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100 Poems

Umberto Saba

Edited by Patrick Worsnip

Translated by Patrick Worsnip

Foreword by Angela Leighton

Cover of 100 Poems by Umberto Saba
10% off all versions
Categories: 20th Century, Italian, Jewish, Translation, War writings
Imprint: Carcanet Classics
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (192 pages)
(Pub. May 2022)
9781800171930
£14.99 £13.49
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(Pub. May 2022)
9781800171947
£11.99 £10.79
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  • Description
  • Author
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Umberto Saba (1883–1957) is one of the great Italian poets of the twentieth century, as closely associated with his native city Trieste as Joyce is with Dublin. He received a sparse education but was writing distinctive poetry before he was twenty, ignoring the modernist groups which dominated the day. He came at personal themes in unexpected ways, using an unapologetically contemporary idiom. He acquired an antiquarian bookshop which prospered for a time, but his Jewish background placed him at risk with the rise of Fascism. When the Germans took northern Italy in 1943, he and his family went into hiding in Florence where they escaped detection until the Allied liberation.

    National fame came late in his life. 100 Poems is the most extensive selection of his work so far published in Great Britain. He emerges as one of the great European writers of his time. The book features writing from every period of his writing life. Patrick Worsnip's translations honour the poet’s use of traditional Italian forms while using appropriately colloquial diction.

    This edition includes a preface by Angela Leighton, literary critic, poet and translator from Italian. An afterword and explanatory notes from Worsnip contextualise Saba’s life and clarify references in his poems.


    Umberto Saba
    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 ... read more
    Patrick Worsnip
    Patrick Worsnip was born in Gloucester in 1948 and read Classics and Modern Languages at Merton College, Oxford. He worked for more than 40 years as a correspondent for Reuters news agency, with postings in Europe, the Middle East and the United States, and covering stories ranging from the collapse of ... read more
    Awards won by Patrick Worsnip Winner, 2018 Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation
    (Poems)
    '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

    'Leafing through this volume of Patrick Worsnip's translations... I feel that we anglophone readers have been much the poorer for not knowing Saba better... I would say that it makes an excellent introduction to the poet... This edition also has a brief but interesting introductory essay by Angela Leighton, and is rounded off by a much fuller essay from Patrick Worsnip, after which one finds his quite generous notes... A subtle and delicate writer like Saba, I think, demands the most refined touch possible. Worsnip has made an admirable attempt here, and made interesting modern English poems in so doing.'
    Charles Eager, The Modena Review
    Praise for Umberto Saba '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
    Praise for Patrick Worsnip   '[an] excellent volume... it has clearly taken Worsnip a great deal of effort and carful work to write a volume of poetry so joyfully composed and so intellectually stimulating. Don't sit down with this book if you want to be bored.'
    Timothy Foot, The Postmaster and the Merton Record
    'With the earlier poems Worsnip is happily slangy, and relishes the moments of naughty exuberance... Worsnip is good, indeed probably better than any other English translator so far, at the twinkling'
    Colin Burrow, London Review of Books
     'The translation is play as well as passion and, despite the scholarship of the introduction and the generous notes at the end, the book is characterised by spirit, desire and a briskness of touch that makes the reading of these "personal poems" a valuable pleasure.'
    George Szirtes, PBS Autumn Bulletin 2018
     'Propertius is perhaps the most enigmatic of the great poets from the golden age of Latin literature [...] Patrick Worsnip's vibrant contemporary translation will bring him to a new generation of discerning readers.'
    Peter Heslin, from the Introduction
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