Franz Kafka

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Robert Frost: the "Terrifying Poet" and the woes of popularity

A four times Pulitzer Prize winner, laureate poet Robert Frost could hardly have been more popular in his life-time, becoming a truly American icon, who represented the essence of the good old values of pastoral, bucolic New England. Yet, as his art escaped the "clutches of the academics"breaking free from the narrow boundaries of an elite readership, and reaching out to the general publicsomething went lost. Once his work triumphantly entered mainstream culture, the understanding of his poetry greatly diminished: famous verses of his best works passed down amongst his readers as simplified, lame mantras. However, the waters of his art are the farthest from shallowness, but deep, troubled, and often dark.
    It is well remembered how, in 1958, at a celebration for the poet's 85th birthday at the Waldorf-Astoria, the featured speaker, literary critic Lionel Trilling, shocking the audience, proclaimed: ''I regard Robert Frost as a terrifying poet." Old Frost did not appear the least bothered; intimately, he might as well have nodded with satisfaction.
    In the lecture presented below,  Professor of English Kevin Murphy (Ithaca College, 1992), brings to light some of Frost poetry's inner implications that, surprisingly enough, had been long overlooked.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A glimpse of America, through the greatest on-the-road novels. Open discussion on Literary Joint.

Amerika, (original title: Der Verschollene), the incomplete first novel of  Franz Kafka , written 1911-1914.

Isn't it often striking how little is generally understood of America? The rolling, omniscient, and eminently  powerful country, and its dwellers, seem perfectly designed to be stereotyped, thus we can all feel free to wallow, free of regrets or embarrassment, in our ignorance and misconception of it. Yet, as  reading (along perhaps with traveling) is undoubtedly the perfect antidote for our lack of knowledge and understanding, wouldn't it make sense turn to the greatest on-the-road American novels, to unveil the mysterious land and its folks, seeking for answers and discernment? For instance, many great ones occur to me: from Steinbeck's little known "Travels with Charley: in Search of America" and his dramatic, tantalizing "Grapes of Wrath," to Kerouac's classic and often misread "On the Road," to Nabokov's controversial "Lolita," to Twain's (on-the-river) "Huckleberry Finn," that recedes even further back in time...
At Literary Joint, we would love to spark a debate, or at least a humble literary chit-chat, around this, counting on your comments and contribution. What do YOU reckon? What are the (well known or less known) greatest on-the-road American novels that may help us unravel the very core of America?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A few words on "An Old Man's Winter Night," by Robert Frost, and a version in Italian

Friday, January 3, 2014

Poesia, by Umberto Saba, a version in English, by Literary Joint: Poetry, by Umberto Saba

Cover of a first edition of Umberto Saba's Poesie, 1911, Duke University Library

What is poetry? In this humble, powerful allegory, Umberto Saba compares it to a warm nook amidst the wintry storm: a cherished place that is not contaminated by the material struggle of existence, but nurtured by love and dear memories. The consciousness of this - the role of poetry itself -, unveils the hidden beauty around us, and an intrinsic goodness in things otherwise unnoticed, or that, even worse, would appear just grim, terrible, or mundane.


It is like when to a man pounded by the wind,
blinded by snow - all around paints
the city an infernal wintry world -
along the wall, a door opens.
He enters. Finds the goodness not dead,
the sweetness of a warm nook. Lays a name
that was forgotten, a kiss on
smiley faces, that he would only portray
as obscure in threatening dreams.
He returns
to the street, even the street is different.
The weather is fine again; the ice
is broken by industrious hands, the light blue
peeks back in the sky and in his heart. And he thinks
that dire times may foretell good ones.

by Umberto Saba, from the collection "The Songbook," 1933 
Translation in English by LiteraryJoint, Copyright © LiteraryJoint by Alessandro Baruffi 

Available as e-book on Amazon Kindle, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch NOOK Book and on Lulu. 

Original text in Italian:


E' come a un uomo battuto dal vento,
accecato di neve - intorno pinge
un inferno polare la città -
l'aprirsi, lungo il muro, di una porta.
Entra. Ritrova la bontà non morta,
la dolcezza d'un caldo angolo. Un nome
posa dimenticato, un bacio sopra
ilari volti, che solo vedeva
oscuri in sogni minacciosi.
Alla strada, anche la strada è un'altra.
Il tempo al bello si è rimesso; i ghiacci
spezzano mani operose, il celeste
rispunta in cielo e nel suo cuore. E pensa
che un estremo di mali un bene annunci.

Umberto Saba, da "Il canzoniere", 1933