Giacomo Leopardi was the greatest Italian poet of the nineteenth century and was recognized by readers from Nietzsche to Beckett as one of the towering literary figures in Italian history. To many, he is the finest Italian poet after Dante. (Jonathan Galassi's translation of Leopardi's Canti was published by FSG in 2010.)
He was also a prodigious scholar of classical literature and philosophy, and a voracious reader in numerous ancient and modern languages. For most of his writing career, he kept an immense notebook, known as the Zibaldone, or "hodge-podge," as Harold Bloom has called it, in which Leopardi put down his original, wide-ranging, radically modern responses to his reading. His comments about religion, philosophy, language, history, anthropology, astronomy, literature, poetry, and love are unprecedented in their brilliance and suggestiveness, and the Zibaldone, which was only published at the turn of the twentieth century, has been recognized as one of the foundational books of modern culture. Its 4,500-plus pages have never been fully translated into English until now, when a team under the auspices of Michael Caesar and Franco D'Intino of the Leopardi Centre in Birmingham, England, have spent years producing a lively, accurate version. This essential book will change our understanding of nineteenth-century culture. This is an extraordinary, epochal publication.
By catching something of Leopardi's cadences and tonality in a version that still reads as idiomatic modern English (with an occasional Irish or American accent), Leopardi: Selected Poems should win for the Italian poet the wider appreciative audience he deserves. His themes are mutability, landscape, love; his attitude, one of unflinching realism in the face of unavoidable human loss. But the manners of the poems are a unique amalgam of philosophical toughness and the lyrically bittersweet. In a way more pure and distilled than most others in the Western tradition, these poems are truly what Matthew Arnold asked all poetry to be, a "criticism of life." The translator's aim is to convey something of the profundity and something of the sheer poetic achievement of Leopardi's inestimable Canti.
The extraordinary quality of Giacomo Leopardi’s writing and the innovative nature of his thought were never fully recognized in his lifetime. Zibaldone, his 4,500-page intellectual diary—a vast collection of thoughts on philosophy, civilization, literary criticism, linguistics, humankind and its vanities, and other varied topics—remained unpublished until more than a half-century after his death. But shortly before he died, Leopardi began to organize a small, thematic collection of his writings in an attempt to give structure and system to his philosophical musings. Now freshly translated into English by master translator, novelist, and critic Tim Parks, Leopardi’s Passions presents 164 entries reflecting the full breadth of human passion. The volume offers a fascinating introduction to Leopardi’s arguments and insights, as well as a glimpse of the concerns of thinkers to come, among them Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Wittgenstein, Gadda, and Beckett.