Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 266
Considered one of the giants of modern Italian literature, Eugenio Montale won the 1975 Nobel Prize in Literature. Although his poems have been translated before with varying degrees of success, Jonathan Galassi has walked the thin tightrope that is the translator’s precarious occupation and distinguished himself with English words that accurately illuminate Montale’s Italian purpose. In 1982, Galassi translated and edited a selection of Montale’s essays, which was published as THE SECOND LIFE OF ART. A poet himself, Galassi translated a selection of Montale’s poems for OTHERWISE: LAST AND FIRST POEMS (1984) and authored his own collection of poetry with MORNING RUN (1988).
While having the skill and sensitivity of a poet may be essential as a starting point for any translator who wishes to tackle Montale’s lyrical genius, Galassi has brought much more than mere poetic inspiration to the table. Montale was a brilliant scholar as well as a great poet. As an ardent anti-Fascist, Montale’s poems of the 1920’s question the state of the world that surrounds him. The haunting quality of his images and his dazzling wordplay have not been lost in Galassi’s painstaking translations. Divided into three parts, COLLECTED POEMS, 1920-1954 includes the 1925 collection OSSI DI SEPPIA / CUTTLEFISH BONES, the 1939 collection LE OCCASIONI / THE OCCASIONS, and the 1956 collection (composed during the 1940’s and early 1950’s) LA BUFERA E ALTRO / THE STORM, ETC. In addition to Galassi’s distinguished translations, he has included an insightful essay “Reading Montale,” a chronology, and a remarkable collection of “Notes.” This volume is to be savored by all serious readers of contemporary world poetry.