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Matthew Reynolds: Translating Cesare Pavese, 6 October 2005

Disaffections: Complete Poems 1930-50 
by Cesare Pavese, translated by Geoffrey Brock.
Carcanet, 370 pp., £14.95, April 2004, 1 85754 738 1
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Italian Poems 
edited by Jamie McKendrick.
Faber, 167 pp., £12.99, June 2004, 0 571 19700 0
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... Does an Italian poet need translating even when he writes in English? Two of the poems in Disaffections make you wonder. Pavese addressed them to Constance Dowling, the American actress with whom he was involved in the months before his suicide in 1950, and they now frame the sequence published posthumously as Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi (‘Death Will Come and Will Have Your Eyes ...

Can we conceive of Beatrice ‘snapping’ like a shrew?

Helen Vendler: How not to do Dante, 1 September 2005

Dante in English 
edited by Eric Griffiths and Matthew Reynolds.
Penguin, 479 pp., £16.99, May 2005, 0 14 042388 5
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... titles suggest. (An outline of Dante’s life is provided separately in a short essay by Matthew Reynolds, Griffiths’s co-editor.) A reader will come away from Griffiths’s piece having heard a good deal about Dante’s works and the world from which they issued. But the manner of the introduction is so peculiar that its information is less salient than ...

Jamming up the Flax Machine

Matthew Reynolds: Ciaran Carson’s Dante, 8 May 2003

The ‘Inferno’ of Dante Alighieri 
a new translation by Ciaran Carson.
Granta, 296 pp., £14.99, October 2002, 1 86207 525 5
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... Throughout the 19th century, Italian critics attributed to Dante’s Commedia the formal and linguistic unity they desired for their country. It is ‘a national Bible’, de Sanctis said; ‘harmony,’ Mazzini affirmed, ‘flows throughout in full tide.’ Similar ideas flourished in Britain and Ireland, encouraged by the tendency of early translators to naturalise Dante in flattened versions of recognisable styles ...

Nicely Combed

Matthew Reynolds: Ungaretti, 4 December 2003

Selected Poems 
by Giuseppe Ungaretti, translated by Andrew Frisardi.
Carcanet, 287 pp., £14.95, April 2003, 1 85754 672 5
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... In Italy you can buy poetry T-shirts featuring lines by Dante, Leopardi and others. The Ungaretti shirt is good value: it gives you a whole work, though not a very long one. ‘Mattina’ (‘Morning’) reads in its entirety as follows: M’illumino d’immenso In books, those words are tethered to a particular location, Santa Maria la Longa, 26 January 1917; but there is a rightness about their transplantation to innumerable present-day torsos ...

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