forthcoming October 15, 2019
Long Live Latin
by Nicola Gardini
translated by Todd Portnowitz
Farrar, Straus and Giroux : 12 November 2019 : 224 pp. : 9780374284527
A lively exploration of the joys of a not-so-dead language
From the acclaimed novelist and Oxford professor Nicola Gardini, a personal and passionate look at the Latin language: its history, its authors, its essential role in education, and its enduring impact on modern life―whether we call it “dead” or not.
What use is Latin? It’s a question we’re often asked by those who see the language of Cicero as no more than a cumbersome heap of ruins, something to remove from the curriculum. In this sustained meditation, Gardini gives us his sincere and brilliant reply: Latin is, quite simply, the means of expression that made us―and continues to make us―who we are. In Latin, the rigorous and inventive thinker Lucretius examined the nature of our world; the poet Propertius told of love and emotion in a dizzying variety of registers; Caesar affirmed man’s capacity to shape reality through reason; Virgil composed the Aeneid, without which we’d see all of Western history in a different light.
In Long Live Latin, Gardini shares his deep love for the language―enriched by his tireless intellectual curiosity―and warmly encourages us to engage with a civilization that has never ceased to exist, because it’s here with us now, whether we know it or not. Thanks to his careful guidance, even without a single lick of Latin grammar readers can discover how this language is still capable of restoring our sense of identity, with a power that only useless things can miraculously express.
TODD PORTNOWITZ (1986) is an editor, poet, and Italian translator. His translation of Long Live Latin by Nicola Gardini will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in November, 2019. His poetry translations include Midnight in Spoleto by Paolo Valesio (Fomite, 2018) and Go Tell It to the Emperor: The Selected Poems of Pierluigi Cappello, forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil press. He has received honors from the Academy of American Poets (Raiziss/de Palchi Fellowship, 2015, Affiliated Fellow at the American Academy in Rome) and the Bread Loaf Translators Conference. An Assistant Editor at Alfred A. Knopf, he is also a co-founder and editor of the Italian poetry blog Formavera, a co-director of the Brooklyn-based reading series for writer-translators, Us&Them, and is on the board of the Amy Clampitt Fund.
Midnight in Spoleto
by Paolo Valesio
translated by Todd Portnowitz
Fomite Press : 1 January 2018 : 150 pp. : 978-1942515821
In this enchanting collection of poems—a love story and a love letter to an ancient city—the renowned scholar of Italian literature turns his gaze on Spoleto.
A curtain is drawn, a harpsichord resounds, a choir chants at midnight, a poor student paces a terrace, a valley swirls reflected in an espresso cup: in poem after poem Paolo Valesio evokes the song and solemnity of Spoleto, a hill town in Umbria and home to no more than 40,000. Home, as well, to the "Festival of Two Worlds," a summer arts festival celebrating the city's two defining realms: the church and the theater. Drawing its title from one of the festival's main events—a series of choir performances at the ancient church of Sant'Eufemia—Midnight in Spoleto explores the unique spaces of the city and the scenes of a life there staged. "As soon as they reached Spoleto, / with twilight approaching, / before even unzipping their bags, / they went to the piazza / to find something they'd left a summer ago." Never far from the lyrical narrative is the figure of St. Francis, the local genie, whose spirit guides and chides our raconteur. Valesio's layered visions and precise rhythms are here transported vitally into English, by the Raiziss/de Palchi-winning translator, Todd Portnowitz.
Read Original Poems & Translations Online
The Us&Them reading series
Launched in the summer of 2015 by Todd Portnowitz and Sam Bett, Us&Them is a quarterly reading series, held at Molasses Books in Brooklyn, that gives writer-translators a platform to read from both sides of their work. Each reading features four readers and showcases literature from all over the world. Beyond Brooklyn, special Us&Them events have been held in Massachusetts, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Cuba.