The doyenne, the great Italian translator of Beat literature – and indeed of much other significant American Literature (Edgar Lee Masters, Ernest Hemingway, anyone?) – was Fernanda Pivano, who died in Milan, in 2009, aged 92. A crucial disseminator of not only Beat literature but also Beat culture, (her Beat Hippie Yippie anthology appeared way back in 1972), ‘Nanda leaves a long shadow.
She will, of course be forever remembered, frozen in time, as the compassionate foil in the famous 1966 drunk-Jack-Kerouac interview, (one of the famous drunk-Kerouac interviews! ) “You are Nanda Pivano..you are a great intellectual girl of Milano” – (I’m not from Milan, she corrects him) – but that is only one tiny fragment of the picture.
She was an extraordinary figure, editor, journalist, literary critic, a veritable font of energy, a major force in post-war Italian culture. No time to go into it all here, but for further details go check out (and please do check out) the interview (in Italian) with her, C’era una Volta il Beat – here
We recommend also Pivano Blues, a segment from TG3’s Agenda del Mondo that aired on Italian television last year.
Of her publications, Beat and Pieces, the 2005 book from Photology , Allen Ginsberg Beats and Pieces, (tho’ not so easy to find these days – it was re-released in 2007 as part of a thing called the Beat Bible) remains essential and, nonetheless, well worth securing.
Until relatively recently Nanda Pivano’s translations of Allen were the Italian translations of Allen, but, following the adage that literary classics, if they are classics, and to show that they are classics, need be retranslated for each generation, (and, fortunately, in Allen’s lifetime, and, so, with his full co-operation), Papa Respiro Addio.
Luca Fontana’s translations of the Collected Poems 1947-1995, is the corner-stone of a remarkable set of books (type in “Ginsberg” to get the complete list) from the Italian publisher Il Saggiatore. Italian Beat Central. And they’re bringing out a host of new titles, we hear, including first-time Italian translations of Spontaneous Mind and of First Blues. We’ll keep you posted.