Advanced search in the New Italian Books catalog

Skip to content Skip to footer
4 May 2023

Gabriele d’Annunzio in other languages (part two)

Mario Cimini, 'G. D’Annunzio' University of Chieti-Pescara and Elisa Segnini, University of Glasgow

At the end of the Second World War, D’Annunzio’s reputation, in Italy as well as abroad, suffered a real collapse. Rightly or wrongly, D’Annunzio was seen as a man and intellectual loyal to the fascist regime, when not as a convinced fascist (despite the fact that he repeatedly expressed critical positions towards the regime’s policies, as in the occasion of the pacts between Mussolini and Hitler). As a result, D’Annunzio was forgotten for many decades. His works disappeared from publishing circuits, there were almost no translations, readers and critics became disengaged. 

Things began to change in the 1960s-1970s, when some critics insisted it was time start reading D’Annunzio without ideological prejudices. The last part of the 20th century and the first two decades of the new millennium are thus marked by a progressive rediscovery of the writer, which resulted in new scholarly investigations, and, in part, in new readerships.

 D’Annunzio’s swaying fortune is reflected in the history of translations of his works. In the French-speaking area, in years after the Second World War, there were no new translations of D’Annunzio’ works. Even new editions of Hérelle and Doderet’s versions were scarce; the exception is the new edition of L’Enfant de volupté – Il piacere – published by Calmann-Lévy in 1971, and then in 1991, which is based on Hérelle’s translation, but follows the chapter order of the Italian original and features additions by Pierre de Montera to fill the gaps censored in the first French edition. In the early 1990s, things began to change. Within a decade, several novels and short stories translated by Hérelle were re-issued in updated editions: it is the case of Triomphe de la Mort (Paris, Stock, 1994), L’innocent (Paris, La Table Ronde, 1994), which restores the title originally proposed by Hérelle, Terre vierge (Paris, Stock, 1994), Le Feu (Paris, Éditions des Syrtes, 2000). Some of Doderet’s translations were also re-issued, among which La Léda sans cygne (Talence, L’Arbre Vengeur, 2006). Moreover, new translations began to appear on the market. Le livre secret, previously untranslated, was published in 1993 in the version by Constance Thompson Pasquali (Paris, C. Bourgois); in 1996, Editions Seuil published a new translation of Notturno (Nocturne) by Jean-François Bory. Noteworthy is the activity carried out by Muriel Gallot, who in the last twenty years has translated three volumes in bilingual format: a selection of short stories, Le passeur et autres nouvelles de la Pescara (Paris, Gallimard, 1998), an anthology of poetic texts, Poèmes d’amour et de gloire (Paris, Cahiers de l’Hôtel de Galliffet, 2008), partly reprinted in 2013 by Éditions de La Différence under the title De l’Alcyone et autres poèmes, and a collection of chapters from the Faville del maglio, Les Étincelles de l’enclume (2021) again in the Cahiers de l’Hôtel de Galliffet series, published by the Italian Cultural Institute in Paris under the direction of Paolo Grossi.

The pattern of translation and reception is not dissimilar in other countries. In the immediate post-war period, censorship against D’Annunzio was particularly strong in contexts that faced the memory of a fascist past. In German-speaking countries, only Il fuoco was re-issued in the early 20th century translation because of the references to Eleonora Duse – a figure who, unlike D’Annunzio, continued to stir the interest of scholars and readers. At the end of the 1970s, D’Annunzio featured as a character in a series of dramas, short stories and novels by left-wing authors such as Klaus Stiller, Herbert Meieir, Elfriede Jelinek, Likas Suter and Hermann Peter Piwitt. These represent attempts to come to terms with D’Annunzio as a historical figure, more than as a writer. We have to wait until the 1990s for new translations: in 1991, Suhrkamp published Der Kamerad mit den wimpernlosen Augen (Il Compagno senza cigli) in Karin Fleischanderl’s translation. Between 1994 and 1995, two new translations of Il piacere were published: Pia Todorović-Strähl’s version, for Manesse-Verlag (1994), is part of a prestigious and elegant world literature series; Claudia Denzler’s translation, in Reclam’s accessible edition (1995; 2016), aims instead at wider readerships. In 1997, Matthes und Seitz published a new translation of L’innocente (Das Opfer) by Virgilio Iafrate, republished two years later by the Berlin publisher Ullstein. The history of translations shows that interest was limited to the aesthetic, European, ‘pre-political’ D’Annunzio. In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to D’Annunzio-the-poet. In 1999, Shaken published a selection of poems (Ausgewählte Gedichte) in Hans-Christian Günther’s translation (republished in 2015 by Bautz); in 2009, Wohlleben published Hortus larvarum: Lyrik der Jahrhundertwende, a selection from Poema paradisiaco in the translation by Geraldine Gabor and Ernst-Jürgen Dreyer. 2013 saw the translation of Alcyone (Berlin, Elfenbein), again by Gabor and Dreyer.

In Japan, D’Annunzio’s status, in the years in which the country was undergoing a process of democratisation, changed from best-selling author to unmentionable public figure. A curious case is that of the famous author Yukio Mishima. Mishima’s fascination with D’Annunzio is evident throughout his work and, according to some critics, is even reflected in his political career, which culminates in a spectacular coup that, in many ways, is reminiscent of D’Annunzio’s occupation of Fiume. Mishima, however, never mentioned his anachronistic obsession. The exception is his translation of Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien (Tokyo, Bijutsu Shuppansha, 1966), which the Japanese intellectual, not knowing French, co-translated with Kotaro Ikeda. Even in Japanese academic circles, studying D’Annunzio remained controversial until the 1970s. In 1979, the release of Luchino Visconti’s film, much loved by Japanese audiences, made possible the translation of l’Innocente, by Isao Waki. But it still took a few years for the publication of the series Romanzi della Rosa, issued by Shoreisha (Kyoto) in the translation by Waki : Il piacere  (2007), L’Innocente  (2008), Trionfo della Morte (2010).

In the Soviet Union, understandably, D’Annunzio soon became a controversial author. Only the texts closer to verism, such as Novelle della Pescara, were reprinted. After the fall of the Soviet Union, publishers were after writers who, for ideological reasons, had been excluded from the publishing market. In 1994, two volumes of D’Annunzio’s selected works were issued by Moaisk-Terra. This edition, however, reproposed dated, early-twentieth-century translations. The same can be said of the six volumes of Selected Works published by Knizhny Klub-Knigovek (2010). L’Innocente came out in 1995 in a revised translation N. Bronstein; La Leda senza cigno, a new translation, was published by Amfora (2013, 2016) and Palmyra, (2018, 2020) in Natalia Starovskaia’s version. 

The Hispanic world is probably the only context where D’Annunzio remained relevant in the immediate post-war period: D’Annunzio’s complete works, translated by Julio Gómez de la Serna, were published by a Spanish publishing house, Aguilar, but in Mexico City, in 1955. Re-editions of D’Annunzio’s novels continued to appear regularly in Latin America until the 1970s. This does not correspond to a rebirth of interest in D’Annunzio in the contemporary Hispanic world: Sandro Abate’s Argentinean translations, aimed at an academic audience, are rather an exception than a rule: we mention El ultimo humanista (2008), which collects poems from the ‘Versi d’amore’ cycle (1882-1893), and Los jardines del Vate (2011), which brings together poems from the Laudi (1903-1933). In Spain, the fall of Franco’s regime and the recognition of Catalan as an official language made possible the translation of Il piacere into Catalan (El Plaer, Bercelona, Edicion 62, 1978), by Assumpta Camps.

In the last few years, D’Annunzio even reached communist China: L’innocente (无辜者), in Emei Shen’s translation, came out in 2004 (Nanjing, Yilin Press) and was republished in 2020 by a Shanghai publishing house (Shanghai Translation).