Salvatore Quasimodo (1901 - 1968)
Born at the turn of the century, Quasimodo always dreamt of becoming an engineer. Though his dreams weren’t realized due to economic reasons, he was able to obtain a position with the Italian government’s civil engineering corps. By 1930 Quasimodo had several of his poems published in Solaria, an avant-garde review, in addition to his first book of verse, Acque e terre (Waters and Lands). Shortly after this his writing began to play a more prominent role in his life and he left his government position to devote himself to writing full time. During the war years, Quasimodo began the translation of poetry in earnest, in addition to writing his own poetry. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1959.
19 January 1944
I read you the soft verses of antiquity
and the words, born of the vineyards
and tents on the banks of eastern
rivers—how mournful they fall
and desolate in this profoundest night
of war where no one flies
the sky of the angels of death,
and we hear the wind thunder with ruin
shaking the metal sheets that up here
divide the balconies, and gloom rises
from the dogs howling in gardens
at the rifle shots of patrols
on the empty streets. Someone is alive.
Someone, perhaps, is alive. But we, here,
absorbed in listening to the ancient voice
seek for a sign that outreaches life,
earth's dark sorcery
where even among the tombs of rubble
the malign grass rears up its flower.