Tag Archives: Iginio Ugo Tarchetti

Translating Tarchetti

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).

IMG_3123The 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.


Translating the Italian ‘Scapigliatura’ and Iginio Ugo Tarchetti


After a long break we are back to offer you some translations on the theme of surrealism and avant-garde.

The Italian writer we are working on at the moment is Iginio Ugo Tarchetti. He was born in San Salvatore Monferrato, in Piemonte, in 1839 and later lived in Milan where he joined the ‘Scapigliatura’, an artistic movement equivalent to the French bohème. Literally, ‘scapigliati’ means ‘dishevelled’, ‘unkempt’, and its members shared a spirit of rebellion against traditional values and the artistic and literary canon of the time. Tarchetti published short stories, novels and poems. He was called the Italian Edgard Allan Poe as the atmosphere of his Fantastic Tales echoes the gothic obsession with the morbid.

Tarchetti was born too early (and indeed died too early at the age of 29) to be part of any twentieth-century avant-garde movement. However, his rebellious spirit and his sense of the ‘fantastic’ flows into a series of images which are originally surreal and therefore his writing well lends itself to experimental translation.

We have decided to translate a couple of his poems from a collection called ‘Disjecta’. The first poem we present is number VIII. To read and view the translations go to Translation and Other Writings.

As always we look forward to having your comments.