The Flame - The Tale of Love Lust and Art in Venice
The novel "The Flame" (Italian: Il fuoco) is set in 1883 Venice and tells the story of a young artist and his mistress, a famous actress. This novel reflects D'Annunzio's romance with Eleonora Duse, an Italian actress, rated by many as the greatest of her time. Duse was five years older than her lover, and this theme got a reflection in the novel. The protagonist of the story, an alter-ego of D'Annunzio, is a young poet Stelio Effrena, a close friend of Richard Wagner and his artistic successor. He and his lover La Foscarina come to Venice six months before Wagner's death. Both of them have inner conflicts to live through. Effrena tries to find his place as an artist, and La Foscarina suffers from the fact that her incredible beauty is aging, and thus, she will soon no longer be a muse for the great poet. The book is full of D'Annunzio's recollections on art, poetry, music and is often perceived as his artistic manifest. It also reflects the real-life rivalry between two great actresses, Eleonora Duse, and Sarah Bernhardt, who was rumored to return her presentation copy to the author unopened.