Saturday, July 06, 2024

Gente di Dublino (What I read before leaving for Ireland)

Italian literature is never far from my mind, even the last few months when I immersed myself in Irish literature as I prepared for my first trip to Ireland in more than a decade. 

It's perhaps because when I read Italian literature, I attempt to fill in the vast gaps in my education, seeing as I attended school in America, and not Italy. So many Italian classics I didn't encounter in high school!

As such, I've avoided reading American or British classics in Italian. Why bother?

But a year or so ago, I stumbled over the opening lines of The Great Gatsby in Italian. By which, I mean, the first lines of IL GRANDE GATSBY. (I wrote about it here). 

It happens to be my favorite novel of all time. And I realized how tickled I would be to see how the Italians render it (tickled and maybe also edified, since I do some literary translation, myself).

And why stop there?

So when Il Nostro Inviato went to Italy a few months ago for work, rather than ask for the latest releases from my favorite Italian women writers (my standard order), I asked for Gente di Dublino.

Or what I've been calling "Dubliners" since I read it for the first time at St. Anthony's High School on Long Island.

I made a beeline for the masterpiece of James Joyce's collection, "The Dead," or in Italian, "I morti."

Here are the indelible final lines from that seminal story (slightly condensed):

(From "I morti" -- "The Dead")

"Cadeva la neve in ogni parte della scura pianura centrale ... E cadeva anche su ogni punto del solitario cimitero sulla collina in cui giaceva il corpo di Michael Furey.

"...pian piano l'anima gli svaní lenta mentre udiva la neva cadere stancamente su tutto l'universo e stancamente cadere, come la discesa della loro fine ultima, su tutti i vivi e tutti i morti."

I can remember my teacher, Brother Jeffrey, pointing out the repetition in the lines: "falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling," and they delight in Italian, too.

I've been binge-reading Irish literature for months -- ever since booking our trip to Ireland shortly before St. Patrick's Day.

And I've spent my reading hours re-visiting Synge and other works by Joyce, as well as tackling several Brendan Behan works and a short play by Samuel Beckett.

But there's really nothing like those final lines of "The Dead" or "I morti." It's the same, really, in the end. Be it "The descent of their last end" or "La discesa della loro fine ultima," I am equally enthralled.

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