Exactly what happened at around 11 o’clock on the evening of August 13, 1922 in the Vittoriale, the retreat on the shores of Lake Garda of Gabriele D’Annunzio, Italy’s most celebrated war hero and writer, is unclear. He was sitting in pyjamas and slippers, his back to an open window, in the raised ground floor of the music room, listening to Luisa Baccara, the latest of his long-suffering mistresses, play the piano. Suddenly he toppled headfirst ten feet on to the gravel below and fractured his skull. According to one witness he had been fondling Luisa’s sister: perhaps he had lunged forward and lost his balance; or perhaps she had pushed him away a little too brusquely. Or it could be that he had simply been overcome by momentary dizziness: he was consuming quite large quantities of drugs at this time, including cocaine. He himself subsequently chose to shroud the episode in mystery, referring, with his characteristically teasing eye for self-glorification, to his “archangelic flight” – and noting, with a further twist of irreverent immodesty how, after three days in a coma, he had risen again.
more from Christopher Duggan at the TLS here.