Leopardi: A Study in Solitude

Iris Origo, Author
Iris Origo, Author Helen Marx Books / Books & Co $16.95 (80p) ISBN 978-1-885983-44-2
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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In effect Italy's Keats, Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837) is the great 19th-century lyric poet in Italian. Anglo-American expatriate Origo (1902-1986) published her stylish life of the melancholy, lonely hunchback author in 1935 and followed with a revised edition in 1953, as well as with a study of Byron. It remains (but for lack of an index) a useful introduction to the poet, whose career and emotional life were confined by insensitive and strictly religious parents, his spinal disability and poor eyesight that left him half-blind. A tormented, passionate genius, he poured out, in pain, his thwarted hopes for love and freedom and fame in intense, brilliant poetry here extracted in Origo's own translations. His escapes from the family's stifling hill-town palazzo in Recanti to Rome, Florence and Naples were all brief, ending in illness, poverty and finally death in a cholera epidemic--an end he welcomed. Five years earlier, having already given up the prospect of fulfillment, he had written that there were truths men refused to believe--""that they know nothing, and... that they are nothing. And... that there is nothing to hope for after death."" Origo evokes the bittersweet, unlived life with sufficient sympathy and clarity to warrant bringing her biography back into print. (Nov.)
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