We are delighted to share that Marco Sonzogni’s review of Giuseppe Ungaretti’s Allegria, translated by Geoffrey Brock, was published in the Journal of Italian Translation.
From the review, as translated by Geoffrey Brock:
The skill of Geoffrey Brock, without a shadow of a doubt one of the most important literary translators from Italian into English, has long been known to me: years ago I had the honor and delight of reviewing his Pavese for The Irish Times… Brock’s hand…has grown even surer and more effective, and I continue to follow his career (which include works by Umberto Eco: Herculean labors for any translator) with attention and admiration. I therefore read with great interest and care his translation of one of our poetic canon’s landmark collections: Allegria by Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888–1970), in its 1931 version, published on the fiftieth anniversary of “Ungà’s” death by Archipelago Books, a New York publishing house with the highest of reputations for editorial vision and catalog quality. I would venture to say, giving two “nocturnal” examples, that in many cases the translations by Brock—who is also a fine poet—are not only successful translations but also successful new poems. The first example is “Noia”:
Anche questa notte passerà
Questa solitudine in giro
titubante ombra dei fili tramviari
Guardo i testoni dei brunisti
nel mezzo sonno
translated thusly by Brock:
This night too will pass
This roving solitude
tentative shadows of tram wires
on damp asphalt
I watch the big heads of the coachmen
Were I to read this text without knowing it was a translation I would consider it in every way a successful original work in English and would immediately want to try translating it into Italian.
The second example is “Sempre Notte”:
La mia squallida
che mi calca e mi spreme
which becomes “Night Again” in Brock’s English:
ever more fearful
that tramples and crushes me
Though it’s true that word-for-word translations rarely yield satisfying results, and true that word-level equivalence may be sacrificed on the altar of a more “comprehensive” equivalence, it is nonetheless worth noting how these two small ‘mirrors’—“ever more fearful / of itself” for “più spaventata / di sè” and “into an / endlessness” for “in un / infinito”—reflect the translator’s great sensitivity. Again, should I fail to recognize in the English text the translation of a poem by one of our most important poets, I would consider “Night Again” an absolutely successful poem in English and would like to try to reproduce it in Italian.
“Noia” and “Sempre notte,” though not among Ungaretti’s most “classic” poems, are nevertheless, for their emotional intensity and expressive precision, equally definitive standard-bearers of his voice and his poetics. Likewise, “Boredom” and “Night Again” attest to Brock’s talent: a quality and integrity of reading, interpretation, and rendering that are rooted in a natural flair for the forms and functions of poetry and thus at this point go beyond the mastery of language and culture.
Jose Saramago said something as beautiful as it is true: writers create national literatures while translators create universal literature. Thanks to these translations, exemplary in their empathy and effectiveness, by Geoffrey Brock and Alberto Bertoni, and thanks to the dedication and investment of Archipelago Books and corsiero editore, the universality of Italian and Irish poetry and have been revealed and renewed.
We are thrilled to share that David Colmer—translator of Dutch literature across the genres of literary fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, and poetry—has been awarded the James Brockway Prize for 2021! The prize, which is run by the Dutch Foundation for Literature, recognizes a translator’s body of Dutch-language poetry, and honors the pivotal James Brockway, the late poet and translator.
The judges David McKay, Judith Wilkinson, and Claire Lowdon wrote:
“Colmer’s work displays great sensitivity to the specific demands of each poem. He is a very versatile translator, able to work with both free verse and traditional forms. He is particularly at ease with the colloquial, contemporary voice and can even produce slang when the Dutch requires this. (…) He is a bold translator; he never automatically chooses the obvious but tries to tease out the maximum from every line. He instinctively knows when to opt for restraint and simplicity and when to take creative risks. His translations are never prosaic and work as poems in their own right, with their own rhythmic flow.”
Award presentation info is available here.
David Colmer’s poetry translations include books by Hugo Claus, Paul van Ostaijen, Menno Wigman, Annie M.G. Schmidt and Cees Nooteboom. His translations published with Archipelago Books include The Twin, Even Now, An Untouched House, and I Wish.
You can pre-order Colmer’s new translation, Willem Frederik Hermans’s A Guardian Angel Recalls, here. It will be out on October 12, 2021.