“eyeglasses, also called glasses or spectacles, lenses set in frames for wearing in front of the eyes to aid vision or to correct such defects of vision” (Britannica)


Edoardo Sanguineti

mi sono riadattato agli occhiali (che la patente, a me, rende obbligati, ormai),
in un paio solo di giorni: vedo tutto più netto: (ma niente mi è, per questo,
diventato migliore, in verità: un semaforo è sempre un semaforo, un marciapiede
è un marciapiede: e io sono sempre io, così)
(quanto al doloroso senso di capogiro,
vaticinato, con l’emicrania, da un Istituto Ottico di corso Buenos Aires, al quale
mi sono rivolto, questa volta, l’ho sperimentato e l’ho superato): (l’oculista
affermava che, con il tempo, io mi ero costruito una mia rappresentazione arbitraria
della realtà, adesso destinata, con le lenti, a sfasciarsi di colpo): (e ho potuto
sperare, per un attimo, di potermi rifare, a poco prezzo, una vita e una vista)

Edoardo Sanguineti

I got used to wearing glasses (which my driver’s licence has, now, made mandatory),
in just a few days: I can see everything more clearly: (but nothing is, for me,
in truth, any better: a traffic light is still a traffic light, a sidewalk
is a sidewalk; and I am always me, just me):
(as for the painful sense of wooziness,
vaticinated, with a migraine, by an Eye Clinic on Buenos Aires Street, which
I consulted, this time, I got it and got over it): (the eye doctor
said that, in time, I had created my own arbitrary view
of reality, now destined, with the lenses, to disintegrate suddenly): (and I could
hope, for a second, to recreate for myself, for cheap, a life and sight)

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi 2022

Luigi Pirandello

Avevo un giorno un pajo
d’occhiali verdi; il mondo
vedevo verde e gajo,
e vivevo giocondo.

Mi abbatto a un messer tale
dall’aria astratta e trista.
“Verdi?”, mi dice.
Ti sciuperai la vista.

Sú, prendi invece i miei:
vedrai le cose al vero!”
Li presi. Gli credei.
E vidi tutto nero.

Ristucco in poco d’ora
d’un mondo così fatto,
buttai gli occhiali, e allora
non vidi nulla affatto.       

Luigi Pirandello

A pair of green glasses
I had one day; the world
I saw seemed green and gay,
and I lived joyfully.

I run into a man
looking sad and distrait.
“Green?”, he says.
“You’ll ruin your eyesight.

Here, take mine instead:
you’ll see things as they are!”
I took them. I believed him.
And black is what I saw.

Sick in just a second
of that sort of world,
I ditched the glasses, and, then,
could see nothing at all.

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi 2022

Two poems about glasses, two views (literally) of life and poetry.

In the first poem, Edoardo Sanguineti, using the witty, colloquial form he is known for (rich in punctuation and word play) describes how his new glasses, prescribed by the doctor, make him see life differently and, ironically, “for cheap”, help him recreate “vita e vista” (here, he plays on the similarity between the two words, separated only by an “s”). His voice is light, but the meaning goes deeper, for his is an arbitrary view of reality, subjective, and, according to the expert doctor at “an” (just any) “Eye Clinic on Buenos Aires Street”, it is obviously in need of correction; for is that not what corrective lenses do? Every word, when searching for solutions, made me smile, made me wonder, made me sad: his glasses would give him dizziness, migraines (like real life, perhaps) but he would have to get over it, and he did; he became accustomed to the glasses and would have to become accustomed to the new life and sight (as in eyes and view) that would necessarily come with them.

When translating poetry, the translator finds themself wanting to explain what they “understood” from the text; as always, I preferred to recreate my experience and let the reader understand the poem as they see fit. In doing this, I tried to copy Sanguineti’s syntax, his excessive punctuation, his poetry wit (albeit not as successfully, for how could I render vita e vista?); I stayed very close to his use of the literary words that stand out so outstandingly (forgive me!) in an otherwise very colloquial poem, for example, the word vaticinato. Uncommon also in Italian, it derives from the Latin word vaticinatus, past participle of vaticinari, from vātes, poet or prophet or bard, and canĕre, chant or sing. For me his use of the word, which holds within it vātes (vate, like D’Annunzio and the poets before him?) tickled my fancy, and although I know it might be just chance, I like to think it was intentional; how could a word that holds both “bard and chant” in it not be translated with the very similar “vaticinate” in English? So that is what I did.

The second poem is by Luigi Pirandello. Apart from the obvious stylistic differences with the neo-avant-garde style of Sanguineti, which pushes the boundaries, is experimental and new, Pirandello, as always, plays with the different versions of the world we have access to. As in his very famous “Così è se vi pare”, we understand that reality is relative (cognitive relativism), in the sense that we all have a different view of reality: in this case, in the case of the poem, he simplifies the concept by using glasses. His are green, and they give him his very own view of the world based on his experiences and self, the man on the street offers the poet his glasses, and, in doing so, his view of the world; but the man’s glasses give him a different, darker view, and Pirandello would rather see nothing than be forced to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

The difficulties in this second translation derive mostly from the poetic devices used by Pirandello: the rhyme was almost impossible to recreate (it is, as always, like jumping through hoops) but I did my best. -M. C.

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