Authors: Salvatore Quasimodo

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Italian poet, critic, and translator

Author Works

Poetry:

Acque e terre, 1930

Oboe sommerso, 1932

Odore di eucalyptus, ed altri versi, 1933

Erato e Apollion, 1935

Poesie, 1938

Ed è subito sera, 1942

Con il piede straniero sopra il cuore, 1946

Giorno dopo giorno, 1947

La vita non è sogno, 1949

Il falso e vero verde, 1953

La terra impareggiabile, 1958, enlarged 1962

Poesie scelte, 1959

Putte le poesie, 1960

Nove poesie, 1963

Dare e avere, 1959-1965, 1966 (To Give and to Have, and Other Poems, 1969; also known as Debit and Credit, 1972)

Complete Poems, 1983

Nonfiction:

Petrarca e il sentimento della solitudine, 1945

Il poeta e il politico e altri saggi, 1960 (The Poet Poet and the Politician, and Other Essays, 1964)

Scritti sul teatro, 1961

Leonida di Paranto, 1968

Translations:

Lirici greci, 1940 (of Greek lyric poets)

Il fiore delle Georgiche, 1944 (of Virgil)

Veronensis Carmina, 1945 (of Catullus)

Dall’Odissea, 1945 (of Homer)

La Bibbia di Amiens, 1946 (of John Ruskin)

Edipo re, 1946 (of Sophocles’ play)

Romeo e Giulietta, 1948 (of William Shakespeare’s play)

Le Coefore, 1949 (of Aeschylus’s play)

Il Vangelo secondo Giovanni, 1950 (of the Book of John)

Macbeth, 1952 (of Shakespeare’s play)

Riccardo III, 1952 (of Shakespeare’s play)

Poesie, 1952 (of Pablo Neruda)

Elettra, 1954 (of Sophocles’ play)

Canti, 1955 (of Catullus)

La tempesta, 1956 (of Shakespeare’s play)

Partufo, 1958 (of Molière’s play)

Poesie scelte, 1958 (of E. E. Cummings)

Otello, 1958 (of Shakespeare’s play)

Dalle Metamorfosi, 1959 (of Ovid)

Ecuba, 1962 (of Euripedes’ play)

Mutevolipensieri, 1963 (of Conrad Aiken)

Antonio e Cleopatra, 1966 (of Shakespeare’s play)

Eracle, 1966 (of Euripedes’ play)

Poesie, 1966 (of Tudor Arghezi)

Chemin de Croix, 1967 (of Pericle Patocchi)

Dall’Iliade, 1968 (of Homer)

Leonida di Paranto, 1969 (of Leonidas)

Donner à voir, 1970 (of Paul Éluard)

Edited Texts:

Lirici minori del XIII e XIV secolo, 1941

Lirica d’amore italiana, dalle origini ai nostri giorni, 1957

Poesia italiana del dopoguerra, 1958

Miscellaneous:

The Selected Writings of Salvatore Quasimodo, 1960

Biography

Salvatore Quasimodo (kwah-zee-MOH-doh) was one of the most important Italian poets of the twentieth century. Born in a small community on the island of Sicily, this son of a railway worker dreamed of becoming an engineer and finding a life in the wider world. He studied at technical schools in Palermo and Messina and then went to Rome in 1919 to further his education in engineering. He surprised himself by discovering a passion for classical literature and ultimately found his calling as a writer and teacher instead of an engineer.{$I[A]Quasimodo, Salvatore}{$I[geo]ITALY;Quasimodo, Salvatore}{$I[tim]1901;Quasimodo, Salvatore}

Financial difficulties forced him to leave school, and he earned his living for a time with stints as a draftsman, a hardware salesman, and a store clerk. In 1925 he married Bice Donetti. By the end of the 1920’s he had begun submitting poems to small literary magazines, and in 1930 he published his first book of poems, Acque e terre (waters and lands). After a few years as a drama editor in Florence, he became in 1941 a professor of Italian literature at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory of Music in Milan, where he taught for twenty-three years.

Quasimodo’s life and work is usually divided into two periods. During the 1930’s and early 1940’s, he was one of the central figures of what came to be known as the Hermetic school of Italian poets. His poetry from this period is often difficult to understand because its elevated language is chosen more for its personal meaning to the poet than for its ability to resonate with readers. Still, Quasimodo’s Hermetic poetry was widely read for its lyrical beauty. He published six volumes during this period and established himself as a popular and critical success.

During World War II, Quasimodo was an outspoken antifascist and spent time in prison because of his politics. Following the war, his poetry took a dramatic turn. With Italy devastated by the conflict and divided by class, Quasimodo felt that poetry could no longer be merely beautiful or intellectual; it must contribute to the moral reconfiguration of the postwar world. The poems from this second period are less personal and more political. In them, he explores historical and social issues, addressing the concerns of the common person in modern society. With this change, critics began to focus more on Quasimodo’s messages than on his lyricism; many have felt that the poetry of the second period is at once more significant and less successful than the earlier work.

In 1946 Donetti died, and Quasimodo was free to continue a relationship he had begun with a dancer, Maria Cumani. He eventually married her, and they had a son, Alessandro. Over his career, Quasimodo published dozens of volumes of poetry, criticism, and full-length translations of the works of William Shakespeare, Homer, Vergil, Sophocles and others into Italian. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1959, cementing his international reputation even while his popularity in Italy declined. In 1968, when he was in Amalfi, Italy, to judge a literary contest, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died a few days later.

BibliographyCro, Stelio. “Salvatore Quasimodo.” In Twentieth Century Italian Poets, First Series, edited by Giovanna De Satasio. Vol. 114 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1992. A full biographical treatment in English. Traces the development of Quasimodo’s poetry and translation from his early explorations of Hermeticism to his more political (and less successful) poetry after World War II.Dutschke, Dennis. “Salvatore Quasimodo.” Italian Quarterly, nos. 47-48 (1969): 91-103. This article, published shortly after the poet’s death, presents ten poems newly translated into English by Dutschke, along with the Italian originals. Includes a brief biography and bibliography.Hays, Gregory. “Le morte stagioni: Intertextuality in Quasimodo’s Lirici greci.” Forum Italicum 29, no. 1 (Spring, 1995): 26-43. A critical study of Quasimodo’s translations of ancient Greek poetry.Jones, F. J. “The Poetry of Salvatore Quasimodo.” Italian Studies 16 (1961): 60-77. An overview of the poet’s major themes and genres.Loriggio, Francesco. “Modernity and the Ambiguities of Exile: On the Poetry of Salvatore Quasimodo.” Rivista di studi italiani 12, no. 1 (June, 1994): 101-120. Loriggio examines Quasimodo’s poetry dealing with the theme of exile and shows how it was this theme that caused Quasimodo’s popularity to decline in the middle of the twentieth century and to be rekindled at century’s end. Loriggio’s analysis is clear and readable but unfortunately the passages of poetry he examines closely are rendered in the original Italian.Nolan, David. “Three Modern Italian Poets.” Studies 56 (1967): 61-72. An overview of the life and works of Quasimodo and two other important Italian poets of the first half of the twentieth century. The focus in Quasimodo’s section is on the early lyrics, in which Nolan finds beauty and mastery unobscured by the politicism of the later verse.Williamson, Edward. Introduction and biographical notes to Twentieth Century Italian Poetry, edited by Levi R. Lind. Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1974. Williamson’s introduction and notes offer some historical and biographical background to Quasimodo’s life and work.
Categories: Authors