By: Giuseppe Ungaretti
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888-1970) was a pioneer of the Modernist movement in Italian poetry and is widely regarded as one of the leading Italian poets of the twentieth century. His verse is renowned and loved for its powerful insight and emotion, and its exquisite music. Yet, unlike many of his peers, Ungaretti has never been adequately presented to English readers. This large bilingual selection, translated with great sensitivity and fidelity by Andrew Frisardi, captures Ungaretti in all of his phases: from his early poems, written in the trenches of northern Italy during World War I, to the finely crafted erotic and religious poetry of his second period, to the visceral, elegiac poetry of the years following the death of his son and the occupation of Rome during World War II, to the love poems of the poet’s old age.
Frisardi’s in-depth introduction details the world in which Ungaretti’s work took shape and exerted its influence. In addition to the poet’s own annotations, an autobiographical afterword, “Ungaretti on Ungaretti,” further illuminates the poet’s life and art. Here is a compelling, rewarding, and comprehensive version of the work of one of the greatest modern European poets.
I honestly don’t remember now how I first came across Giuseppe Ungretti’s poetry. What I do remember was that the moment I did come across his poems, I knew I had to check out more. Not a lot of his poetry is available in English but I was fortunate enough to pick up a copy of this collection featuring some of his selected works.
A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe: Selected Poems
By: Fernando Pessoa
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
This is the largest and richest volume of poetry by Pessoa available in English. It includes generous selections from the three poetic alter egos that the Portuguese writer dubbed “heteronyms” – Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Alvaro de Campos – and from the vast and varied work he wrote under his own name.
This book has been following me around the internet–on Goodreads, on the Book Depository whenever I’m on there–so at long last I caved and picked up the book when I bought a whole bunch of poetry books earlier in the autumn season. I figured why not, could read some more books and works written by Portuguese authors, ad I was curious that this was considered the largest collection available from this poet in English. So my curiosity was piqued enough.
Unfortunately his poetry isn’t quite my type. I can see why he intrigued many readers over the years, his poems are quite autobiographical in that he puts to words the thoughts that come to his mind. And the themes and structures that authors and poets in his time were playing around with can definitely be found in these pages, both the ideas and the way he conveys them. There’s some mirroring in some of his poems, repetition…Some of his poems are told like a story, a conversational narrative. There were a few poems that stood out for me, but for the most part I just could not connect with his poems. They reminded me of stream of consciousness or post-modern works that I never could quite enjoy.
So in the end, whilst I appreciated that I finally got around to reading his works, I didn’t enjoy it or connected with it as much as I thought I would. Maybe something was lost in translation, I’m not sure.
Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order this book from the Book Depository
So You Want to Read… is a monthly feature here on eclectictales.com in which I recommend books by particular authors to readers who have never read a book from certain authors and would like to start. I’m always happy to recommend books and certain authors to my fellow readers and bloggers! 🙂
And here we are, it’s November…For this edition of So You Want to Read…, I decided to feature Rainer Maria Rilke (see author tag). His poetry seems fitting for these autumn days when the temperatures are getting cooler, the days are getting shorter, and you’ve broken out your sweaters and off to Starbucks for their seasonal items. I got around to reading his poetry in 2015 and just fell in love with his work and the nature imagery and his choice of words to express certain feelings…Anyway, here’s my recommendations on where to start if you’ve never read any of his work:
- The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Briggs (review) — This is the only novel he’s every written and it’s more of an experience as the main character finds himself reminiscing about the past and experiences he had. All the while he’s meditating on a number of different topics and ideas. And did I mention it was beautifully written? 🙂
- Letters to a Young Poet — I could’ve sworn I had reviewed it at some point as a mini-review but anyway, definitely required reading for everyone who’s into writing. His letters are encouraging, thoughtful and meditative, and overall just a boost-me-up especially when you find yourself wondering if your writing will make it or if it’s worth it. It’s also an interesting look at the way he approaches writing.
- Duino Elegies (review) — I read this as part of The Poety of Rilke (see review). This one stood out for me with the mix of nature and religious themes, the contemplation of life, death, and existence, and contains some of the most stunning lines I’ve read from him. Of all of his poetry, it’s a good place to start just to get a sense of how he writes an what he writes about.
And that’s my list! I hope it helps 🙂 If you’ve read any of Rainer Maria Rilke’s works, which one is your favourite? Which would you recommend for first-time readers? Or which books have you been meaning to get around to reading? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you! 🙂
The Lost Daughter
By: Elena Ferrante
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
From the author of The Days of Abandonment, The Lost Daughter is Elena Ferrante’s most compelling and perceptive meditation on womanhood and motherhood yet. Leda, a middle-aged divorce, is alone for the first time in years when her daughters leave home to live with their father. Her initial, unexpected sense of liberty turns to ferocious introspection following a seemingly trivial occurrence. Ferrante’s language is as finely tuned and intense as ever, and she treats her theme with a fierce, candid tenacity.
This is the final book from her list of fiction that I haven’t read. After reading the fraught-ness that was The Days of Abandonment (review) I was looking for something a bit quieter to read. Good thing I left this for last 😛
Another day, another round of mini reviews! This is another poetry edition as I’ve read a bit of poetry in the last few months that I wanted to talk briefly about 🙂 Included in this batch are:
The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry: An Anthology
Format/Source: Hardback; my purchase
More than a century has now passed since F.T. Marinetti’s famous “Futurist Manifesto” slammed the door on the nineteenth century and trumpeted the arrival of modernity in Europe and beyond. Since then, against the backdrop of two world wars and several radical social upheavals whose effects continue to be felt, Italian poets have explored the possibilities of verse in a modern age, creating in the process one of the great bodies of twentieth-century poetry.
Even before Marinetti, poets such as Giovanni Pascoli had begun to clear the weedy rhetoric and withered diction from the once-glorious but by then decadent grounds of Italian poetry. And their winter labors led to an extraordinary spring: Giuseppe Ungaretti’s wartime distillations and Eugenio Montale’s “astringent music”; Umberto Saba’s song of himself and Salvatore Quasimodo’s hermetic involutions. After World War II, new generations—including such marvelously diverse poets as Sandro Penna, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Amelia Rosselli, Vittorio Sereni, and Raffaello Baldini—extended the enormous promise of the prewar era into our time.
A surprising and illuminating collection, The FSG Book of 20th-Century Italian Poetry invites the reader to examine the works of these and other poets—seventy-five in all—in context and conversation with one another. Edited by the poet and translator Geoffrey Brock, these poems have been beautifully rendered into English by some of our finest English-language poets, including Seamus Heaney, Robert Lowell, Ezra Pound, Paul Muldoon, and many exciting younger voices
I bought this monster of a tome on sale at Book City; I’m always up to reading more translated texts and more Italian literature so the intersect between Italian literature and poetry with this book was a win-win for me.
Like the title and blurb mentions, the book covers Italian poetry over the course of the twentieth century, convering everything from life in Italy at the turn of the century to the two world wars, to experimentation in the latter half of the the twentieth century in culture. It’s a bilingual text, which I always enjoy checking out, and whilst there were some I didn’t care for or felt moved by (the really weird experimentation from the mid-century just will never appeal to me) there were others that did intrigue me and whose works I will keep a lookout for as solo collections, such as Giovanni Pascoli and Giuseppe Ungaretti.
Overall, I’m glad to have checked out this collection 🙂