Jonathan Galassi on Translating Giacomo Leopardi

Jonathan GalassiAs this glimpse at the proofs of my versions of Leopardi’s Canti suggests, a translation, like an original poem, is never finished, only abandoned. And that remains true even after the book is published—I’ve already started collected “improvements” for a future printing.

There’s usually a way to say what needs to be said more concisely, more pithily, more beautifully. That’s why I’ve found translation over the years to have been an incredible education in writing.

Trying to make Leopardi sound plausible in English has been very, very laborious—and exhilarating. I experienced the magic that happens when a text is finally “translated” into type; it really does look and sound better. And suddenly, sometimes embarrassingly, you can see how it could be still further improved: If only you’d thought of that before! That’s one encouraging aspect of the fact that books are going to be less and less “solid-state” in the digital world.

—Jonathan Galassi, President and Publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux

See Also:

“The Raptures of a Tragic Visionary,” The Wall Street Journal

“Broom” by Giacomo Leopardi, The New Yorker (subscription required)