The Letters of Giacomo Leopardi 1817-1837.
Selected and translated by Prue Shaw.
Northern Universities Press, Leeds 1998. ISBN 0 901286 97 4
‘a brilliant job of making Leopardi accessible to the English reader … By the time the reader has absorbed the letters, he/she has come to know the weird character which is the poet and to love and honour him as well. This affection owes much I suspect to the way you have clothed him in English, though I would presume that he wrote a much less stilted Italian prose than most men of his epoch. I recognised and appreciated the syntactical beauty of his sentences: this was clearly a natural gift which was more than mellifluousness – in fact it must have amounted to a supreme clarity of thought in the first place. So to garner this in English without turning him into Burke, Gibbon or even a Henry James is a fine achievement….
…the letters, especially the long ones to Giordani, cannot be read as essays in philosophical resignation – on the contrary they are eloquent protestations of unhappiness verging on despair. These early letters strike me as marvels and again utterly removed from any produced by even the most gloomy temperament in our literature.’
Peter Porter, the poet, in a letter to the translator
Giacomo Leopardi, Italy’s great poet of the Romantic age, is the author of some of the most beautiful and best-loved poems in the Italian language and some of the most remarkable letters in European literature. The interest of the letters is both biographical and literary. They document the background – the difficult personal circumstances, the intense and troubled family relationships, the contacts and friendships with other writers – against which a haunting and compelling voice came to maturity. The letters, not previously available in English except fragmentarily, are here offered in a new translation undertaken to celebrate the bicentenary of the poet’s birth in 1798.