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Cuttlefish Bones [Hardcover]

Eugenio Montale
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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From Publishers Weekly

"All my poetry," Montale ( The Storm and Other Things ) once said, "is a waiting for the miracle." That miracle began with the extraordinary voice that speaks in this first book, Ossi di seppia , published in 1925 when Montale was 29: an authentic, anti-heroic voice that would compel recognition of Montale as the great modern Italian poet and lead to the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1975. This volume disarms readers with simplicity of scene and language: the poem-scapes originate in the rocky, sun-struck seacoast of idyllic Liguria where Montale spent his youth; Montale's precise images are classically spare, and his syntax is linear and lean. But his concerns are neither simple nor spare. Given a modern universe in which existence is uncertain and "more cruel than futile," the poet can no longer dictate or merely feel, cannot retreat to medieval ideology or Romantic posturing. Montale invites the reader, the "passerby," into an intimate relationship in which the poet speaks as a sympathetic but ironic friend; the poet invites his reader to "find a break in the meshes of the net / that tightens around us, leap out, flee!"but warns of his poetic limitations: "Don't ask me for formulas to open worlds / for you: all I have are gnarled syllables, / branch-dry. All I can tell you now is this: / what we are not , what we do not want." New readers of Montale will appreciate the critical introduction to his oeuvre, with detailed notes including exegeses of the seminal poems, and Arrowsmith's masterful and subtle translation. But critical apparatus is only a pleasing adjunct: these poems stand powerfully on their own and reach straight to the reader: "Bring me the flower that leads us out / where blond transparencies rise / and life evaporates as essence. / Bring me the sunflower crazed with light."
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Although the work of the great Italian poet Montale, who died in 1981, has been frequently rendered into English (by Antonino Mazza, Jeremy Reed, Irma Brandels, and others), only the late Arrowsmith has given us translations of every volume. His final effort was Montale's first book, Ossi di Seppie, a very visual collection of verses contrasting sea and land, city and country, self and others. Montale's absorption with the musicality of language infused his poetry with a richness difficult to capture in English. Arrowsmith has chosen to make a fairly literal translation lacking much of the original's sonority. While leaving readers relatively far from Montale's melody, it does bring them close to his intellectual and inspirational intent. This collection, along with Occasions and The Storm and Other Things , completes the trio of books that won Montale the 1975 Nobel Prize for Literature. They belong in all library collections of literature in translation.
- Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing poetry Sept. 2 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Montale is the great Italian poet of this century, and this is his best book. English Horn is of a stunning beauty. It ends, in Italian, with the verse "Scordato strumento, cuore!". The translation is beautiful: the poetry is, definitely, not lost!
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing poetry Sept. 2 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Montale is the great Italian poet of this century, and this is his best book. English Horn is of a stunning beauty. It ends, in Italian, with the verse "Scordato strumento, cuore!". The translation is beautiful: the poetry is, definitely, not lost!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine translation May 6 2009
By Passante - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you can't read Montale's stunning poetry in Italian, this is the next best thing, and for those new to Montale's work the fairly extensive notes will be very helpful. I've not read every one of the translated poems, but the ones I have read retain the poet's voice.
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