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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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Paperback, June 1 2000 --  

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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Review

“[A] superb translation . . . If one of the functions of a poem is to offer an alternative to dominant ways of thinking and feeling within a society, and even on occasion to offer an alternative to its own alternatives, then Montale’s Collected Poems: 1920-1954 is poetry of an unignorable kind.” —Nicholas Jenkins, The New York Times Book Review

“Galassi has lived with these poems, studied Montale’s prose, his letters and notebooks, studied the Italian critics who have commented on the poems lovingly (and learnedly), and he’s given his readers the benefit of his own long absorption.” —Robert Hass, The Washington Post Book World

“Galassi is that rarity, a translator of verse who almost totally effaces himself as an intermediary between poet and reader . . . His versions succeed so consistently because Galassi treats the originals as coherent wholes; he is alert to their shifts of cadence and he strives to recreate what might be called their prosodic argument, that syllabic counterpoint or accompaniment to the sense of the words . . . With this plump but amiable tome in hand . . . it is finally possible for English readers to immerse themselves wholly in Montale’s private universe.” —Eric Ormsby, Parnassus: Poetry in Review

“Galassi’s extending grasp of the figure he has translated anew with such effective tenacity includes a wide range of the intricate Italian scholarship and criticism of Montale (already an academic cottage industry: neither a communist nor a Catholic nor a fascist, the poet affords his ambitious exegetes a riot of good clean fun).” —Richard Howard, The Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review

“[A] superb translation . . . If one of the functions of a poem is to offer an alternative to dominant ways of thinking and feeling within a society, and even on occasion to offer an alternative to its own alternatives, then Montale’s Collected Poems 1920-1954 is poetry of an unignorable kind.” —Nicholas Jenkins, The New York Times Book Review

“The most impressive book that has come my way this year.” —Frank Kermode, The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“A model of its kind.” —Edward Hirsch, The New Yorker

“Indispensable.” —Bernard Knox, The New Republic

“A brilliant afterword . . . offers the best short account I have yet come across of the nature, import, and elusive content of Montale’s work. Above all [Galassi] has a firm grasp of its extraordinary inter-connectedness both inside itself and within Italian and European culture as a whole . . . Excellent.” —Tim Parks, The New York Review of Books

“Splendid . . . [A] generous, illuminating selection of the poet’s total product has been wisely chosen, sensitively translated, and brilliantly annotated. How many young (and old) American readers will this handsome new publication introduce to the great poet? A large number, I should guess . . . Galassi does not just translate the poems; he gives them a shape, a context, a history. His copious, informed notes are as irresistably readable as his afterword and leave no textual stone unturned.” —William Weaver, The Yale Review

“Galassi’s volume is unlikely to be superseded for a long time.” —Jamie McKendrick, London Review of Books 


About the Author

Eugenio Montale (1896-1981) received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1975. Jonathan Galassi has also translated Montale's The Second Life of Art: Selected Essays and Otherwise: Last and First Poems.

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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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars Oct. 19 2014
By Francesco Arneodo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A masterpiece. It would be worth learning Italian only to read some of these poems.
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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