Professor Michael Caesar will deliver a Public Lecture - Translating Leopardi's Zibaldone

17 Sep 2015
Translating Leopardi's Zibaldone

Friday, September 18th at 4 pm in the O'Rahilly Building, G.27 CACSSS Seminar Room

The seven-year Zibaldone translation project is at its conclusion. The first complete translation of Leopardi’s notebooks, under the auspices of the Leopardi Centre at Birmingham, is an extraordinary, epochal, publication of one of the foundational books of modern Western culture.

Giacomo Leopardi is widely recognized as Italy’s finest modern lyric poet, for many the greatest after Dante. He was also one of the most radical and challenging of 19th-century thinkers, acknowledged as such by readers from Nietzsche to Benjamin and Beckett. In some senses, his poems may be regarded as  explications and explorations of his philosophical ideas, but the primary laboratory in which Leopardi cultivated, nurtured, tested, and refined his analyses and thoughts was his immense notebook, the Zibaldone di pensieri. It was here that the thinker and poet, who was also a prodigious scholar of classical literature and philosophy, with an intimate knowledge of several ancient and contemporary languages, put down his original, wide-ranging, radically modern responses to his reading. The Zibaldone was not published until the turn of the 20th century, and only a small proportion of its 4,500-plus pages had before now been translated into English. With this new edition, a team led by Michael Caesar and Franco D’Intino, has brought the translation of the entire text, along with an extensive critical apparatus, to a successful conclusion.

The greatest intellectual diary of Italian literature, its breadth and depth of thought often compared to the work of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. The Zibaldone's long-overdue translation into English in this handsome edition is warmly to be welcomed . . . With its excellent introduction, its generous notes and cross-referencing, this edition is a huge achievement, making available at last a key document in the history of European thought and throwing light on Leopardi's unique poetry and prose works

(Tim Parks, The New York Review of Books)

Beautifully rendered into English by seven translators, superbly edited and annotated by Michael Caesar and Franco D'Intino under the auspices of the Leopardi Centre at the University of Birmingham, with its more than 2,500 pages elegantly printed on thin, Bible-like paper, this is not just a triumph of scholarship but a work of art of which its author could have been justly proud. The first full English version of the Zibaldone is a major event in the history of ideas. With its publication, Leopardi will be ranked among the supreme interrogators of the modern condition.” (John Gray, The New Statesman)

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