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Umberto Saba (1883 - 1957)

  • About
  • Reviews
  • Umberto Saba was born Umberto Poli in 1883. He married Carolina Woelfler in 1909, and their only child, Lina (Linuccia) was born the following year. They lived in various places in northern Italy until Saba bought a bookshop in Trieste in 1919. The first edition of his great Canzoniere, 'a sort of Odyssey of man in our times', was published at his own expense in 1921. He described his as a life which was 'relatively poor in external events but rich, at times excruciatingly so, in emotions and inner resonances'. He died in Gorizia in 1957.
    Praise for Umberto Saba (1883 - 1957) 'Unlike in previous translations, Saba's very familiar and dramatic rhymes, as well as the metrics of the texts, are here preserved with that impossible combination of fidelity and necessary betrayal that characterises the best translation. The rhythm, the sound, the startling rhymes of Saba's prosody are preserved by Worsnip with a clever play of rhymes, half-rhymes and assonance; the Italian hendecasyllable is dropped, but without thereby forgoing a coherent metrical or rhythmic structure in the last line. (The Random Order series and Target are among the book's most exceptional renderings, along perhaps with Poems for the Game of Football). The effectiveness of this translation lies, in fact, in this consistency with the most typical features of Saba's poetry: making them enjoyable in English means making Saba knowable by those who cannot appreciate him in the original.'
    Olmo Calzolari, Italian Studies
    'Patrick Worsnip's anthology draws on the whole span of Saba's career... As a translator he has opted for prosy, highly readable English, with a certain measure of half-rhyme... He has also provided an excellent general essay and helpful notes. An English speaker without Italian will find much here to enjoy, as well as much to puzzle over.'
    Peter Hainsworth, TLS
    'An impressive selection that offers a thorough understanding of the Italian poet's work... in versions that are pleasant to read and offer a thoughtful and precise approach to his poetry. The volume is not only a perfect introduction but goes beyond this, accomplishing a comprehensive and insightful appreciation of Saba's career and poetical development'

    Carla Scarano, London Grip

     'The life that emerges revolves around small things, memories of the poet’s own childhood, his wife and daughter, street scenes, personal acquaintances, animals, his own career... Worsnip's translations are as carefully faithful to the Italian as they can be while remaining sensitive to the fundamental difficulty of transferring formal structures from Italian, in which rhyming is so easy, to English, in which it is so much more difficult'

    Edmund Prestwich, The High Window

    'Saba's poetry seems like the pure sound of a voice, a voice nearly freed from the bonds of words. The monody is pure feeling, in a musical state. The Language of Italian poetry which has almost always sought transfiguration in plasticity and relief, has rarely known an exception so singular. Saba attains the lied as if without realising it'
    Eugenio Montale
    'The moral physiognomy of Saba is very powerfully alive in his work, and makes him, now and forever, a great author. To this vast, complex, long-suffering personality, his poems bear witness, and from it draw their light....I have the impression that Saba, in our day, has been just discovered, and that the task of evaluating the full scope of his greatness will have to fall to others, when distance will have further clarified the perspectives. Saba will have to wait. Yet how many in Europe, can be as certain in their wait as he?'
    Quarantotti Gambini
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