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Collected Poems 1920-1954 [Paperback]

E Montale
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 1 2000
Winner of the Weidenfeld Translation Prize and the Premio Montale, an acclaimed translation of Italy's greatest modern poet

Eugenio Montale is universally recognized as having brought the great Italian lyric tradition that begins with Dante into the twentieth century with unrivaled power and brilliance. Montale is a love poet whose deeply beautiful, individual work confronts the dilemmas of modern history, philosophy, and faith with courage and subtlety; he has been widely translated into English and his work has influenced two generations of American and British poets. Jonathan Galassi's versions of Montale's major works--Ossi di seppia, Le occasioni, and La bufera e altro--are the clearest and most convincing yet, and his extensive notes discuss in depth the sources and difficulties of this dense, allusive poetry. This book offers English-language readers uniquely informed and readable access to the work of one of the greatest of all modern poets.

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A white dove has landed me
among headstones, under spires where the sky nests.
Dawns and lights in air; I've loved the sun,
colors of honey, now I crave the dark,
I want the smoldering fire, this tomb
that doesn't soar, your stare that dares it to.
--Eugenio Montale

Opera's loss was poetry's gain. Eugenio Montale, the 1975 Nobel Prize winner in literature and one of Italy's greatest poets, originally aspired to be an opera singer. Born in Genoa in 1896, Montale was a delicate child, his health precluding him from getting a formal education; instead, he spent his youth reading philosophy, literature, and Italian classics, and training as a baritone. World War I found him serving as an infantry officer on the Austrian front. Upon his return to civilian life, Montale took up singing again, but after the death of his voice teacher in 1923, he abandoned his operatic hopes. Just two years later, he published his first collection of poetry, Cuttlefish Bones. Over the next 50 years, Montale would produce many poems in between his work as a journalist; Jonathan Galassi's Collected Poems 1920-1954, however, concentrates on three collections that are, arguably, his masterpieces: Cuttlefish Bones (1925); The Occasions (1948); and The Storm, Etc. (1956).

In addition to Galassi's excellent translations, two other things stand out about this book: one is that both Italian and English versions can be read side by side; the other is that Galassi has thoroughly annotated these poems, placing Montale's challenging work in its historical, cultural, and personal context. We are told, for example, that "Leaving a Dove" is, in part, about the poet's abandonment of an old lover for a new one. Such information adds piquancy to the imagery and depth to the reader's appreciation. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The work of Montale, the great modern Italian poet and 1975 Nobel prize winner, swarms with musical imagery and many-layered wordplay. One of many translators (William Arrowsmith, Cuttlefish Bones, LJ 7/93, is another), Galassi presents a hefty bilingual edition that contains translations of three works: Cuttlefish Bones (1920-27); The Occasions (1928-39); and The Storm and Other Things (1940-54). Galassi argues that Montale's later work is "secondary" and that poetry from Cuttlefish Bones to The Storm "describes a complete arc, one of the greatest in modern literature." Galassi's edition provides copious critical annotation, a painstaking attempt to explicate Montale's "collage of borrowings." Identifying allusions (the Holocaust, Stalin's purges), influences (Browning, D'Annunzio), sources (Dante, Debussy), and themes ("Crowds in Montale always carry infernal associations"), Galassi's linguistic-textural analysis unravels many elements of the poet's voice: "a sinuous, constantly transforming series of metaphors spiraling around an elusive central core." This marriage of creative literary research and inspired poetic scholarship helps make Montale accessible to English-speaking readers. With a thorough chronology; an insightful essay, "Reading Montale"; and an index of titles and first lines; highly recommended for all major poetry collections.?Frank Allen, North Hampton Community Coll., Tannersville, PA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3.0 out of 5 stars Read the translations by Arrowsmith instead Jan. 19 2001
Format:Paperback
Eugenio Montale is my favourite poet, and before I was able to read him in the original Italian I read the extant English translations by Jonathan Galassi and William Arrowsmith. Looking back, I would wholeheartedly recommend Arrowsmith's translations about Galassi's.
Galassi's translations are accurate as far as the meaning goes, but do not sufficiently mirror the sound of Montale's brilliant Italian, and in several poems they do not translate the mood, the essence of Montale's poetic vision. Arrowsmith's translations have always seemed wonderful to me because they capture Montale's emotion (especially the sly irony of SATURA) and remain faithful to the sound of the Italian. If one wishes to read Montale's poems in English, I would highly suggest you purchase William Arrowsmith's translations. Arrowsmith translated not only Montale's first three books as Galassi only did, but also his retrospective SATURA, some of his best poetry.
This edition by Galassi does warrant recognition, however, for one thing. His attached essay, "Reading Montale," does a great deal for the unfamiliar reader to explain the nature of Montale's "Clizia" mythos, and his analysis of the cicada symbol teaches the reader to appreciate Montale's complex symbolism.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A lyrical body of work by a truly gifted poet. Aug. 7 2000
Format:Paperback
Ably translated and annotated by Jonathan Galassi, this revised bilingual edition of Eugenio Montale's Collected Poems 1920-1954 brings the lyrical Italian poet's work to a new generation of readers. Montale is a gifted poet who work is deeply beautiful as it confronts the dilemmas of modern history, philosophy, and faith. Day And Night: A floating feather, too, can sketch your image/or the sunbeam playing hied-and-seek/in the furniture, rebounding off/a baby's mirror or the roofs. Above the walls/wisps of steam draw out the poplars' spires/and the knifegrinder's parrot down below/fans his feathers on his perch. And then the hazy night/in the little square, and footsteps, and always/this painful effort to sink under/to re-emerge the same for centuries, or seconds,/by ghosts who can't win back the light of your eyes/inside the incandescent cave -- and still/the same shouts and long wailing on the veranda/if suddenly the shot rings out/that reddens your throat and shears/your wings. O perilous harbinger of dawn,/and the cloisters and the hospitals awake/to a resounding chorus of horns...
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Vincent
Format:Paperback
picked up this book out of nowhere and I read through a couple of poems, I enjoyed it so much that I purchased it then and there even though that my parents are gone for the next 3 days and I have $6.75 left to spend on food, along w/ this I purchased a Nancy Sinatra record and now I am screwed because I do NOT have enough money for food but that is ok I guess, I can leech off a couple of people Henry Miller style.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read the translations by Arrowsmith instead Jan. 19 2001
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Eugenio Montale is my favourite poet, and before I was able to read him in the original Italian I read the extant English translations by Jonathan Galassi and William Arrowsmith. Looking back, I would wholeheartedly recommend Arrowsmith's translations above Galassi's.

Galassi's translations are accurate as far as the meaning goes, but do not sufficiently mirror the sound of Montale's brilliant Italian, and in several poems they do not translate the mood, the essence of Montale's poetic vision. Arrowsmith's translations have always seemed wonderful to me because they capture Montale's emotion (especially the sly irony of SATURA) and remain faithful to the sound of the Italian. If one wishes to read Montale's poems in English, I would highly suggest you purchase William Arrowsmith's translations. Arrowsmith translated not only Montale's first three books as Galassi only did, but also his retrospective SATURA, some of his best poetry.

This edition by Galassi does warrant recognition, however, for one thing. His attached essay, "Reading Montale," does a great deal for the unfamiliar reader to explain the nature of Montale's "Clizia" mythos, and his analysis of the cicada symbol teaches the reader to appreciate Montale's complex symbolism.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Seek a better translation than this Jan. 11 2008
By Adrian Heathcote - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There are some good translations of Montale around but this is not one of them: in fact I'd say it is the least successful of any of the translations that have been made. Galassi goes overboard to make Montale jagged and unmusical: in a word: unpoetic. The lovely, brief love poems of the Le Occasioni have been rendered as bits of broken glass that cut the mouth. Even the content is changed when it doesn't fit in with Galassi's arch-modernist convictions: words get dropped, content get changed around, religious words get omitted, extraneous things are put in. Galassi defends his vision of Montale as an anti-poet in an essay at the back of the book, but it doesn't convince, and, significantly, no evidence is cited in support. Even the arrangements of the poems on the page -- in this case probably the publisher's fault , rather than Galassi's -- manages to misrepresent them. Poems that were, in the original, meant to be separated by a page break are here represented in run-on fashion, so that one reads the parts as connected in a way that they are not intended to be. *News from Amiata* (not *Mount* Amiata, as Galassi renders it!) is a case in point: the parts should be on separate pages, not run-on as they are. The same goes for the Motets.

But this would be less jarring if the translations themselves were more faithful to the spirit of the originals. Unfortunately they completely mislead the reader as to the meaning of Montale's poems. The translations of William Arrowsmith were much, much better and Norton would do the lover of Montale's poetry a great service by putting them back into print. Arrowsmith gets the modernism of Montale right without making him sound like he just didn't know how to write. But that, sadly, is how he comes across in Galassi's versions: a fumbling amateur, certainly not someone who could win a Nobel prize!

Don't be misled by the encomiums on the back of the book. Galassi is an important New York editor: no one is going to tell him or the public the truth about his efforts at translation. The most the reader can hope for is that Norton, or Charles Wright's publisher will put out a better version of the Collected Poems so that the lover of Montale has a choice. At present we seem to be stuck with this white elephant alone!
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern madrigalists! Here's the poet to set to music! Oct. 12 2008
By Giordano Bruno - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Exchanging notes with Mike Birman about Petrarch, whose poems inspired some of the greatest composers of the 16th and 17th Centuries, I suddenly made a connection -- had an epiphany, to put it in grad school terms. Eugenio Montale (b. 1896) wrote a lot like Petrarch! That may not be such a surprise to scholars of Italian literature, or it may seem like pure nonsense to those same scholars. Che sara sara. But for the various readers of my reviews of Monteverdi and other madrigalists, the mere mention of a modern Italian poet, and an extremely good one, may be a revelation. Here's a very short poem by Montale:
LUNGOMARE
Il soffio cresce, il buio e rotto a squarci,
e l'ombra che tu mandi sulla fragile
palizzata s'arriccia. Troppo tardi

se vuoi esser te stessa! Dalla palma
tonfa il sorcio, il baleno e sulla miccia,
sui lunghissimi cigli del tuo sguardo.

But Montale lived through tougher times, and modern themes show up in his work as veins of grief through his translucent marble lyricism. Here's my own translation of his poem "La Primavera Hitleriana" :

HITLER SPRING
A thick lamp-loony mist, moths, dim as sleet
swirls down parapets, eddies, drains,
shakes down on the stones a sheet
that crackles like sugar underfoot.
When summer comes, now soon, it breaks
chill nitres loose the dying season held
hidden in coverts, quarries, orchards which
from Maiano snake down sandhills to sandy banks.

Hooked crosses, flags and flambeaux, mystic chants
of stooges gorged him in -- the hellbent henchman
cyclist who through the Corso just now
blazed. Shop fronts are shuttered, broke
and gutless though they, they too, sport
plastic cannons. Bars creak
across the butcher's counter closing, he
who used to deck his goats' heads out
with red small berries -- rite of those tender killers
who do not know blood yet, made over
in a puking reel of mashed white wings, larvae
on the mud-flats fledging, and foul water
rots its banks and no one is blameless.

For nothing is it? St. John's Eve
goes slowly blonde as roman candles streak
adios stark as baptisms to this dolorous watch
the horde keeps. Some precious something skates
your shoreline skyward, Tobias' seraph seven
spermed on ice. Heliotropes
foal from your fingers. --
Our bleeding ulcer, April,
if it freeze such death in death, is a holiday yet.
Clizia, whose fate this is, though changed, you
love unchanged until that sun that squints in you is
lacklustered in the Other, annihilated in
him for everyone. Sirens, pig iron bells,
sledging the horde's Walpurgisnacht, already
with peals broken off heaven,
descending, conquering, chime -- Oh dawn
of frosted breathing but unhorrible
which tomorrow bursts over the fried gulches of the south....

Clizia is Montale's recurrent feminine, his match for Petrarch's Laura. My translation was published some years ago in the Transatlantic Review #19. Robert Lowell included several translations of Montale poems in his book "Imitations" and Charles Wright has translated nearly all of Montale in very impressive poetic English.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Find Oct. 26 2010
By Fhrid - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
After long search for translation of Montale's poems, this bilingual edition was perfect. Book was in perfect condition and arrived at exactly the announced date.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great collection with useful annotations July 4 2006
By Rudolfo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Some of Montale's best poems translated faithfully and presented in the original Italian. The annotations in this book are a great addition because Montale isn't as well known in the US as he should be.
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