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This review is taken from PN Review 3, Volume 4 Number 3, April - June 1978.

EUGENIO MONTALE, OLD AND NEW Eugenio Montale, New Poems, translated by G. Singh, with an essay by F. R. Leavis, Chatto & Windus, £4.00.

Professor G. Singh's volume of translations comes as if in the wake of Montale's Nobel Prize, which is duly announced upon the dust jacket of the book. Similarly the volumes represented here, Satura (1971), and Diario del 71 e del 72 (1973), might seem to come as afterthoughts to Montale's three volumes, Ossi di Seppia (1925), Le occasioni (1939) and La Bufera e Altro (1956), in terms of relative merit and substance. The best work from the first three volumes has been available in translation for some time, notably in the work of George Kay, whose versions, printed with the Italian, also had some of the authority of a selected poems when published in 1964 by Edinburgh University Press; Robert Lowell has written some Imitations of Montale; and Professor Singh has been translating and discussing the poems for the past fifteen years or so, and has written a full-length book on the subject.

Montale is eighty years old, and the two 'new' volumes seem not so much the reason for his prize as the occasion for it; something of a controversy has existed since Quasimodo's award in 1959 over Montale's omission. Perhaps his qualities eluded the committee. The writing of those forty years up to La Bufera does seem tentative and shadowy, as if deliberately to mask the features of a personal drama, in which a strong sense of sterility and immobility is relieved by glimpses of what might be a salvation in the terms of the ...


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