On Thursday, May 3rd, 2012, the Italian Cultural Institute will be hosting an event in honor of one of the most revered Italian poets of the twentieth century, Eugenio Montale. Montale was born in Genoa, Italy in 1896. Being the youngest of six sons, Montale firmly believed that this aspect allowed him the freedom to pursue his true passion in life, expressing himself through the art of writing. He recalled:
“We had a large family. My brothers went to the scagno ["office" in Genoese]. My only sister had a university education, but I had not such a possibility. In many families the unspoken arrangement existed that the youngest was released from the task to keep up the family's name.”
Montale became an accountant in his young adult years, which allowed him a sense of liberty to visit frequently the city’s libraries and thus nurture his passion for literature. Ever since the beginning of his literary career, Montale greatly enjoyed writers such as Dante Alighieri, the “Father of the Italian Language,” in addition to the study of foreign languages such as English. After the outbreak of World War I, Montale became a member of the Military Academy of Parma, where he briefly served as an infantry officer until his return home in 1920. His experiences in the war in addition to the rise of Fascism in 1922 became fundamental themes for many of his poems.
Codesto solo oggi possiamo dirti,
ciò che non siamo, ciò che non vogliamo.
(Only this is what we can tell you today,
that which we are not, that which we do not want.)
This verse forms the end of a famous poem from his first collection, Ossi di seppia (“Cuttlefish Bones”). Ossi di seppia is an antifascist poetry collection that demonstrates Montale’s feelings of detachment from contemporary life and how he enjoyed the serenity of nature during the hard times that surrounded him. Montale’s poetry also emphasized the natural beauty of the Mediterranean landscape of Genoa and other places of his region where he often sought solace. Overall, Ossi di seppia was the beginning of a very distinguished career for Montale in which he left a legacy that greatly helped enrich the Italian culture as we know it today.
Please join us for an evening of poetry readings and discussion in which we will celebrate the publication of William Arrowsmith’s translation of “The Collected Poems of Eugenio Montale 1925-1977.” Thanks to this new translation, the English speaking community will now be provided with another glimpse into the intriguing world of Montale.