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Leopardi Paperback – May 25, 1997

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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By general consensus, Giacomo Leopardi is the greatest Italian poet since Dante. His influence on the major Italian poets who come after him--Montale, Ungaretti, and Pavese--is indisputable. Yet he's not well known to English speakers, largely because his work has resisted translation. That's why this fine new version of Selected Poems is particularly welcome. The Irish poet Eamon Grennan has managed to clear away the cobwebs, judiciously employing a loose blank verse reminiscent of Wordsworth and Coleridge. Along with capturing the lyrical fluidity of Leopardi's rhythms, Grennan reminds us that a poem like "The Solitary Thrush" is exactly contemporary with Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale"--and that Leopardi is more acid than the Romantics ever were:
You'll not grieve, surely,
For the life you've led, since even
The slightest twist of your will
Is nature's way. But to me,
If I fail to escape
Loathsome old age--
When these eyes will mean nothing
To any other heart, the world be nothing
But a blank to them,
Each day more desolate, every day
Darker than the one before--what then
Will this longing for solitude
Seem like to me? What then
Will these years, or even I myself,
Seem to have been? Alas,
I'll be sick with regret, and over and over,
But inconsolable, looking back.
Just as Hamlet leaps out of the Middle Ages into the Renaissance, Leopardi (who died in 1837) ceases to accept the consolations of the Enlightenment. Refusing to find a fixed center of the universe, he admits to the presence of the void. No poet before him so actively conveys the force of nothing: "Tomorrow the hours will be leaden / With emptiness and melancholy." Indeed, the recognition of such metaphysical boredom, which the Italians call la noia, strikes Leopardi as the very badge of humanity: "To suffer want, emptiness, and hence noia--this seems to me the chief sign of the grandeur and nobility of human nature." --Mark Rudman


Winner of the 1998 Poetry in Translation Award, PEN American Center

"[Leopardi's] contribution to 19th-century European poetry second only to Baudelaire's . . . there's plenty to be grateful for in this lucidly translated selection. . . "--Boston Review

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Product Details

  • Series: Lockert Library of Poetry in Translation
  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; THIRD PRINTING edition (May 5, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691016445
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691016443
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,952,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Introducing a poet who divulged the voice of exclusion seems a bit of a paradox, yet it is precisely what his valiant translator seems to suggest to be doing given the relative want of interest that presently he has been receiving in the U.S. The translation is successfully carried out to the extent that the mood is respected and the melancholy distance is imparted rather faithfully. The resulting exposition of Leopardi's inestimable poetry bears the stamp of a poet who is in tune with his subject and displays considerable lyrical dexterity. However for all the agility that is here employed - so as to reproduce a work akin with the original - as always it inevitably does not do justice to the tremor that transpires through the Italian undulating and langorous resonance. The syntax is also essential to understanding the reach of this poet that only Holderlin, Rilke and Trakl may be said to have deployed a similar structural approach. Giorgio Agamben's book "Language and Death," would be a good source for English readers to "get a feel" of the poet's startling implosion of loss; the subtle fragility of his theory of noia (tedium); the whole of it punctuated with and surging, tentalizing strokes that emerge in the illuminations of village damsels, of frolicsome lads or of the naively insouciant Silvia. The poems herein abound with familiar illustrations of pastoral life and of the sublime that most all Romantic poets resorted to; The fashion in which Leopardi was able to express such aloofness and despair is tragic, brilliant and engagingly dispassionate.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
giacomo leopardi is an incredibly fascinating and yet somewhat obscure figure, and anyone who avoids his poetry because of it's pessimism or nihilism is really missing out. at times he becomes unbearably depressing and this is certainly a turn off past a point, but we should admire him nonetheless for his candor and commitment to expressing what he believed was truth. his bleak outlook on human life, contrary to popular belief, did not necessarily stem from his individual misfortunes (such as becoming a hunchback) or personal misery. he was simply a brilliant, lucid man who was aware that human life is ephemeral and without ultimate justification or meaning. anyone with the slightest bit of poetic or philosophical sensitivity to the nearly unfathomable miracle of the world and our lives can immediately understand where he is coming from. in any case, whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, you cannot afford to miss out on leopardi's work.
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Format: Paperback
First, I cannot comment on this particular translation, as I read and studied the Canti in Italian - so my 5 stars ought to be taken cum grano salis.

Not being able to review this edition, should I be so silly to give "stars" to Leopardi himself? In fact, it would be rather silly of me to attempt, here, in a few lines, a short literary criticism of the work of one of the greatest poets in Italian language as well as a giant of human thought. Libraries can be filled with books on this enfant prodige, who as a child would toy with greek, latin and hebrew philology, write tragedies, essays on theology, histories of astronomy - as Italo Calvino puts it, when he writes a poem on the moon, Leopardi knows precisely well what he is talking about - or could forge a Callimachus and fool the world authorities on ancient greek literature. His Zibaldone di Pensieri ("Eggnog of thoughts") anticipates contemporary philosophy from Schopenhauer to Nietzsche to Heidegger - indeed it anticipates the contemporary age; his entire work is like a big bang, and contains in nuce future existentialism, nihilism, ontology. So, I will just rant a little about what of Leopardi speaks to me personally.

Men are not created equal. I hold this truth to be self evident. So did Leopardi. He knew he was not one of the "greggia", not on of the sheep he envied. Some of us are different, as he tells us. There are people that can experience in advance what our kind will explore in the future centuries. And most of them burn, like fuses burn. We watch them fall with an admixture of admiration, horror and awe - as the tragic chorus watches Oedipus.

That is why I do not believe that "Cosmic Pessimism" is a good label for Leopardi.
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Format: Paperback
... The great Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837) is radiant again in a fresh translation, "Leopardi: Selected Poems" ... that appeared just as Iris Origo's marvelous 1935 biography, "Leopardi, A Study in Solitude" ... was reissued. Leopardi's birth into an aristocratic Tuscan family was no protection against a case of scoliosis that left him hunchbacked, a permanent invalid, unlovable in the eyes of any woman he might come to love. Yet his poetic world is often as enchanting and full of health as a convalescent's, for whom all things come alive, and "roofs and meadows and little hills / Are shining in the sun." Leopardi celebrates such moments of renewal and delight, though his self-forgetful pleasures always return him to a lonely prison. But this is the human condition, not just the poet's. Nature "drives all things to their destruction," the "feast-day is over in a flash, / The work-day comes on, and time takes away / All we are and do." So, he asks, why not love one another? Why turn cold or quarrel, when death sweeps everyone into darkness?
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