February 22, 2013

Attilio Bertolucci

Attilio Bertolucci [Italy]

Born on November 18, 1911 in San Lazzaro, in the province of Parma, Attilo Bertolucci grew up in an agricultural bourgeois family.

     He begin writing poetry and other works early, publishing his first book Sirio as early as 1929.

     Two years later he began law studies at the University of Parma, but left soon thereafter in favor of literary studies. The following year his book Fuochi in novembre won high praise from Italian poet Eugenio Montale.

     He moved to Rome in 1951. Marrying Ninetta Giovanardi, Bertolucci had two sons, both later the film directors Bernardo and Giuseppe. His book of the same year as his move, La capanna Indiana won the Viareggio Award for literature. During this same period he established a close friendship with writer and director Pier Paolo Pasolini.

     Perhaps his most important work, Viaggio d’inverno (Winter Journey) was published in 1971. This work, characterized, as are many of Bertolucci’s works, as using straight-forward language to express his love of nature, also expressed, as translator Nicholas Benson has described it, a kind metaphysical angst: “…the book evolves an account of parallel illnesses: the author’s nervous axiety, and the broader afflictions of a nascent consumer society. Together, these ailments form the common background to a wide net of verse recording moments of intense personal and unexpected civic value.”

     Beginning in 1975, the poet worked with Enzo Siciliano and Alberto Moravia on the literary review, Nuovi Argomenti. He won a second Viareggio Award for his narrative poem, La lucertola di Csarola of 1997.

     The poet also wrote numerous books of essays and letters.

     Bertolucci died in Rome in 2000.       


Sirio (Parma: Minardi, 1929); Fuochi in novembre (Parma: Minardi, 1934); Lettera da casa (Parma: Minardi, 1951); La capanna Indiana (Fierenze: Sansoni, 1951); In un tempo incerto (Firenze: Sansoni, 1955); Viaggio d’inverno (Milano: Garzanti, 1971); Verso le sorgenti del Cinghio (Milano: Garzanti, 1983); La camera da letto (Milano: Gaarzanti, 1984, 1988); Le poesie (Milano: Garzanti, 1990); Al fuoco calmo dei giorni. Poesie 1929-1990, ed. by Paolo Lagazzi (Milano: Garzanti, 1991); La lucertola di Casarola (Milano: Garzanti, 1997); Opere, ed. by Paolo Lagazzi and Gabriella Palli Baroni (Milano: Mondadori, 1997)


Selected Poems, trans. by Charles Tomlinson (Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Bloodaxe, 1993); Winter Journey, trans. by Nicholas Benson (West Lafayette, Indiana: Parlor Press); Sunshine and Shadows, trans. by Allen Prowle (2010);

Why do butterflies always go two by two
and if one vanishes into the tuft
of September violets the other doesn’t disappear but stays
there and flies around confused as though batting
against the walls of a cell which is just
this gold of day already set to dim
at five in the afternoon nearing October?

—maybe you thought you’d lost her but she is still here
suspended in midair, resuming the irrational movement
toward the regions darkness claims soonest
of Sunday’s harvested, plowed fields:
you need only follow her into the night
just as you waited in the restless light of the sun
till she was sated with nectar from those autumn flowers.

Translated from the Italian by Nicolas Benson
(from Viaggio d’inverno, 1971)

Wind and Rain

Why today when wind
brings bad weather
do children hidden
by the corrugated blue tin shelter
strike the sick bitch, while the kitten
sweeteyes, she’s a female, carries
a mouse in her mouth like a son
before finishing him off?
This wind they call marine
will drop, a tepid rain
and other events will sadden me. Then
it will clear again, because it’s summer,
and when night has come
to black chestnut woods, the drying sheds
in ruin
will appear new in the chalklime of the moon.

 —Translated from the Italian by Nicolas Benson

 (from Viaggio d’inverno, 1971)

English language translations copyright ©2005 by Nicholas Benson. Reprinted from Winter Journey (West Lafayette, Indiana: Parlor Press, 2005).

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