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Giacomo Leopardi

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To purchase Zibaldone

Title: Zibaldone
Author: Giacomo Leopardi
Genre: Notebooks
Written: (1817-32) (Eng. 2013)
Length: 2147 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: Zibaldone - US
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in Tutte le poesie, tutte le prose e lo Zibaldone - Italia
  • Italian title: Zibaldone di pensieri
  • The Notebooks of Leopardi
  • Edited by Michael Caesar and Franco D'Intino
  • Translated by Kathleen Baldwin, Richard Dixon, David Gibbons, Ann Goldstein, Gerard Slowey, Martin Thom, Pamela Williams

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Our Assessment:

[ - ] : [review in progress]

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 16/8/2013 R.P.Harrison
The Independent . 23/8/2013 André Naffis-Sahely
New Republic . 8/11/2013 Adam Kirsch
New Statesman . 26/9/2013 John Gray
The NY Rev. of Books . 10/10/2013 Tim Parks

  From the Reviews:
  • "Zibaldone is filled with philologically oriented notes that will bewilder contemporary readers who know nothing of the more obscure works he was in dialogue with. Yet even its most recondite entries vibrate with a distinctly modern voice. It is the voice of quick, free-ranging, syncopated thinking. No matter how eloquent it becomes at times -- and no one in the history of Italian prose was more eloquent than Leopardi when he put his mind to it -- the style never grandstands, nor does the tone ever turn shrill, as it often does in Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, or, for that matter, Emerson." - Robert Pogue Harrison, Financial Times

  • "There is something heroic about such a project (.....) Congratulations are due to everyone involved in this landmark publication. Leopardi's Zibaldone is quite simply a work of genius André" - Naffis-Sahely, The Independent

  • "All this intermediation suggests that the Zibaldone is not exactly reader-friendly. Its sheer size is formidable (.....) But a book of selections could not give us what this complete Zibaldone gives us, which is an unfolding sense of the excitement and variety of Leopardiís inner lifeóthe feeling that we are making his discoveries along with him. (...) These are the parts of the Zibaldone that the lay reader will be most tempted to skip. It would take a professional classicist to evaluate the merits of many of Leopardiís claims about particular words and phrases; and of course the kind of classical curriculum that was standard for educated young men in Leopardiís day is now a closed book to all but a handful of experts. But it would be a mistake to ignore this material" - Adam Kirsch, New Republic

  • "Beautifully rendered into English by seven translators, superbly edited and annotated (...) with its more than 2,500 pages elegantly printed on thin, Bible-like paper, this is not just a triumph of scholarship but a work of art of which its author could have been justly proud. (...) The first full English version of the Zibaldone is a major event in the history of ideas. With its publication, Leopardi will be ranked among the supreme interrogators of the modern condition." - John Gray, New Statesman

  • "The Zibaldone thus begins to assume the tone of an across-the-board attack on received wisdom, notions of progress, and pieties of every kind. (... ) What is striking is Leopardiís absolutely unblinkered attention to every nuance of emotion in almost every imaginable social situation. (...) Merely to list the subjects Leopardi tackles in the Zibaldone would more than fill this article. So many of his intuitions look forward to the work of future philosophers, to absurdism and existentialism; again and again the voices of Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Wittgenstein, Gadda, Beckett, Bernhard, Cioran, and many others seem to murmur on the page. (...) Using seven translators and given the vastness of the project and the maddening complexity and flexibility of Leopardiís syntax, some unevenness was inevitable (.....) On the whole, though, with its excellent introduction, its generous notes and cross-referencing, this edition is a huge achievement, making available at last a key document in the history of European thought and throwing light on Leopardiís unique poetry and prose works." - Tim Parks, The New York Review of Books

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

[Note: this is a review-in-progress: commentary will be added until further notice.]

       Zibaldone, now published in a beautiful one-volume edition whose over 2500 pages surprisingly makes for a heavy but not nearly as fat as expected doorstop (thin paper), is certainly an intimidating book. The complete translation into English has been a long time coming: a massive undertaking, requiring seven main translators, it's an impressive achievement in many respects -- including scholarly, logistical, publishing.
       If not quite sui generis, this journal is certainly a very personal product, but more a working notebook than diary -- and, though focusing a great deal (and clearly often in great detail) specifically on language, not obviously a poet's notebook (though, of course, Leopardi was more than just a poet). There's an encyclopedic feel to not just Zibaldone's size but the material: analysis to go along with observation, an apparent effort at cross-referencing and indexing much of the content as the structure grows beyond easily manageable proportions.
       How even to read this ? I look back to other works I'v read that, at least superficially, at first glance, might seem to resemble it. There are Lichtenberg's Sudelbücher, but by comparison those scrap-books seem far more aphoristic. Pascal's Pensées, besides being more manageable, seems much more structured around a basic theme. And Wittgenstein's work seems so much tighter and focused than what appears (or surely at some point becomes) digressive in Zibaldone.
       I assume, the only option is to dive in, and barrel ahead, straight through. I have to admit that, so far, I have been cautiously dipping in, trying to get a 'feel' for the thing, reading the reviews -- good to see so many of them already ! -- in the hopes of finding more guidance as to how to best approach this monster (as it sometimes seems to be, weighing so heavily in my hands). But I think it's time to just try to brave it.
       I hope to resurface and report more.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 December 2013

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Zibaldone: Reviews: Giacomo Leopardi: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Italian author Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837) is best-known for his poetry.

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