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Zibaldone Hardcover – Lay Flat, July 16, 2013

4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Lay Flat, July 16, 2013
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Editorial Reviews


“The greatest intellectual diary of Italian literature, its breadth and depth of thought often compared to the work of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. The Zibaldone's long-overdue translation into English in this handsome edition is warmly to be welcomed . . . With its excellent introduction, its generous notes and cross-referencing, this edition is a huge achievement, making available at last a key document in the history of European thought and throwing light on Leopardi's unique poetry and prose works.” ―Tim Parks, The New York Review of Books

“Beautifully rendered into English by seven translators, superbly edited and annotated by Michael Caesar and Franco D'Intino under the auspices of the Leopardi Centre at the University of Birmingham, with its more than 2,500 pages elegantly printed on thin, Bible-like paper, this is not just a triumph of scholarship but a work of art of which its author could have been justly proud. The first full English version of the Zibaldone is a major event in the history of ideas. With its publication, Leopardi will be ranked among the supreme interrogators of the modern condition.” ―John Gray, The New Statesman

“There are several titans of world literature whose complete works still languish in their native language . . . To the ranks of heroes who tackle such enormities we must now add the seven translators who have given us Leopardi's Zibaldone at long last, after seven years' labor, a confluence of biblically significant numbers we would scarcely believe in fiction . . . There is something miraculous, too, about the text itself, as Franco D'Intino, one of the editors of this edition, makes us realize. The manuscript lay buried for years in a trunk, unknown to the world. Not until sixty years after Leopardi's death was the Zibaldone first published. Here, suddenly, was Leopardi the thinker and philosopher, whereas Italy before had known only the doomed Romantic poet. So it has been for us. Only now are we seeing Leopardi whole. His poetry had made him the peer in world literature of Whitman and Wordsworth, but the 4,526-page Zibaldone places him in a different realm entirely . . . There are moments of great beauty, aphorisms of penetrating insight . . . Leopardi's diary is undeniably the record of a great mind divesting itself of illusions . . . His writing, which repudiates existence, enriches our own; his diary in English represents an almost embarrassing increase in our accounts. The book of twenty million pages is life, and is also the Zibaldone, inexhaustible and worthy of endless meditation.” ―Brian Patrick Eha, The American Reader

“In the history of Italian literature, arguably only Dante occupies a more exalted position than Giacomo Leopardi . . . Both Leopardi’s verse . . . and his works of prose . . . enjoy an unassailable reputation for lyrical beauty, philosophical depth, immense erudition, and indefatigable originality. The Italian language has known no more brilliant master of both its native extravagances and its native subtleties . . . In short, he was a literary giant, and was for the most part recognized as such in his own time. His most gigantic achievement, however, may have been the work we have come to know as the Zibaldone―the ‘gallimaufry,’ ‘hodge-podge,’ or ‘miscellany’―his heterogeneous, sprawling, positively oceanic journal intime . . . Had this work never become known to the public, Leopardi would still be revered as a genius, but the sheer magnitude of his genius would scarcely be suspected. He poured everything into its pages: philosophy, philology and general linguistics, historical studies, cultural observations, critiques of the arts, political ruminations, personal confessions, and much more. It is a vast compendium of impromptu treatises, ringing aphorisms, hoarded curiosities, subtle observations, oracular pronouncements, and flights of invention. It is wholly absorbing and unflaggingly brilliant . . . It is a magnificent achievement, rich and varied and well worth both its large price and the strain it will put upon one’s bookshelves and wrists. The seven translators and two editors who produced this English edition have accomplished something heroic and precious, and they deserve the gratitude of the Anglophone literary world . . . Zibaldone is written in a voice that, again and again, bears the inflections of someone whose life consisted to a great degree in the tension between, on the one hand, physical and cultural constraints and, on the other, boundless imaginative and theoretical creativity. It is an almost titanically exuberant treasury of astonishing insights and mental adventures; it is also in many ways one of the bleakest books ever written. Leopardi’s vision of reality was, before all else, unremittingly atheistic―which is to say, it was a vision purged not only of faith, but of every one of those lingering vestiges of faith with which shallower, less reflective atheists console and seduce themselves, and shield their minds against the logical conclusions their unbelief entails . . . His repudiation of every soothing idealism―moral, social, historical, what have you―was uncompromising and, in a quietly constant way, ferocious . . . Leopardi’s literary genius, philosophical agility, colossal erudition, and immense fertility of imagination make his eyes somehow as much entertaining as provoking . . . Frankly, the bleakness of Leopardi’s vision is so free of any pathetic self-deception that at times it seems positively sublime. In the end, he concluded, we possess no real knowledge of anything, because we ourselves are nothing, arising from and returning to nothingness, with nothing to hope for . . . The Zibaldone is a great surging ocean of brilliant insights . . . The book is, unquestionably, a work of magnificent genius.” ―David Bentley Hart, First Things

“It is only now, almost two hundred years after Leopardi wrote, that the Zibaldone has been translated in its entirety into English. To get a sense of the sheer scope of Leopardi's intellect, the range of subjects that engaged him and the bodies of knowledge he mastered, consider how many scholars it took to translate and annotate this enormous book. In addition to the Zibaldone's two editors, Michael Caesar and Franco D'Intino, there are seven credited translators, an editorial board of seven people, and a list of ‘specialist consultants' in subjects ranging from Chinese, Hebrew, and Sanskrit to musicology, law, and the history of science . . . This complete Zibaldone gives us . . . an unfolding sense of the excitement and variety of Leopardi's inner life--the feeling that we are making his discoveries along with him . . . At some of the most powerful and revealing moments in the Zibaldone, we are able to see how Leopardi's theory of despair was born from the experience of despair . . . Perhaps this book is most significant as a vast objective correlative--bringing us as close as we can come, or want to come, to the brilliant bleakness of his inner life.” ―Adam Kirsh, The New Republic

“The Zibaldone can firmly establish [Giacomo Leopardi's] role as one of the 19th-century's greatest thinkers . . . Thanks to this translation, we now have a window on his workshop and can delight in his readable and thought-provoking reflections on politics, philosophy, literature, philology--even a bit of phrenology--and a wealth of tastefully selected quotes. Finally available in English thanks to a monumental effort by Michael Caesar and Franco D'Intino--who shepherded a team of seven principal translators--the Zibaldone marks the end of nearly a decade of work at the University of Birmingham's Leopardi Centre. There is something heroic about such a project . . . Congratulations are due to everyone involved in this landmark publication. Leopardi's Zibaldone is quite simply a work of genius.” ―André Naffis-Sahely, The Independent

“The Zibaldone is surprisingly fun to dip into, a nightstand book rather than a doorstopper, and something to think about as you head to the beach this weekend--if you can fit it into your bag.” ―Daniel Berchenko, Publishers Weekly

“The central thesis of Zibaldone is that life is miserable and there is nothing to be done about it . . . The seduction of Zibaldone is in reading the words of a man who hasn't flinched from the hardest thoughts. Reading Zibaldone is like getting permission to go into a room that is usually locked. It is a chance to let the dark thoughts speak. It is a chance to look at the desolation without brushing it away. It is a chance to sit and soak in the melancholy. Right now, at this moment in history, soaking in the melancholy seems the right thing to do. We are surrounded, after all, by a civilization that seeks pleasure and distraction with a shrillness that makes Imperial Rome look reserved. The current mainstream discussion of human happiness and infinite progress is so coarse that it has been more or less abandoned to the technocrats. Reflective persons have nowhere to turn. And then a volume like Zibaldone turns up. Leopardi, in his infinite gloom, takes on the guise of a savior. This is what it must have been like to stumble across a volume of Pascal's Pensées in the late 17th century. It is like plunging into a very cold, very fresh mountain stream after days of walking in the hot sun.” ―Morgan Meis, The Smart Set

“This is the first complete English edition of the Zibaldone . . . Editors Michael Caesar and Franco D'Intino are to be commended for bringing this daunting task to fruition . . . The scale of the undertaking becomes readily apparent when you peruse the book.” ―Leslie Jones, The Quarterly Review

About the Author

Giacomo Leopardi (1798–1837) was born in Recanati, Italy. He was a poet, essayist, philosopher, and philologist.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 2592 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; F First American Edition edition (July 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374296820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374296827
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #721,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's difficult to review such a book as this translation of Leopardi's hodge podge of notes, diary entries, conversational remarks and massive digressions touches on seemingly every topic which crossed the great poet's mind. I have been waiting thirty years to see an English translation and this is one of the most useful, elegant books to be published by any academic or commercial publisher in a generation. FSG receives high praise for releasing this almost 2000 page edition, finally making available this great pathfinder's inner thoughts and everyday remarks. Leopardi was a man of all times, of a modern as well as classically trained sensibility whom we would do well to study and rediscover our civilizing roots in today's civil maelstrom. Patrick Sulaiman Cole
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Leopardi is one of the greatest of the Western Romantics, up there with the early Goethe, Shelley, Hugo and Novalis. And this publication of his notebooks has got to be the publishing event of this millennium. I never thought they'd finally get translated in toto and have waited for more than a decade for this. The Zibaldone, which I have finally finished reading, reveals a mind infinitely sensitive to its own processes and confirms for me my suspicion that Leopardi is one of the greatest of Western writers.
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I own two editions in Italian of the Zibaldone, but this one is now my first resource. The patient creation of a whole raft of scholars and translators, this massive volume is simply indispensable. Why study Leopardi? Well, not only was he a major lyrical poet, but also a thinker of the caliber of Montesquieu, Rousseau, Vico, Jaspers and a (very few) others. He deals acutely with such issues as the relation between nature and culture, the interaction of poetry and science, and the destiny of nations and cultures. In the Zibaldone (or miscellany) these penetrating reflections are interrupted here and there by dry philological notes on Latin and Greek words. It is easy just to skip over these and proceed to the ideas--though those concerned with ancient languages will find the philological matter interesting also.
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Format: Hardcover
Two centuries ago, when knowledge was less, it was still possible for one man to learn everything. Leopardi may now take his throne alongside Goethe and Humboldt and Novalis. At such a price and at 2,500 pages, with much of the text still in Italian, Greek and Latin, this is not everyone's feast. His subjects range the gamut of the possible. It is as if someone had single-handedly written an encyclopedia and a dictionary combined. If he had lived to be seventy, how long would this have been? To think that a man who felt life to be a delusion and a snare, yet could hold his own long enough to write all this! We must take our hats off, for we are in the august presence of Greatness. Leopardi was not merely a man, he was a universe.
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This book reminds me of Pascal's "Pensee." But without the severe Calvinism. So many ideas. Leopardi explores unhappiness, boredom, illusion, nature, distraction, writing, language etc... A lot packed into two thousand+ pages. One entry/thought could be meditated on for a long time... There are about five pages near the beginning that were rather pedantic in which the author criticizes various writers. Besides these entries, it has been an amazing reading experience.
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Leopardi's Zibaldone deserves a whole cosmos of stars. This publisher's choice of paper, however, warrants barely a glimmer. They would have done well to follow the lead of various publishers' paper choices for hardback versions of Proust or Montaigne. Still, since it is the only version available in English translation, it gets five stars because—difficult though the pages be to turn precisely, and as much as they may make a marginalia maniac's life a struggle—it should be bought and read and reread, and, if owing to the shoddy paper, bought again and reread again.

Alas, as Leopardi wrote: "In this respect, pleasure is similar to peace of mind. The more it is sought and desired in itself and alone, the less it is to be found and enjoyed . . . The very desire for peace of mind necessarily excludes it, and is incompatible with it."
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