiastic crowd.