The Futurist Manifesto

by Pericles Lewis

In the “Futurist Manifesto” (1909), the leader and publicist of the Italian futurists, F.T. Marinetti, showed a characteristic interest in anything fast or lethal: racing cars, trains, automobiles, airplanes, machine guns, tanks. He writes, for example, that “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,” a famous Hellenistic sculpture in the Louvre. He also proposed to “glorify war—the sole hygiene of the world—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.”[1] Futurist celebration of war was not merely theoretical—the futurists actively advocated for the Italian invasion of Libya and intervention in the first world war (on the side of the allies) and later supported Mussolini’s fascism. Marinetti wrote “poems” about war that displayed words on a page representing the shape of a battle. Wanting to eliminate the tyranny of the lyrical “I” in poetry, he called his new poems “parole in libertà” or “words at liberty.” The results are amusing but had little impact on the development of modernist literature. Marinetti’s greatest literary genre was the manifesto, and successes such as “The Futurist Manifesto” would spawn imitators.[2]


  1. ↑ In Vassiliki Kolocotroni, Jane Goldman, and Olga Taxidoe, eds. Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998), p. 251.
  2. ↑ This page has been adapted from Pericles Lewis’s Cambridge Introduction to Modernism (Cambridge UP, 2007), pp. 79-80.