Long recognized as Italy's greatest poet of the Romantic age, Giacomo Leopardi (Giacomo Taldegardo Francesco di Sales Saverio Pietro Leopardi,1798-1837) has never ceased to inspire generations of readers with his classically written stanzas. His philosophical considerations on the main themes of life which all humans face find resonance in experiences of today's modern world., no doubt due to their timeless subjects and his unique lyrical and melancholy voice.
Leopardi's thorough classical formation brought him to writing poetry inspired by the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. Although he was a man of his time, familiar with Enlightenment thought and influenced by Romantic poets such as Byron and Shelley, he didn't consider himself to be one of them. Simply stated, Leopardi was Leopardi, a unique writer. Twentieth century literary debate on Leopardi drew the conclusion that his deeply reflective nature made him an early existentialist.
Born to a noble family of a very conservative Italian province, he studied frenetically, becoming extremely erudite at a young age, before having a spiritual crisis, which brought him to his calling. Though he suffered great shyness and felt inferior, he dedicated himself to exploring the truths and beauty of the human condition with the poignant clarity, which permeates his work. His poems, which most Italians remember from their school years, are "Memories" and "To Silvia". The collections he was most remembered for were the early "Canti", the "Zibaldone" and the later "Canti", which he developed in his years of travels, living throughout the Italian peninsula.
Leopardi's home, found in Recanati, a small town in the region of Le Marche, still stands today and can be toured. From the walnut-paneled study full of books, in which the young poet learned Greek and Latin by age 10, one can enjoy the same view out the window to the street corner below, portrayed in his much-loved poem "Saturday night of the village".
In 2010, the "Canti" was translated and published in English. It was highly praised by the New York Times book review and was listed as one of the 100 most important books published that year. In the wake of that literary success, the city of Recanati invited the American translator of this edition to partake in an important convention honoring Leopardi held the following summer, where he was a special speaker and a received an award for a particularly well-received translation. The new edition of "Canti" translated by Jonathan Galassi is testimony of just how timeless the literary works of Giacomo Leopardi are and will always be cherished.