Academic journal article The Modern Language Review

Sanguineti and Montale: Travelling Companions in the 1970s

Academic journal article The Modern Language Review

Sanguineti and Montale: Travelling Companions in the 1970s

Article excerpt

This article considers parallels between Edoardo Sanguineti's collections of poems Reisebilder (1971) and Postkarten (1978) and Eugenio Montale's Satura (1971), notably their recording of the specifics of travel in a matter-of-fact, ironic, and quasi-diaristic style. While not suggesting any fundamental convergence between the two poets, the study none the less finds a widespread recurrence of images and scenarios which, combined with specific textual echoes, supports a hypothesis of influence. For all their differences in style, ideology, and timbre, Sanguineti draws on Montale's poetic persona and imagery in Satura for his own construction of a new literary model of the intellectual.


Following the intense experimentalism of his early poetry and the particularly fragmented formal texture of T.A.T. (1966-68), Edoardo Sanguineti's 1971 collection Reisebilder ('travel pictures', after Heine) is marked by the emergence of a new, quasi-diaristic style, in which the 'sottolingua onirica e visionaria' of the neoavanguardia period is replaced, in the words of Gabriella Sica, by 'un parlare prosaico, quotidiano, quasi banale'. (1) It is the beginning of a 'neo-figurative' phase that would last a decade or more in Sanguineti's verse. (2) In these texts, observation of people, places, and events goes hand in hand with a constant vein of self-portraiture, always ironic and frequently self-deprecatory, as the poetic io records his experiences as a European intellectual nomad, against the backdrop of a multifarious yet banal social and cultural reality. The opening text in Reisebilder (dated June 1971) typifies this discursive manner that comes to dominate much of Sanguineti's work in the 1970s: (3)

   che cosa potevo fare o dire, Vasko, quando quella seria Shirley
   Temple in technicolor mi ha raggiunto correndo sulla Lijnbaan,
   agitando la sua rossa coda, ridendo? ho subito sentito i suoi
   artigli--come si dice--nel mio cuore:
                                       tiene il mio teschio tra le sue
                                       zampe, ma la sua faccia,
   adesso, e pulita: e succhia la mia spina dorsale sopra questo
   deserto di Rotterdam, dentro questo Number One, in questo literary
   supper: [...]
          e poi, che cosa posso scrivere, ormai, se devo ancora
   fino alle sei del mattino, camera 348, con l'europeo Tchicaya,
   con Breyten, con te?
                      (non riesco nemmeno a telefonare a mia moglie,
                       vedi, a finire

   le Affinita elettive): e ho anche un paio di pustole in faccia:

The apparent communicative simplicity of this style is deceptive: rather than marking a retreat into any kind of pre-experimental lyricism, Sanguineti's style in this new period remains highly controlled. It is, as Fausto Curi observes, 'autocritico e autocontestativo, autoparodico e autostraniante', involving a subtly constructed 'medio-basso' register, based on a 'tecnica di tipo cinematografico, fatta di rapidissime zumate inserite in una sintassi discontinua'. (4) The poem quoted above (addressed to the Serbian poet Vasko Popa, apparently participating in the same literary event as Sanguineti in Rotterdam) takes the typical form of a diary entry or personal note, or, perhaps more appropriately given the highly visual nature of the opening description, the form of a postcard (an image reinforced with the title of the subsequent collection, Postkarten). There is, as in much of this collection, a curious mixture of the real and the dreamlike: the former established through the constant presence (here and elsewhere) of autobiographical referents such as place names, street names, names of people and establishments; the latter introduced from the outset by the visual characterization of the young woman in the unreality of 'technicolor' hues (she is, apparently, a literary admirer--but this is just one of many references to passing or implausible erotic infatuations on the part of the poet's persona). …

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