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This review is taken from PN Review 53, Volume 13 Number 3, January - February 1987.

ADHERENCE UNREWARDED Eugenio Montale, The Bones of the Cuttlefish, translated by Antonino Mazza with an introduction by Wladimir Krysinski (Mosaic Press) n.p.

'Translation', Yves Bonnefoy has suggested, 'is poetry re-begun'. This being so, what better place for the translator of Montale to start than with Ossi di Seppia? For the Ossi show not merely 'promise', as is usually the fate of most first books, but that much rarer commodity, mastery. Montale was later to say that he wanted his words to 'adhere more closely to what I was expressing than was the case with other poets I knew', and it is precisely this quality of 'adherence' that is most likely to impress a reader of the Ossi, whether he is encountering them for the first or the fifty-first time. But what a problem, therefore, for anyone intent upon conjuring English poems of a comparable density and magnitude out of so self-sufficient and so accomplished an original.

Antonino Mazza has approached this thankless task in a spirit similar to that which inspired and sustained Montale in the years leading up to Bones of the Cuttlefish. Mindful no doubt of the Italian saying which turns a translator into a traitor or traducer, Mazza has opted to be scrupulously faithful not only to the meaning of the original, but also, so far as is possible once its rhymes have been abandoned, to preserve its formal properties, and even its very appearance on the page. Here, for example, is the twelfth of the twenty-one lyrics which give the volume its name - the poem, in other words, which immediately follows the midpoint of ...


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