A Test of Powers

Writings on Criticism and Literary Institutions

Franco Fortini

Translated by Alberto Toscano


6 x 9 inches, 304 pp. December 2016

ISBN : 9780857423351

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Originally published in Italian in 1965, A Test of Powers was immediately seen as one of the central texts of Italian intellectual life. By the time of the 1968 student revolts, it was clear that Franco Fortini had anticipated many of the themes and concerns of the New Left, which is no surprise, given that Fortini had spent more than two decades immersed in fierce ideological debates over anti-Fascism, organizing, the alliance between progressivism and literature, and other topics that found their way into A Test of Powers. In addition to politically focused essays, the book also features essays on a range of writers who influenced Fortini, including Kafka, Pasternak, Eric Auerbach, Proust, and Brecht.
Praise for Fortini’s The Dogs of the Sinai
“An elegant and provocative project — the first book of Fortini’s prose to appear in English translation — that challenges one’s political assumptions about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, not only at the time of the Six-Day War but also today. . . . Toscano has done a masterful job of rendering Fortini’s often difficult prose into a fluid and concise English.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“Forensic and devastating.”—Times Literary Supplement
“Fortini’s poetic production, literary criticism, political writings, translations, and journalism have assured him a position of the first rank among intellectuals of the Italian postwar period.”—Italica

Franco Fortini (1917–1994) was a poet, essayist, literary critic, Marxist intellectual and translator (of Brecht, Goethe and Kafka, among others). His incisive polemical interventions shaped Italian letters in the postwar period. Though selections of his poetry have appeared in English, his unique contributions to the essay-form, to the study of German literature and Italian poetry, and to the direction of Italian intellectual life remain unknown in English. A translation of a major collection of his essays is forthcoming from Seagull. 


Alberto Toscano teaches in the Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is the author of Fanaticism (2010) and The Theatre of Production (2006), and the translator of several books by Alain Badiou. He sits on the editorial board of the journal Historical Materialism and is series editor for Seagull’s Italian List.

Literary Criticism
Italian List