Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) began to write a diary in March 1954 and, apart from odd pauses and periods of silence, managed to keep it up for about 16 months, until the summer of 1955. The almost 300 hand-written pages, which are being published here in their original unedited format, reveal precious information about what he read (Ariosto, Hemingway, Proust and so on), the art exhibitions he visited, his first encounters in the art world, the many films he saw at the cinema and his numerous travels in Italy and Europe. Obviously there are also descriptions of everyday life and the ways young people used to entertain themselves.
One of the most interesting things to emerge from the manuscript is what he calls his ‘torment’: waverings, changes of mind and doubts about art, religion and politics. He also pondered about his future, oscillating constantly between optimism and pessimism, seriousness and irony. In fact, at that time, Manzoni was still undecided whether to devote himself entirely to painting or to become a writer. His first attempts at writing about themes connected with philosophy, existentialism and esthetics, some of which he was to refer to again later in his artistic career, are especially important. In fact, it was probably his interest in these subjects which, between the end of 1954 and January 1955, eventually persuaded him to abandon his law studies at the Sacro Cuore University in Milan to devote himself to the study of philosophy at Rome University. A remarkable but ‘complex’ read, both because of the subjects tackled and due to the author’s handwriting, which verges on the illegible at times. It’s probably the first true ‘Manzoni workshop’.