The Provincial as Metaphor in Lorenza Pieri’s “Lesser Islands,” Translated from Italian by Peter DiGiovanni, William Greer, Donatella Melucci, Jenna Menta, Christopher Paniagua, and Kira Ross
Lorenza Pieri has created a world not quite our own and not quite foreign, and this is a testament to her talent as a writer. As readers we are all searching for something, whether it’s escape, enjoyment, information, or validation. “Lesser Islands” reminds us that even though we all suffer times of remoteness and provincialism, the opening of a book can be a magical way to connect without leaving the comfort of one’s chair.
Vivid, absorbing, and historically grounded without being pedantic, ‘Sangue Giusto’ raises questions such as these: How much can we know about how our parents lived before we were born? Can we square the mythologies about those we love with the reality of who they are? How far can we go to fill those gaps? And are we the inheritors of the violence committed by those with whom we share blood?
I was captivated by the story, the language, the setting of “Meeting in Positano.” Goliarda Sapienza is a superb narrator and the seaside town of Positano as the backdrop of her novel lends it a mythological, Mediterranean appeal. This appeal emerges and takes hold thanks to the book’s translator, Brian Robert Moore. Moore’s voice blends beautifully with the double voice of the book’s narrator who is telling her friend’s traumatic life story.
A Mythographer of Modernity: Giovanni Pascoli’s “Convivial Poems,” Translated from Italian by James Ackhurst and Elena Borelli
Borelli and Ackhurst are faced with the daunting assignment of translating Pascoli’s somewhat paradoxical modernist classicism, written in a literary language that is both simple and sophisticated, archaicizing, and yet fresh and innovative. They succeed admirably in their task, adopting a thoughtful translation strategy that successfully delivers Pascoli’s poetic idiom in all its musical crispness and evocative force.
Geographies of Family Memory and Belonging: Marina Jarre’s “Return to Latvia,” Translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein
The case of the Italian author Marina Jarre (1925-2016) is unusual for the international literary market: her works are being simultaneously rediscovered in Italy and discovered in English translation. Jarre’s recently republished autobiography “I padri lontani” (1987, 2021) and its English translation “Distant Fathers” (2021) by Ann Goldstein have attracted wide attention.
When the going gets tough, Aeneas is your hero. Andrea Marcolongo’s “Starting From Scratch,” Translated from Italian by Will Schutt
The “Aeneid,” unfinished at the time of Virgil’s death, was published posthumously against his wish that it be destroyed. Undercurrents of fear and anxiety run deep within the text of the “Aeneid,” while on the surface, Virgil’s stylistically masterful composure, and the terse, concise elegance of his verses befit a hero who is steadfast, patient and enduring; who battles with foes and with his own emotions, but keeps his eyes on the prize, though there will be no prize for him. As she read it during the pandemic Andrea Marcolongo found the “Aeneid” “a brutally honest poem.” Four months of war in Ukraine make it almost recommended reading.
Keeping the Presence of Absence: Concita de Gregorio’s “The Missing Word,” Translated from Italian by Clarissa Botsford
The kidnapping of Livia and Alessia Schepp crossed Swiss airwaves in early 2011, circulating throughout Europe. The six-year-old twins had been picked up on January 30 by their father, Mathias, in order to spend the weekend with him. The girls never returned to their home in Saint-Sulpice, and Mathias committed suicide by train five days later at a train station in southeast Italy. The girls were never found, and the case still continues—full of speculation, false trails, and theories that have sprouted like weeds to fill every gap in the story.
From “La Straniera” to “Strangers I know”: Claudia Durastanti’s Journey through Languages, Cultures, Genres, and Genders
The ambivalence of Durastanti’s approach to memory acquires a further shade of ambiguity in the English title, which prompts us to question how much it is possible to know about strangers, but also to investigate the limits of our knowledge of the people we think we know and to what extent they remain foreign to us.
Confronted with the absence of her father, Marta Barone does not give up her quest but interrogates, with determination and resilience, objects, places, streets, pictures that once crossed L.B.’s path. Aware of knowing a “poorer version,” simplified and bare, of her father’s story, the narrator wanders around the cities of Milan and Turin, lets the places speak to her and recomposes, trace after trace, the identity of her parent as it emerges also from photographs, accounts of friends and enemies, militants of Prima Linea, Servire il Popolo, and other extreme left-wing organizations.
Pains, Pens, and Poets: Elena Ferrante’s “In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing,” translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein
Part of what makes Ferrante’s work daring is her pursuit of a “female language,” nourished and emboldened by a female literary tradition, and capable of describing women’s experiences with truth and authenticity.
Gerda Taro’s Elusive Afterlives: Helena Janeczek’s “The Girl with the Leica,” Translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein
Pohorylle’s story is the inspiration for Helena Janeczek’s “The Girl with the Leica,” a complex, multivocal historical novel that is less a portrait of Gerda Taro than of her entire milieu: young, antifascist, bohemian, refugee, free-thinking, emancipated, and rife with short-lived romantic entanglements.
To mark the occasion of the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, Stanford Professor Robert Pogue Harrison and graduate student Donatella D’Aguanno orchestrated a panel that brought poet and translator Mary Jo Bang together in conversation with Emeritus Professor Marjorie Perloff. I saw the occasion as an opportunity to ask this most creative and skilled wordsmith a few questions about her process, her relationship to Dante, and her place in a long line of Dante translators.
In Sandro Veronesi’s second Strega Prize-winning work of fiction, we follow the protagonist, Dr Marco Carrera, a Florentine ophthalmologist, as he stumbles through a life strewn with miscommunications, misjudgements, and misfortunes.
I find Botsford’s engaged and voice-driven translation style wonderfully refreshing and the diversity of her collaborations intriguing, so I was thrilled by the chance to talk with her about her recent work, her take on the Italian-English market, and her approach to the craft.
By Olivia Soule In Sacha Naspini’s Nives, translated from the Italian by Clarissa Botsford, the significance of the long phone call that lasts almost the entire novel creeps up on you. Towards the beginning, the elderly, eponymous widow calls the local veterinarian when one of her chickens has become frozen in place; this everyday conversation […]