Thursday, August 27, 2009

Renowned translator Pivano dies

(ANSA) - Rome, August 19 - Italy on Wednesday was mourning the death of Fernanda Pivano, known above all for making modern American literature accessible to the public through her translations of works ranging from Ernest Hemingway to the Beat poets and Bob Dylan.

Pivano, who turned 92 a month ago, died in a Milan clinic Tuesday evening and is expected to be buried in her native Genoa.

After growing up in Genoa, Pivano moved with her family to Turin where in 1941 she earned a degree in American literature and her thesis on Herman Melville's Moby Dick won her a prize at the Center of American Studies in Rome.

After her degree she translated Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology which was published in 1943 by Einaudi, where novelist Cesare Pavese, who was her teacher in high school, became her editor and mentor.

In 1948, Pivano met Hemingway in Cortina and they developed a long personal and professional relationship which first saw her translate his novel A Farewell to Arms for the Mondadori publishing house and later all his works.

While working at Mondadori she also translated F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night, This Side of Paradise and the Beautiful and the Damned. Pivano first visited the United States in 1956 and discovered the 'Beat Generation', returning to Italy to translate and write the introduction to Jack Kerouac's On the Road and later the poems of Allen Ginsberg and the other Beat Poets.

She also oversaw and wrote the introduction to the first translation in Italian of the lyrics of Bob Dylan.

Her interest in American culture continued into her final years and is responsible for promoting in Italy the latest generation of American writers including Bret Easton Ellis and David Foster Wallace.

Aside from working as a journalist and critic, Pivano was also an established writer and produced a number of biographies, including an award-winning one of Hemingway, several memoirs and an autobiography, the second installment of which she gave her editor last month.


Among the eulogies which flowed in on Wednesday were tributes from two of Pivano's personal friends: Italy's Nobel laureate for literature Dario Fo and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, one of the last remaining survivors of the 'Beat Generation' which Pivano introduced to the Italian cultural mainstream. ''She was an incredible woman with an extraordinary mind of rare intelligence,'' Fo recalled on the online daily

''We knew each other well having taken part in many debates and meetings over the years. But more important were the times we met in private. To say that I'm saddened seems so insufficient and banal,'' Fo added.

''She had an extremely high sense of civic responsibility. She took part in countless struggles and battles without ever holding back, always adopting clear cut stances from both a political and cultural standpoint. She left a lasting mark and this is the most important thing,'' he added. In an interview published in the Rome daily La Repubblica, Ferlinghetti said ''I am greatly saddened. This is not just a personal loss, for Fernanda was a great friend, but also a loss for international literature''. Looking back at his first meetings with Pivano, at the start of the Beat movement in the early 1950s, Ferlinghetti recalled that ''Fernanda wanted to become the narrator of this new literary movement and the life style which accompanied it. I must admit that she immediately grasped its spirit and was able to transmit it''.

Ferlinghetti said they first met when she came to his home in California to interview him for the Turin daily La Stampa and ''I read (Allen Ginsberg's) Howl to her. It was the first time she had heard it and she was awestruck. For her Allen was a discovery and she basically forgot about me, no longer really interested in what I had written. After that he was the one she was out to champion''. Pivano, Ferlinghetti observed, ''was a very loyal woman, endowed with great tenacity and curiosity. She was also an excellent translator, a warm and humane person''. In a comment to Rome's Il Messaggero, Ferlinghetti recalled ''like all of us and like the world around us, Fernanda moved quickly in those days so long ago''


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