1975 winner of the Nobel Prize In literature
Eugenio Montale ; 12 October 1896 – 12 September 1981) was an Italian poet, prose writer, editor and translator, and recipient of the 1975 Nobel Prize in Literature. He is widely considered the greatest Italian lyric poet since Giacomo Leopardi.
Montale wrote more than ten anthologies of short lyrics, a journal of poetry translation, plus several books of prose translations, two books of literary criticism, and one of fantasy prose. Alongside his imaginative work he was a constant contributor to Italy’s most important newspaper, the Corriere della Sera, for which he wrote a huge number of articles on literature, music, and art. He also wrote a foreword to Dante’s “The Divine Comedy”, in which he mentions the credibility of Dante, and his insight and unbiased imagination. In 1925 he was a signatory to the Manifesto of the Anti-Fascist Intellectuals. Montale’s own politics inclined toward the liberalism of Piero Gobetti and Benedetto Croce.
Montale’s work, especially his first poetry collection Ossi di seppia (“Cuttlefish Bones”), which appeared in 1925, shows him as an antifascist who felt detached from contemporary life and found solace and refuge in the solitude of nature.
A famous poem of Ossi di seppia ends with these two verses:
Codesto solo oggi possiamo dirti, ciò che non siamo, ciò che non vogliamo.
Translated to: Only this is what we can tell you today, that which we are not, that which we do not want.
The Mediterranean landscape of Montale’s native Liguria was a strong presence in these early poems: they gave him a sort of “personal seclusion” in the face of the depressing events around him. These poems emphasise his personal solitude and empathy with “little” and “insignificant” things, or with the horizon, the sea. According to Montale, nature is “rough, scanty, dazzling”. In a world filled with defeat and despair, nature alone seemed to possess dignity – the same as the reader experiences in reading his poems.