|NUMBERS 22-23||SPRING-FALL 1998|
The life of Tibor Wlassics, William R. Kenan Professor of Italian Studies at the University of Virginia, has been a perfect example of the tragic destiny of those Europeans who have been unfortunate enough to be born in the middle of the battles of our dreadful century. Born in 1936, Professor Wlassics the scion of an aristocratic Hungarian family. His grandfather, Baron Wlassics, was a member of the Hungarian Senate (the Hungarian House of Lords) and a philanthropist who, among other things, founded the Jesuit School where Tibor Wlassics would be educated. A very keen linguist, he was a good classicist, proficient in Greek and Latin, and with an excellent knowledge of French, English, Russian, German, Spanish and Italian. After the war and the communist take-over, Tibor's father was asked to voluntarily renounce his title and yield his mansion (today the Budapest Public Library) and properties to the state, which he refused to do, and consequently was sent to prison three times, dying soon after his last imprisonment. Tibor, after his studies in the lyceum, was forbidden to attend the university because he had been born in the wrong class, and worked as a coal miner, a bricklayer and finally, because of his linguistic ability, as a translator. Among other works, he translated into Hungarian Lorca's Gypsy Ballads. After the revolution of 1956, Tibor escaped to Austria, and from there to Genoa, Italy where he started his university studies in Italian Literature and where, at the university, he met the lovely and gifted Luciana Giovannetti, whom he married two later. Because of financial need and with the help of an uncle who was a chemist in Rhode Island, Tibor started to work as an oxygen therapist and to alternate visits back and forth between Genoa's University and the Rhode Island clinic. Finally, married to Luciana and father of a son, Ivan, they decided to settle in New Brunswick. Tibor attended Columbia University, completing his doctorate in 1967. In 1968 he obtained a position at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was promoted to Associate Professor a very soon after to Full Professor. It was in Pittsburgh that Luciana Wlassics, one of our librarians in Alderman Library, obtained her degree in Librar Science.
In 1981, Professor Wlassics was invited to be Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia and the following year became a permanent member of the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. In 1988 he was bestowed the William R. Kenan Chair for Italian Studies. After his arrival to the Department, he recreated the BA program and established the present MA in Italian Studies. Tibor Wlassics was a scholar of untiring industry who has written more than one hundred articles and is the author of books on Dante (Interpretazione della prosodia dantesca. Rome, 1972), (Dante narratore. Florence, 1975); Galileo (Galilei critico letterario. Ravenna, 1974); Verga (Da Verga a Sanguineti. Catania, 1974), (Nel mondo dei Malavoglia. Pisa, 1987) and Cesare Pavese (Pavese falso e vero. Turin, 1985). In 1986 Professor Wlassics was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and in 1989 the Torquato Tasso Prize from the Academy of Sciences of Bergamo, Italy, for his study on Galileo. He gave public lectures in numerous universities in America and Europe, organized the Lectura Dantis lecture series in which more than 50 scholars from America, Canada and Europe have participated, edited the Lectura Dantis periodical, organized the Tenth Annual International Congress of Italian Studies which was held at the University of Virginia, altogether participated in numerous professional activities and was an energetic force in the field of Italian Studies in the United States. In 1997 the American Association of Italian Studies elected Tibor Wlassics as its Honorary President.