Elio Vittorini was born in Siracusa, Sicily in 1908. His father worked on the railways so the family travelled around. He went to an accounting school but soon left and educated himself. During this period he worked as a construction worker in North-East Italy. He then moved to Florence and started writing, while working as a proof-reader. He published his first work - a collection of short stories - in 1931 and then turned to translation. He had learned English and translated D H Lawrence into Italian. He was still publishing books but when chapters of his first novel, Il garofano rosso (The Red Carnation), were published in a magazine, the censors objected. The same thing happened when he tried to have the work published in book form. It was not finally published in full till well after the war. Though Nome e lacrime (later: Conversazione in Sicilia (Conversation in Sicily; In Sicily; Tears and Wine)) was published in 1941, it soon met the same fate and was withdrawn from circulation.
Though initially in the Fascist Party - he was expelled for supporting the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War - he later opposed the Fascists and was imprisoned in 1943. On his release, he joined the Communist party and fought with the Resistance. In 1946 he ran for parliament as a Communist but he left the party in 1951. He became particularly disillusioned with communism after the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and this was one of the reasons for his abandoning writing. Much of his career after the war was in publishing and editing, helping young writers. He died of cancer in 1966.