Poet Miquel Desclot completes Catalan translation of Petrarch masterpiece ‘Il Canzoniere’


Barcelona (CNA).- Catalan literature just added ‘Il Canzoniere’(‘Songbook’) by Francesco Petrarca to the list of translations of international famous works. The Catalan poet Miquel Desclot is the author of the adaptation into Catalan of this masterpiece containing 8,000 verses. Desclot began working on the volume now published by the Catalan publisher Proa in 1994, following the path of the incomplete translation written in the 50s by the Catalan poet Osbald Cardona. Desclot intermittently spent time on the translation for over twenty years. The last stage of this “insane” process, admitted Desclot, kept him fully occupied for the last two years. The editor of the publisher Group 62, Josep Lluch, described the translation as a “milestone” for Catalan literature and thanked the author for his “push” to carry out this “enormous hard work”. 

Catalan literature will incorporate in this way the book that most deeply imprinted western poetry for centuries: ‘Il Canzoniere’ by Petrarch (1304-1374). The absence of a Catalan translation had been “to a certain point an incomprehensible lacuna”, according to Lluch, but has now been resolved with Desclot’s bilingual edition (Italian-Catalan), published by Proa editions this November.

According to Miquel Desclot, there is a historical reason that explains why ‘Il Canzoniere’ had never been entirely translated into Catalan before. The argument is that the arrival of ‘Petrarchism’ in the Iberian Peninsula occurred in the sixteenth century, “a time of major economic and political decay in Catalonia”. The great influence of the work of the Valencian medieval poet Ausiàs March, on the one hand, and the lack of interest of the representatives of ‘Noucentisme’ (a Catalan cultural movement of the 20th century that originated as a reaction to Modernism) to “undertake the madness” of this translation, on the other, are the reasons behind this “lacuna”, Desclot said.

The first translations of ‘Il Canzoniere’ by the poet and painter Pere Serafí and the most ambitious, but incomplete version, by Osbald Cardona are two of the documented contributions to the Catalan translation of this Petrarch masterpiece.

7,785 verses and 366 poems

After more than twenty years of intermittent work, Miquel Desclot has completed the translation of the 7,785 verses and 366 poems – sonnets, madrigals and ballads among others – that make up the work. Petrarch conceived ‘Il Canzoniere’ as a dual story: one that celebrates his idealised love for Laura, perhaps a literary invention rather than a real person, and another about the later regret of this infatuation.

In his translation, Desclot makes Petrarch talk with a “current, but educated” Catalan, he detailed. This decision was taken in response to the “particular, refined and reduced vocabulary” used by the author from Tuscany, who lived for many years in France (from the time he was 8 years of age until he was 50) before returning to his country.

Large volume devoted to Shakespeare

Desclot announced on Tuesday that, coinciding with the celebration of the year devoted to Shakespeare, he will publish on the 11th of January a large volume with the Catalan translations of five plays by the English dramatist.

The work will include the adaptations of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Othello’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘The Tempest’ and ‘As you Like it’. The translations are not recent, but a compilation of the work done over the years at the request of several theatre companies, the poet explained.

Petrarch (1304-1374)

Francesco Petrarca, or Petrarch, was born in Arezzo, Italy in 1304. Scholar, poet, diplomat, and early humanist, his rediscovery of the ancient Roman writers such as Cicero did much to fuel the 14th century Renaissance. His use of the sonnet form, particularly in the lyrics dedicated to his ideal love, Laura, was imitated throughout Europe, and became a mark of the civilised literary culture of his own and later periods.

Petrarch is best known for his Italian poetry, notably ‘Il Canzoniere’ (‘Songbook’) and ‘I Trionfi’ (‘Triumphs’). However, Petrarch was also an enthusiastic Latin scholar and did most of his writing in this language. His works in Italian and those by Giovanni Boccaccio served as an inspiration for Pietro Bembo, who created the model for the modern Italian language in the 16th century.

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