Louis Notari, the pioneer of Monegasque literature
HelloMonaco continues its series on Monaco celebrities, revealing the stars that live amongst us, how they came to be and the legacy they created throughout their life. It comes as no surprise that the Principality of Monaco is home to many influencers, business men and world class entrepreneurs but also some celebrities, each with varying levels of fame that you might not know even lived here. This time we will look into the life of Louis Notari, the pioneer of Monegasque literature that holds an important place in the history of Monte-Carlo.
Louis Notari was born in Monaco in 1879 and was a writer who published books in both French and the traditional national language, Monegasque. He was born into one of the oldest Monegasque families in history. After studying literature and science he went on to become an engineer-architect for about 30 years, following in his family’s footsteps, working on many developments around the Principality. During this time, he also played an impressive political role in Monaco, serving as councillor, then adjoint to the mayor and finally State Counselor.
First book written in Monegasque
Notari was always a passionate defender of the Monegasque language, fighting for its continued presence in the Principality of Monaco – he is considered to be the ‘Father of Monegasque literature’. This is largely due to him being the first person to ever write a novel in the country’s specific dialect in 1927, a book called La Legenda de Santa Devota that became the piece that marked his career as a writer and for which he will always be remembered.
The book told the mythical story of Saint Devote…
What made it so particular was that it was written in Monegasque… no other books written in the dialect had existed previously.
Creator of the Monaco National Anthem
Impressively, he was also the creator of the Monaco National Anthem, making the language accessible and cementing it in the cultural identity of the country for generations to come. In addition to this, he wrote the lyrics for Campanin de San Nicolau, a song that was enthusiastically admired by Prince Rainier III of Monaco for many years. He wrote three other books including Bülüghe Munegasche and Quelques notes sur les traditions de Monaco, with some of his work inspired by the fauna and flora that exists across the Mediterranean coast. Interestingly, Notari had a particular admiration for the Fascist Italian government and also wrote a few poems celebrating Benito Mussolini!
He rightfully received a great deal of merit for his efforts to protect the national language and add to the richness of the Monegasque culture. He was made Grande Officier de l’Ordre de Saint Charles and immortalised in the areas around Monaco named after him in his honour, so that his contribution to Monegasque society is never forgotten.
Development of literature in the Monegasque dialect
Notari’s writing in Monegasque has led to a veritable flowering of literature published in the language. The grammar book of Monegasque was created in 1960 by author Louis Frolla, as well as many other books in the dialect produced by Monegasque authors including lexicographer Louis Barral and Robert Buisson. All these figures contributed to a renaissance of the language that had been threatened with extinction in the 20th century, allowing Monaco’s national dialect to take its visible and permanent place among the other Romance languages. However, it is interesting to note that although a substantial proportion of Notari’s work was religious in inspiration, Monegasque is among the few Romance languages that does not possess a Bible translation.
Louis Notari died in Monaco in 1961 but there is no doubt that Louis Notari left behind an important legacy that is still ever-present in the Principality. The decision by the late Prince Rainier III to sponsor Monegasque teachers in local schools is largely thanks to the groundwork laid by Louis Notari and others in promoting the language. Notari was also noted for his work on Monaco’s renowned Jardin Exotique, which annually hosts large numbers of visitors from many countries. A street in the Condamine is named after him, as well as a library, Bibliothèque Louis Notari, which serves as the national copyright library for Monaco.