Futurism began as in the lights of the technological development era. But Marinetti addressed his work to the movement as means of social-anarchistic-change to the crowds of industrialised workers. It establishes its history on 20 February 1909 when Le Figaro published on its front page the ground-breaking manifesto of the new literary movement from Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s ”Manifeste du futurism”(Manifesto of Futurism – in English). The new movement stood up from the previous published ones by Jean Moreas (1886 – Manifeste du symbolisme and 1891 – Ecole romane francaise) and Fernsnd Gregh (1902 – the birth of Humanism). It overwhelm every side of the arts like poetry, literature, design, music all because of its virulence and new ideas all surpassing the other earlier and contemporary alike schools.

Zang Tumb Tuu(u)m (Zang Tum Tumb)4695c45e4b50b480b963fb7e5588e1f9

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti

(22 December 1876 – 2 December 1944)

The masterpiece of Marinetti’s literary career was the novel Zang Tumb Tuu(u)m (Zang Tum Tumb). Even though it was declaimed in February 1913 in Berlin and Rome, he published it in 1914. The novel tells the story of the siege by the Bulgarians of Turkish Adrianopole in the Balkan War. Marinetti has been embroiled as a witness of those events as a war reporter. This masterpiece became a distinctive marc of the Futurism though the dynamic rhythms and onomatopoetic possibilities that the new form effective through the revolutionary use of different typefaces, forms and graphic arrangements and sizes. For the first time all of these components were used in one to emphasize an extraordinary range of different moods and speeds representing the battlefield, the agony of the war, the chaos and noise of the battle. The story has three poetic high points: the mobilization of the troops and departure for the front, the siege itself, and the harrowing fate of a trainload of injured soldiers left to die in the heat.

Audiences in London, Berlin and Rome alike were bowled over by the tongue twisting vitality of Zang Tumb Tuu(u)m. As an extended sound poem stands as one of the monuments of experimental literature, its telegraphic barrage of nouns, colours, exclamations and directions pouring out on the screeching of trains, the rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire, and the clatter of telegraphic messages.

The poem can not be named a glorification of war: there are tragic interludes, reflective passages in which Marinetti describes how war affects not only soldiers but the entire population – men, women and animals. Even the molecules as an ironical character as a manifest of the urge of joining the vibration and heat of the war:

‘I counted the 6 milliard shocks my molecule sisters gave me I obeyed them 6 milliard times taking 6 milliard different directions…within the cells of my body (diameter I micro mille of a millimeter) are contained 4 races of indivisible atoms this jolt=loss of weight of 6000 atoms leaving my right arm but 5000 atoms re-enter my left foot.’

The study continues in the passages describing cholera and the trainload of sick soldiers.

‘Karagath Statiom banging of opening doors at end of carriage doctor nurses stretchers carriers breeze lanced like this Anatolian captain’s blister dysentery trembling of weary hand bringing bottle of milk to mouth [here the typographic changes indicate the reaction of the milk as it encounters the body] furnace of microbes putrefaction of intestinal tube install themselves multiply quickly attack 6000 lactic fermentations onslaught tumult visceral battle….’ After the myopic drama comes the large-scale battle:

‘sshhooouuuutttt of 1500 sick men trapped by locked doors in front of 18 Turkish artillery lightning struck rags tatters coats officers thrown on to the rails’

-and in the distance, the sound of a flute carried downwind.

The final chapter is Marinetti’s apotheosis of the war as the ‘sole hygiene of the world’, the bombardment in which noises, weights, smells, turbines, molecules and chains are linked in a network of analogy an offered to his Futurist friends.

In the following year, Words-in-freedom become the house style of Futurism, for poets and painters alike. Boccioni, Carra, Cangiullo, Balla and Soffici all experimented with the form. Each adapted into his own interest. An article by Carra attacking art critics, subtitled ‘Words-in-freedom’, appeared in Lacerba on 1 January 1914; it was little more than a series of words strung together with little of Marinetti’s inventiveness. Boccioni’s Words-in-freedom piece ‘Society Shoe + Urine’, again in Lacerba, was another strange exploration of his girl-friend Inez somewhere in between the world of prostitutes and the purity of his sister.



Readings from the field / edited by Armstrong, H. (2009). Graphic design theory. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. 20, 50, 51.

Tisdall, C.; Bozzolla, A. (1977). Futurism. London: Thames and Hudson. 95-99.

Edited by Ottinger, D., text by Cohen, E. … [et al.]. (2009). Futurism. London: Centre Pompidou. 15, 20, 36.


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