Cuttlefish Bones

Cuttlefish Bones

by Eugenio Montale

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"Virtually incomparable. . . . [Arrowsmith] has quite literally distilled this poetry's essence in order to recompose it with all of its colors, scents, and exquisitely understated potency intact." —Rebecca West


"Virtually incomparable. . . . [Arrowsmith] has quite literally distilled this poetry's essence in order to recompose it with all of its colors, scents, and exquisitely understated potency intact." —Rebecca West

Editorial Reviews

Anthony Hecht
“The splendid and vigorous originality of Montale's poems have found in William Arrowsmith a profoundly sympathetic, greatly learned, faithful and imaginative translator; and this bilingual volume, Cuttlefish Bones with its notes and commentaries, is richly helpful and a deep delight.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``All my poetry,'' Montale ( The Storm and Other Things ) once said, ``is a waiting for the miracle.'' That miracle began with the extraordinary voice that speaks in this first book, Ossi di seppia , published in 1925 when Montale was 29: an authentic, anti-heroic voice that would compel recognition of Montale as the great modern Italian poet and lead to the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1975. This volume disarms readers with simplicity of scene and language: the poem-scapes originate in the rocky, sun-struck seacoast of idyllic Liguria where Montale spent his youth; Montale's precise images are classically spare, and his syntax is linear and lean. But his concerns are neither simple nor spare. Given a modern universe in which existence is uncertain and ``more cruel than futile,'' the poet can no longer dictate or merely feel, cannot retreat to medieval ideology or Romantic posturing. Montale invites the reader, the ``passerby,'' into an intimate relationship in which the poet speaks as a sympathetic but ironic friend; the poet invites his reader to ``find a break in the meshes of the net / that tightens around us, leap out, flee!''but warns of his poetic limitations: ``Don't ask me for formulas to open worlds / for you: all I have are gnarled syllables, / branch-dry. All I can tell you now is this: / what we are not , what we do not want.'' New readers of Montale will appreciate the critical introduction to his oeuvre, with detailed notes including exegeses of the seminal poems, and Arrowsmith's masterful and subtle translation. But critical apparatus is only a pleasing adjunct: these poems stand powerfully on their own and reach straight to the reader: ``Bring me the flower that leads us out / where blond transparencies rise / and life evaporates as essence. / Bring me the sunflower crazed with light.'' (Aug.)
Library Journal
Although the work of the great Italian poet Montale, who died in 1981, has been frequently rendered into English (by Antonino Mazza, Jeremy Reed, Irma Brandels, and others), only the late Arrowsmith has given us translations of every volume. His final effort was Montale's first book, Ossi di Seppie, a very visual collection of verses contrasting sea and land, city and country, self and others. Montale's absorption with the musicality of language infused his poetry with a richness difficult to capture in English. Arrowsmith has chosen to make a fairly literal translation lacking much of the original's sonority. While leaving readers relatively far from Montale's melody, it does bring them close to his intellectual and inspirational intent. This collection, along with Occasions and The Storm and Other Things , completes the trio of books that won Montale the 1975 Nobel Prize for Literature. They belong in all library collections of literature in translation.-- Judy Clarence, California State Univ. Lib., Hayward

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.67(d)

Meet the Author

Eugenio Montale (1896-1981) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1975.

William Arrowsmith was a renowned translator and classics scholar.

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