December 14, 2010

Aldo Palazzeschi

Aldo Palazzeschi (Aldo Giurlani) [Italy]

Born to a bourgeois family invovled in textiles, Aldo Giurlani (who later took the name of his maternal grandmother, Palazzeschi), was born in Florence in 1885. After high school he studied in technical school and graduated in 1902 in accounting.

The young Aldo, however, had a strong interest in theater, and began attending the Tommaso Salvini acting school, directed by Luigi Risi. There he became friends with the Italian poet, Marino Moretti. Palazzeschi joined the company of Virgilio Talli, and debuted on stage in 1906.

The year before, Palazzeschi published his first book of poetry I cavalli bianchi (The White Horses), followed in 1907 with Lanterna, and 1908, with :riflessi. It was his Poemi of 1909 that led to his meeting Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and joining with the Futurists. He was, however, not entirely aligned with the group's ideological stances and left the movement concerning Italy's involvement in World War I, which he opposed.

Nonetheless, it was during his fervent commitment to the group when he produced two of his most important works, the book of Futurist poetry L'Incendario (The Arsonist, 1910) and the Futurist fiction, Il codice di Perelà (Man of Smoke) published the following year.

Between the Wars, Palazzeschi became involved with journalism and wrote out extensively against Fascism. Although he continued to publish poetry anthologies in the 1920s and 1930s, he devoted more of his energies to writing fiction, which continued for the rest of his life. Among his many fictions are Sorelle Materassi (1934), a work that was made into a film, I fratelli Cuccoli (1948), Roma (1953), Il doge (1967), Stefanino (1969), and Storia di un'amicizia (1971).

He died in Fatebenefratelli Hospital on August 17, 1974.


I cavalli bianchi (Florence: G. Spinelli, 1905); Lanterna (Florence: Stabilimento Tipografico Aldino, 1907); :riflessi (Florence: Edizioni Cesare Blanc, 1908); Poemi, ed. by Cesare Blanc (Florence: Stabilimento Tipografico Aldino, 1909); L'Incendario (Milan: Edizioni Futuriste di "Poesia," 1910, second ed., 1913); Poesie (1904-1909) (Florence: Vallecchi, 1925); Poesie (Milan: Preda, 1930); Poesie (1904-1914) Florence: Vallecchi, 1942); Opere giovanili (Milan: Mondadori, 1958); Cuor mio (Milan: Mondadori, 1968);Poesie, ed. by S. Antonielli (Milan: Mondadori, 1971); Via delle cento stelle (Milan: Mondadori, 1972); Tutte le Poesie, ed. by Adele Dei (Milan: Arnaldo Mondadori, 2002)


The Arsonist (L'Incendiario), trans. by Nicholas Benson (Los Angeles: Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2013)

So Let Me Have My Fun!

Twee twee twee,
froo froo froo,
eehu eehu eehu,
uhee uhee uhee!
The poet’s having fun,
he’s insane,
he’s out of control!
Don’t insult him,
let him have his fun –
poor guy,
these little pranks
are his only pleasure.

Cocca docca,
docca cocca,

What are these vulgarities,
these oafish strophes?
Liberties, liberties,
poetic liberties!
They’re my passion.

Know what this is?
It’s very advanced stuff,
nothing silly –
it’s the chaff
of other poems.

But if they’re deprived
of any sense,
why does he write them,
the blockhead?

Biloloo. Filoloo.

It isn’t true that they have no meaning.
They do mean something.
They mean...
well, it’s like when someone
gets to singing
without really knowing the words.
It is very déclassé.
Yet this is how I like to play.

A! E! I! O! U!
But, young man,
tell me something –
isn’t it a bluff,
to feed
this raging fire
with such paltry stuff?

Whisk... Whusk...
Shoo shoo shoo,
koku koku koku.
How’s anyone ever going to understand?
Such exaggerated claims as these −
now it sounds like you’re writing in Japanese.

Abee, alee, alaree.
Leave him to babble,
better yet if there’s no end.
His fun will cost him quite a bit –
he’ll be called an ass for it.

& so lala
Lalala lalala.
Certainly it’s a major risk
to write things such as this
these days, when professors wait
at every gate.

So I’m entirely correct,
the times have changed quite a bit −
men no longer expect
anything from poets,
so let me have my fun!
—Translated from the Italian by Nicholas Benson

(from L'Incendario, 1910)

The Hand

You all know very well
what a hand is.
A hand!
Who among you hasn’t seen one?
But you’d have no way of knowing
what a hand no one’s ever seen
consists of.

In a corner of my room
there’s a plush sofa,
to which I give myself every evening
always at the same time,
for my terrible reason.
It is the hour of the hand.
The sofa is that of the hand.
It embraces me, engulfs me, absorbs me,
it is my nest, my sofa,
and I let myself go
with fearful trepidation,
with habitual
morbid anticipation.
Ever since a certain evening,
each evening at the same time.

In this room
wanders, gropes around,
lives without rest
a hand that can’t be seen,
that only rests
when I am lying on the sofa.
Huge, soft hand,
fatally strong,
yet sensual.
Why does it roam about my room?
Hasn’t it caressed me
enough already?
Was it amputated from someone
and abandoned here, useless
but with a great need to caress?
Such a strong hand
and yet affectionate,
hand that well knows how to caress,
that seems that of a gentle giant
skilled, through innate generosity,
in giving the most tender caress.

Have you ever thought
of the sweetness
the caress of a gentle giant
might bring?
That hand that could crush you,
but instead gives you a caress.
And you know well
that one squeeze would be enough,
but you let yourself go.

The hand caresses me and caresses me,
and I give myself up entirely
to such delight.
I’m in its power by now;
and it runs its hand through my hair
and strokes
my forehead, my temples,
my half-closed eyelids,
it twists back my neck,
(I’m blind with anger)
it presses the skin,
rifles through me as though searching,
harder, harder,
and suddenly it grabs me
by the skin of my neck
like a stray cat.
I can no longer see the room,
I can no longer feel the sofa,
only the grip of that hand
on my neck.
And now it’s taking me away.
I know well by now
where it’s taking me,
I’ve taken this road
many times,
every evening the same.

It’s dark out,
the lazy gaslamps are lit,
the streets are wet,
spotted with muddy earth.
At the corner of the street
pimps in packs,
packs of whores.
Here we are in your street,
between the whorehouse and the tavern.
Along the dark alleyway
I feel myself scrape the earth,
mouth against mud, against the wall.
We pass the only door
of the only tavern,
the only gate
of the desolate, solitary whorehouse,
to which you’ve been guiding me all along,
sweaty hand!
Tell me, were you amputated
from a huge whore
in this castle hall?
The whores waiting, as you know,
for the client’s gaze
come to me all content.
− ‘Evening, blondie!
− ‘Evening, you made it!
− How skinny you are!
− Did you come here just to make a ruckus?
− Know how to play Lischino?
− You must have tiny balls!
Flaccid, half-naked,
forcing their breasts to ride
on their florid stomachs,
they buzz about me,
these whores;
and I stand there watching them
− You’re like the baby Jesus!
− Stop that staring, I can’t take it anymore.
− C’mon, get up, we’ll take you on!
They thrust me between them,
bouncing me back and forth,
they sing in chorus as though gone mad
the most obscene refrain,
legs spread,
and drunk out of their minds they scream:
− C’mon, get down!
They raise all their skirts,
those defeated old whores.
− C’mon, get down and beg!
− Hey, listen!
I am that gentleman...
the one who lives in the castle!
(somehow, at that moment,
I remember)
− Hahahahahaha!
− Up there...
− Hahahahahaha!
− That gentleman...
− My god! (I don’t remember
the name anymore!)
In that castle...
− Hahahahahaha!
− It’s wonderful! Wonderful!
− You’re a sad and crazy little man!
− No, no, I am that gentleman...
by the name of... of...
I don’t remember anymore!
Who brought me here?
− You came by yourself!
− What a wimpy little face!
− Who brought me here!
− The devil take you back!
− You’d like the excuse!
− He just wants a feel!
− Just a feel!
− Throw him down the stairs!
− Toss him out, he’s trash!
− The pain’ll do him good!
− Who knows what to do with ‘em,
these gentlemen!
− They’ve caught him in the act!
They throw me down the stairs,
the infuriated whores,
and they chase behind me.
When I feel myself go,
and I’m on the edge of the precipice,
the hand steadies me, it steadies me.
And outside the pimps are shouting at me
from the corner in the lazy lamplight,
the whores follow me
like so many wild dogs.
They all shout at me and insult me!
My flesh is torn,
possessed by the hand,
pursued and battered.

My eyes weep
green and red tears
and can no longer see,
my mouth won’t stop running blood
racked by blows of coughing.
I no longer hear anything but their scorn,
the shouting of those people,
the howls of the prostitutes
and pimps; they’ve all spilled outside,
they’re chasing and chasing me.

Now the hand takes me back,
it makes me quickly escape
the terrible fury
of all those people.
I glimpse my road
through the country,
it seems I can smell the sea,
I can see my gate,
the shadow of my beautiful castle
in my terrible agony.
Those sharp fingernails rip
my nape to shreds,
(I no longer have the strength
to breathe,
I give in)
and the penetrating nails
open all the doors,
rip after rip,
to the deepest corner of my brain;
here it is: my death!
I truly feel that I’m dying.
The hand slowly, so slowly
lays me down on the plush sofa.
I rise transfigured,
I go to look at myself in the mirror,
my face has a strange pallor,
my eyes are shining.
My shut mouth
is bloodless.
My flared nostrils
tremble with excitement.
Was I dreaming? No.
I don’t sleep, I dream every evening,
all year around,
of that street,
for that hand that wraps me
in its sweet spire,
drags me through the mud,
and leaves me there to die.
But I could get away from that hand.
You’ll say to me:
Set that sofa on fire!
At that particular time,
go for a walk,
you mustn’t lie down there,
you’re suffering so, poor man!
Change the room you sleep in.
It’s true, it’s true,
my good people, my dears,
pardon me,
it’s like... a bad habit
I can’t give up
when I feel myself caressed
by that hand,
and I let myself go,
and I know just where
and how far.

Think, just think
of the desperation
for one such as me,
compelled to leave my castle
every evening,
to submerge myself
in filth
like the most vulgar man.
Each evening, to feel myself pulled away
like a child
by the singing of his wetnurse
through so many golden doors
in the kingdom of fairies!
Who are my fairies?
Which are my doors?
Every evening, to have to feel
what it’s like to die!
And returning to my beautiful castle,
to fear that I will encounter
the glances of my family,
because those I am dear to understand
just where I’ve been!
Certainly Cherubina has understood by now,
she looks at me without saying anything
when I return, and thinks:
what a bad husband!
And Stellina and Cometuzza
look at me with eyes so full of mercy,
they may as well be saying:
little brother,
where have you been?
Translated from the Italian by Nicholas Benson
(from L'Incendario, 1910)

The Dance

It’s what one does: a party is called for
once in a while.
The dance is an old custom,
it can’t be abolished.
For some the dance is a duty.
How could I close up my hall
the whole of carnival?
Not to others, to be clear, but to me,
because my dance is only for me.
Two or three times a winter
there’s a dance at my castle.
I don’t send out any invitations,
all those who should be there
should know well enough already.

What a martyrdom, to have to think
of all the preparations,
and then to have to prepare!
A general dusting
of all the rooms,
so everything’s well cleaned,
to make a good impression,
necessary for one like me,
even if no one will see.
Get the music ready,
the candles, the buffet,
what a bore!
And the evening arrives,
all the doors are thrown open,
the lamps are lit at ten.
They pile up silently
in a long line,
the carriages, and the ladies
descend, and rush
to take their places in the hall.
With eyes half-shut
I watch all this to and fro,
this hurried arrival,
this coming and going on the stairs.
And meanwhile I get myself ready
in gala costume,
the most handsome red outfit,
eccentric and tailored
(and it’s not even a masked-ball!).
To have to put on a face
for the party, to appear just so,
only to return at midnight
just as before.

All eyes are on me,
as amidst my hushed crowd
the king enters.
The ladies brush me
with their deepest curtseys,
trying to show me
as well as they can
their little worlds,
that you can just half-see
in partial nudity.
I look around me a little,
try to affect a smile
between forbearance
and indifference,
as I arm myself with patience.
I do a turn around the hall
with my studied smile, unchanging,
useful for dallying with the ladies
without looking them in the face,
greeting one and all, and I think:
now all these ladies
will want to dance
the quadrille of honor.
Alright, let’s go.
Quadrille of honor.
I don’t choose a lady,
just place myself in the center of the hall
with half-shut eyes,
and see twirling about me
hundreds of faces.
I lose myself in the whirl
of such a variety of people.

At my soirées,
all styles
have a place,
even circle and square dances,
all styles are ok,
beginning with mine
(and it’s not even a masked-ball).
Final turn.

My role is done.
I leave my guests
and open the buffet.
Come in, come on in,
I’m opening the hall,
the tables are laid,
come in, come on in,
there’s every godly thing,
every gluttonous excess,
wines and liquors by the jug;
you may quench thirst and hunger
just like pigs.
I’m withdrawing to my rooms,
weary and annoyed,
a dance is always annoying for me,
even when it’s just for me,
but it’s what one does:
a party is called for once in a while.
—Translated from the Italian by Nicholas Benson
(from L'Incendario, 1910)

English language translation copyright (c) 2010 by Nicholas Benson.


Lisarda said...


Aldo Palazzeschi is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest lyric voices from Italy. His sense of humour in poems as I Fiori -a "verbal battle" between the flowers- is powerful and evidences an original wit:

-Ma tu chi sei? Che fai?
-Bella, sono una rosa,
non m' hai ancora veduta?
Sono una rosa e faccio la prostituta. (...)

-Basta! Basta!
Ho paura.
abbi pietà dell' ultimo tuo figlio.
Aprimi un nascondiglio
fuori della natura!

A poem to be read facing Walden-readers!
God (...)
find me a hiding place
outside Nature!

He was a also a novelist provided with a deep vision upon characters and with delicates nuances on the language in which a story is told.

Thank you for bringing this joy, and congratulations to Nicholas Benson for his admirable task.

Ignacio Vázquez

greenintegerblog said...

Thank you Lisard for your kind comments.