We continue with our theme of avant-garde and our focus on Italian writer and poet Iginio Ugo Tarchetti. As previously discussed, Tarchetti was an exponent of the Scapigliatura movement, which developed in the North of Italy at the end of the nineteenth century, in particular among the cultural and literary circles of a sprawling, increasingly wealthy Milan. While despising the provincialism of some aspects of the Italian literature of the time, and polemicising the ways and values of the bourgeoisie, the scapigliati led bohème lives and sought to explore in their writings and artwork an alternative reality. Tarchetti, together with Cletto Arrighi, Arturo Graf, Giuseppe Rovani and Emilio Praga, among others, became influenced by the German Romantics, by the French symbolists, and by foreign gothic fiction. In this sense they proposed a fresh outlook to the domestic literature and culture. Their work, and in particular Tarchetti’s novels and poems, are concerned with death, illness (physical and psychological), deformities, pathologies, and the bizarre. The aspect of the ‘fantastic’ in Tarchetti’s works, as well his relationship through translation to the foreign gothic, have been extensively discussed by Lawrence Venuti, who sees Tarchetti’s own translation and adaptation practice as foregnising and dissident (2008, pp.125ff).
The next poem by Tarchetti which has been translated for this blog is number VII, also taken from his Disjecta collection. The poem, picturing the poet and a female companion sitting on the bank of a river, ‘alone’ physically and mentally, contemplating fate and death, is full of ambiguity and despair, as they seem to be attracted at once to the flowing, free waters of the river, and yet grieving for what lies beyond.
The translation is in the form of a filmic poem. In a previous post ‘Notes on the art of text making‘ I have discussed how filmic or cinematic poetry (or indeed poetry-film) experiments with different media to express different textual layers and narratives. Filmic poetry – both as a literary genre and an art-form – has been pioneered by the modern American and European avant-garde, who sought to create a new genre, where the verbal and the visual text together would produce meaning in a poetic form, in the sense of creating metaphors, associations, new connotations (see Wees 1984).
The use of the moving image is also apt in the translation of avant-garde texts (and in the avant-garde mode of translation of texts) as movements such as Surrealism were experimenting with the then new and exciting medium of film making, playing with, and subverting it.
You can read more about the translation of Disjecta VII, and view the translation, in our page Translations and other writings.
Venuti, Lawrence (2008) The Translator’s Invisibility, A History of Translation. Routledge
Wees, William (1984) “The Poetry Film” in Wees, William & Dorland, Michael (eds) Words and Moving Images, Mediatexte Publications.