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Review of Allegria in the Journal of Italian Translation

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
sullumido asfalto
Guardo i testoni dei brunisti
nel mezzo sonno
tentennare
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
half sleeping
totter

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
vita
si estende
più spaventata
di sè

in un
infinito
che mi calca e mi spreme
col suo

fievole
tatto
fluente

which becomes “Night Again” in Brock’s English:

My wretched
life
stretches on
ever more fearful
of itself

into an
endlessness
that tramples and crushes me
with its
faint
flowing
touch

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.

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David Colmer wins the 2021 James Brockway Prize

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 NowAn 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.

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Andrea Bajani and Nick Flynn at Prairie Lights

 

On Friday, April 16 at 8:00PM EST, Prairie Lights hosted a virtual conversation with Andrea Bajani and Nick Flynn. They discussed Bajani’s novel, If You Kept a Record of Sins, translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris. You can watch a recording of the event here!

Andrea Bajani is the author of four novels and two collections of poems. His novel, If You Kept a Record of Sins, has brought him a great deal of attention. In just a few months, the book won the Super Mondello Prize, the Brancati Prize, the Recanati Prize and the Lo Straniero Prize. He lives in Houston and teaches at Rice University.

Nick Flynn is a formidable contemporary American poet, playwright, and memoirist. His work is often praised for its swift, lyrical expression and fractured narrative structures. Flynn has been published in fifteen languages, and has won two PEN prizes for his memoir and poetry writing. He has also received fellowships from The Guggenheim Foundation; The Fine Arts Works Center; and the Library of Congress, among others. He now lives in Brooklyn with his wife and his daughter, Maeve.

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Andrea Bajani, Elizabeth Harris, and Stuart Dybek at Pilsen Community Books

On Thursday, April 8th at 7PM CST / 8 PM EST, Andrea BajaniElizabeth Harris, and Stuart Dybek celebrated If You Kept a Record of Sins, hosted by Pilsen Community Books!

A recording of the event is available here.

A sly, prismatic novel that Jhumpa Lahiri says “accumulates with the quiet urgency of a snowstorm,” Bajani’s If You Kept a Record of Sins, translated by Elizabeth Harris, records the indelible marks a mother leaves on her son after she abandons their home in Italy for a business she’s building in Romania.

Andrea Bajani is one of the most respected and award-winning novelists and poets of contemporary Italian literature. He is the author of four novels and two collections of poems. His novel, If You Kept a Record of Sins, has brought him a great deal of attention. In just a few months, the book won the Super Mondello Prize, the Brancati Prize, the Recanati Prize and the Lo Straniero Prize. His works have been translated into many languages. He now lives in Houston and teaches at Rice University.

Elizabeth Harris translates contemporary Italian fiction, including novels and story collections by Mario Rigoni Stern, Giulio Mozzi, Antonio Tabucchi, and Claudia Durastanti. For her  translations of Antonio Tabucchi’s For Isabel: A Mandala and Tristano Dies: A Life, she has received the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant, an NEA Translation Fellowship, The Italian Prose in Translation Award, and the National Translation Award for Prose.

Stuart Dybek was born and raised in Pilsen and Little Village. Dybek is a writer of place and those neighborhoods are central to his fiction and poetry. He is the author of 6 books of fiction including Childhood and Other NeighborhoodsThe Coast of Chicago, and I Sailed With Magellan, all set in Pilsen, as well as the poetry collections, Brass Knuckles and Streets in the Own Ink. His work has received many awards including a Macarthur “genius award.” He is currently the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University.

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Andrea Bajani and Jhumpa Lahiri at Point Reyes Books

 

On Tuesday, April 1 at 9:00PM EST, Andrea Bajani joined Jhumpa Lahiri to celebrate and discuss his novel, If You Kept a Record of Sins, which was translated to English by Elizabeth Harris. Point Reyes Books hosted the conversation in a virtual stream on Crowdcast. Watch a recording of the event here!

Andrea Bajani is the author of four novels and two collections of poems. His novel, If You Kept a Record of Sins, has brought him a great deal of attention. In just a few months, the book won the Super Mondello Prize, the Brancati Prize, the Recanati Prize and the Lo Straniero Prize. He lives in Houston and teaches at Rice University.

Jhumpa Lahiri is the author of four works of fiction: Interpreter of MaladiesThe NamesakeUnaccustomed Earth, and The Lowland; and a work of nonfiction, In Other Words. She has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize; the PEN/Hemingway Award; the PEN/Malamud Award; the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award; the Premio Gregor von Rezzori; the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature; a 2014 National Humanities Medal, awarded by President Barack Obama; and the Premio Internazionale Viareggio-Versilia, for In altre parole. Lahiri’s new novel, Whereabouts, will be published on April 27th.

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A conversation between Andrea Bajani and Edmund White, hosted by 192 Books / PCG Studio

 

On March 30th at 6PM EST, 192 Books hosted an online conversation between Andrea Bajani and Edmund White about Bajani’s novel, If You Kept a Record of Sins, published March 23rd.  A recording of the event is available here!

Andrea Bajani is one of the most respected novelists of contemporary Italian literature. His novel, Ogni promess (Every Promise), won the prestigious Bagutta Prize. Se consideri le colpe (If You Kept a Record of Sins) won the Super Mondello Prize, the Brancati Prize, the Recanati Prize, and the Lo Straniero Prize. His latest novel, Un bene al mondo, is currently being turned into a film. Bajani is also a journalist, and he published his first book of poetry, Promemoria, in 2017. He teaches at Rice University in the Department of Classical and European studies.

Edmund White is the author of many novels, including  A Boy’s Own StoryThe Beautiful Room Is EmptyThe Farewell Symphony, and Our Young Man. His non-fiction includes City BoyInside a Pearl, and other memoirs; The Flâneur, about Paris; and literary biographies and essays. He was named the winner of the 2018 PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction and is the recipient of the honorary National Book Award for 2019. White lives in New York.

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Pierre Joris, Geoffrey Brock, and Nathaniel Rudavsky-Brody in conversation, moderated by Mary Ann Caws

 

On Tuesday, December 1st at 6:00pm EST, Pierre Joris, Geoffrey Brock, and Nathaniel Rudavsky-Brody joined moderator Mary Ann Caws for a conversation hosted by 192 Books and Paula Cooper Gallery. They discussed their recent translations of Paul Celan’s Memory Rose into Threshold Speech, Guiseppe Ungaretti’s Allegria, and Paul Valéry’s The Idea of Perfection, respectively.

A recording of the event is available here.

Mary Ann Caws is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature, English, and French at the Graduate School of the City University of New York. Her many areas of interest in twentieth-century avant-garde literature and art include Surrealism, poets René Char and André Breton, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group, and artists Robert Motherwell, Joseph Cornell, and Pablo Picasso. Conceptually, one of her primary themes has been the relationship between image and text.

Pierre Joris has written, edited, and translated more than sixty books, including poetry, essays, and anthologies, including Fox-trails, -tails, & -trots (Poems & Proses); Paul Celan: Microliths They Are, Little Stones (Posthumous prose); Arabia (not so) Deserta and, with Adonis, Conversations in the Pyrenees. Joris is the editor and translator of Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry of Paul Celan. In 2005 he received the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation for his translation of Celan’s Lichtzwang/Lightduress.

Geoffrey Brock is an American poet and translator. Brock has edited three anthologies on Italian poetry and translated the work of Italo Calvino, Roberto Calasso, Umberto Eco, and others. Brock’s poetry has been featured in several anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2007 , and his books, Weighing Light (2005) and Voices Bright Flags: Poems (2014) have received the New Criterion Poetry Prize and Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize, respectively. His translations have appeared in magazines such as Poetry, The Paris Review, and The New Yorker, and he has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Antiquarian Society, the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Florida Arts Council, the Guggenheim Foundation, and Stanford University.

Nathaniel Rudavsky-Brody was born in Columbus, Ohio. He has translated the work of French and Belgian poets, including Benjamin Fondane, for which he was awarded the Susan Sontag Prize for Translation. He is the author of two volumes of poetry in French and one in English, and has worked as a typesetter, a programmer, and a private tutor.

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Andrea Bajani on Brad Listi’s OTHERPPL

Brad Listi hosted Andrea Bajani on his podcast Otherppl! Their conversation is available now.

On the program, they discuss Bajani’s novel If You Kept a Record of Sins, recently published by Archipelago Books, in a striking translation by Elizabeth Harris. Bajani and Listi talk about Bajani’s inspirations for the novel, the writing process, and more. You can listen to the interview on Otherppl’s website, here, or on LitHub Radio, here.

Andrea Bajani (Rome, 1975) is the author of four novels and two collections of poems. His novel, If You Kept a Record of Sins, has brought him a great deal of attention. In just a few months, the book won the Super Mondello Prize, the Brancati Prize, the Recanati Prize and the Lo Straniero Prize. He lives in Houston and teaches at Rice University.

Otherppl is a podcast hosted by Brad Listi, author of the novel Attention. Deficit. Disorder. and founder of The Nervous Breakdown, an online culture magazine and literary community.

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Announcing the Radical Books Collective

Our friends at Decolonize That! have launched the Radical Books Collective. The initiative “responds to the need for an alternative, inclusive and non-commercial approach to books and reading.” Archipelago’s Jill Schoolman will be serving on the board of directors.

A community of readers from around the world will discuss books that are unapologetically political and that envision transformative futures. Corporatized, profit-oriented publishing structures makes it harder to find books and writers that don’t fit the mainstream awards, praise, and review criteria. RBC will curate an alternative canon through a collective that includes publishers, bookstores, authors, booklovers and bookworms everywhere. Let’s change how books are read, circulated, reviewed and talked about.
Book clubs meet online to discuss a recently published radical book and chat with the writer.

You can find the line up of books, the schedule, and the various subscriber packages on their Eventbrite page. And you can also view their site here: http://decolonizethat.com/#section-radical.

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An Urgent Duty of Remembrance: An Interview with Scholastique Mukasonga In The White Review

In an interview with Julian Lucas for The White Review, Scholastique Mukasonga discusses – among other things – her movement from autobiography to fiction, and the historical and cultural contexts of colonialism, gender roles, and the Catholic Church in her writing about the Rwandan genocide. She also dwells on what it means to write Rwandan history in French, and the linguistic futures of emerging writers in her country. You can read the interview here, and an excerpt below:

“But I believe that I will never stop writing about Rwanda: there is so much more to write about this lost, murdered, recovering, reborn country. There are few Rwandan writers, and among them, even fewer women. I know my books are needed. It’s as though I receive orders from young Rwandans who thirst to rediscover a culture so long obscured and despised. Writing to meet their expectations has become a duty, but also a pleasure. All I have to do is dig into the trunk of my mother’s tales.”