The Zibaldone project  

The seven-year Zibaldone project is at its conclusion. The first complete translation of Leopardi’s notebooks, under the auspices of the Leopardi Centre at Birmingham, was published in the US on 9 July 2013 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and in the UK on 1 August 2013 (Penguin).

Publisher’s description of Giacomo Leopardi: the Zibaldone in English

UK cover of ZibaldoneAn extraordinary, epochal, publication-one of the foundational books of modern Western culture, at last fully translated into English.

Giacomo Leopardi is widely recognized as Italy’s finest modern lyric poet, for many the greatest after Dante. He was also one of the most radical and challenging of nineteenth-century thinkers, acknowledged as such by readers from Nietzsche to Benjamin and Beckett. In some senses, his poems may be regarded as  explications and explorations of his philosophical ideas, but the primary laboratory in which Leopardi cultivated, nurtured, tested, and refined his analyses and thoughts was his immense notebook, US cover of Zibaldonethe Zibaldone di pensieri. It was here that the thinker and poet, who was also a prodigious scholar of classical literature and philosophy, with an intimate knowledge of several ancient and contemporary languages, put down his original, wide-ranging, radically modern responses to his reading. His comments about religion, philosophy, language, history, anthropology, the natural sciences, literature, poetry, and love are unprecedented in their brilliance and suggestiveness.

The Zibaldone was not published until the turn of the twentieth century, and only a small proportion of its 4,500-plus pages had before now been translated into English. With this new edition, a team led by Michael Caesar and Franco D’Intino, under the auspices of the Leopardi Centre at Birmingham, has brought the translation of the entire text, along with an extensive critical apparatus, to a successful conclusion. This essential book will open far-reaching new perspectives on nineteenth-century culture.

Praise for Giacomo Leopardi's Zibaldone

HAROLD BLOOM, Sterling Professor of the Humanities, Yale University "The great Zibaldone, or ‘Hodge-Podge,’ is finally available to English-language readers. Leopardi remains the greatest of Italian poets since Dante and Petrarch, Tasso and Ariosto, surpassing even Ungaretti and Montale in modern times. Leopardi’s immense commentary on all of Western literature and thought continuously reveals the splendor and power of his own mind—one might say, of his consciousness, because its scope transcends much of what our traditions have named ‘mind.’ Totally inventive, Leopardi’s speculations and ruminations seem to me to go beyond those of every other European man of letters, from Goethe to Paul Valéry."

TIM PARKS , author and translator (The New York Review of Books blog) "There is general agreement that the Zibaldone is one of the richest mines of reflection on the modern human condition ever written. Schopenhauer in particular referred to Leopardi as ‘my spiritual brother’ and saw much of his own thinking foreshadowed in Leopardi’s writings."

ROBERTO CALASSO, author and publisher "For years, whenever friends asked what work of Italian literature most urgently needed to be translated into English, I would respond without fail: Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone. And they would ask about the mysterious and enchanting word that gives this volume its title. Never before had such a cohabitation— of philosophy and philology, of pure literature and psychological investigation, of criticism both cultural and scientific, of dark melancholy and clear emotion—been brought together so forcefully. It’s a gift and a treasure from the nineteenth century that such a collection of ideas could take this unprecedented form. Two other examples, from the same century, can be compared to the Zibaldone, equally essential and completely divergent in the ways they present themselves: Kierkegaard’s curious Diary, and the thousands of pages of Nietzsche’s Posthumous Fragments."

SUSAN BASSNETT, Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Warwick "Giacomo Leopardi, one of the greatest European Romantic poets, is less well known outside his native Italy than he deserves to be, for not all his works have been translated. Now English-language readers have a treat awaiting them, for Leopardi’s extraordinary secret notebooks, the Zibaldone, have finally been put into English in their entirety, so that at last we can fully engage with his ideas about poetry, history, philosophy, and the age in which he lived. Leopardi was an omnivorous reader, and the notebooks can be seen as personal reflections on everything he read, reflections that reveal a profound desire to engage with the power and the mysteries of human creativity. This wonderful English edition of the Zibaldone is a major contribution to our knowledge of European thought and letters in the turbulent early decades of the nineteenth century."

In the archive

Photo of Leopardi members on site[Image: The library of Palazzo Leopardi, November 2008; l to r: Antonio Moresco (writer), Carmela Magri (librarian), Richard Dixon (translator), Franco D’Intino (editor), Michael Caesar (editor), Ann Goldstein (translator), David Gibbons (translator), Pamela Williams (translator), Martin Thom (AHRC Fellow and translator); not present: Kathleen Baldwin (translator), Gerard Slowey (translator)]

The translation was entrusted to a team of highly professional expert translators, with the final outcome being the product of continuous dialogue between the translators and the editors. The English-language edition is supplied with all the apparatus (bibliographical and textual notes) needed for a clear and critical understanding of the text. The Zibaldone Project has also entailed research into two theoretically rich areas connected with the notebooks: Leopardi’s use of quotation, and the Zibaldone’s status as a fragmentary work within the Romantic and post-Romantic aesthetics of the fragment. These research streams, the symposium and conference which followed from them, and the preparation of the critical apparatus for the edition was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Arts and Humanities Research Council logoAHRC Research Fellow (2008-11)

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