giovedì 23 febbraio 2017

Montale sul New Yorker (1935)

Irma Brandeis
Russell Maloney
Poet's brother
The New Yorker, March 16, 1935, p. 13

We have just received, from a very reliable source, an account of an incident that took place a few weeks ago in Italy, at a café in Florence. Eugenio Montale, the Italian poet, was being introduced to Leo Stein, the brother of Gertrude, at a cafe in Florence. Mr. Stein is quite deaf. Montale, a little embarrassed and at loss for something to say, shouted into the mouthpiece of the apparatus on Mr. Stein's breast. "So you are the brother of Gertrude Stein?" "Louder, louder," said Stein, "I can't hear you," "Are you Gertrude's brother?" "Yes," said Stein, "I am." "Do you like her?" "Oh, very much," the Italian screamed, "Well, I don't," said Leo, "I hate her."

Edward Hirsch, Montale's Songbook, The New Yorker, December 21, 1998
BOOKS review of the collected poems of Eugenio Montale translated by Jonathan Galassi.

... Nowhere has the idea of love as a metaphysical affair had more currency that in Italian lyric poetry, where the beloved is a spur and an inspiration, a siren song, a spiritual twin, an alter ego. She becomes an angelic myth, a "goddess who won't become flesh",  a sun-drenched celestial light, a cosmic force, that he has absorbed into himself, a power that counters the evil in history.
Montale's beloved muse was based on Irma Brandeis, an American Italianist, but she was also a literary construction, a potent device. By framing and revealing his story as an allegorical autobiography, a work of devotion, and a songbook, he was working against - working through - a major line of descent that runs from the songs of the troubadours, who invented the idea of courty love, through Dante's "La Vita Nuova" and Petrarch's "Canzoniere". He once wrote of tradition that is continued "not by those who want to do so, but by those who can". It was given to Montale to lower his voice to a whisper in order to raise the lyric to a high power. His work is a modernist rupture with the past, but it is also a joyous fulfillment of Italian poetry.