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Published on August 27th, 2013


Zibaldone: The Notebooks of Leopardi edited by Michael Caesar and Franco D’Intino

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Blurb: Giacomo Leopardi was the greatest Italian poet of the nineteenth century and was recognized by readers from Nietzsche to Beckett as one of the towering literary figures in Italian history. To many, he is the finest Italian poet after Dante.

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Leopardi was also a prodigious scholar of classical literature and philosophy, and a voracious reader in numerous ancient and modern languages. For most of his writing career, he kept an immense notebook, known as the Zibaldone, or “hodgepodge,” as Harold Bloom has called it, in which he put down his original, wide-ranging, radically modern responses to his reading. His comments about religion, philosophy, language, history, anthropology, astronomy, literature, poetry, and love are unprecedented in their brilliance and suggestiveness, and the Zibaldone, which was only published at the turn of the twentieth century, has been recognized as one of the foundational books of modern culture. Its 4,500-plus pages have never been fully translated into English until now, when a team led by of Michael Caesar and Franco D’Intino of the Leopardi Centre in Birmingham have spent years producing a lively, accurate version. This essential book will change our understanding of nineteenth-century culture.

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), Italy’s first and greatest modern poet, was also a critic, philosopher and philologist. His enormous Zibaldone, or philosophical and critical notebook, which many consider one of the great books of the 19th century, will be published in Penguin Classics in 2012.

(Penguin Classics, 2013)

David Sexton, London Evening Standard 

“Magnificent and essential … Printed in small type on thin India paper, it still runs to 2,502 pages and it has to be read at a desk, not in bed — a pity, for it is a book that needs to be returned to again and again over time, dipping in and out. Some of these entries are obscure, dull or repetitious, but to be found among them are countless passages of striking beauty and painful wisdom like little else.”

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Robert Pogue Harrison, Financial Times 

“Now that Leopardi’s complete notebooks, or Zibaldone di pensieri, as they are known in Italian, are finally available in English – splendidly edited by Michael Caesar and Franco D’Intino of the Leopardi Centre at Birmingham university, and superbly translated by a team of seven scholars in three different countries – anglophone readers may discover for themselves why, in the annals of intellectual history, the Zibaldone di pensieri (which means a “hodgepodge of thoughts”) is as important as the Notebooks of Coleridge, the Journals of Emerson, the Diaries of Kierkegaard, and Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Will to Power.”

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André Naffis-Sahely, The Independent 

“There is something heroic about such a project; commonplace books have rarely elicited much attention, especially while their authors were still alive. Paul Valéry’s Cahiers were published 30 years following his death; Milton’s mouldy manuscript was discovered two centuries after his passing. Congratulations are due to everyone involved in this landmark publication. Leopardi’s Zibaldone is quite simply a work of genius”

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Tobias Jones, The Sunday Times 

“[An] exemplary translation. It runs to more than 2,500 pages and, even on thin paper, it is a vast tome. And yet what is surprising is that Zibaldone is such a pleasurable read. Often writing in note form, Leopardi jots down guesses about links between languages, about human nature, recounts anecdotes and put-downs, sketches people and ­critiques books. It is the kind of work that you almost certainly don’t read cover to cover, but have by a much-loved armchair and dip into when you want intellectual stimulation, controversy, provocation or precision.”

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