Traduire la poésie: l'action du style. Erba et Luzi traducteurs de Michaux.

Translated title of the contribution: [Autom. eng. transl.] Translating poetry: the action of style. Erba and Luzi Michaux translators.

Giulia Elda Grata

Research output: Other contribution


This essay is the revised version of a seminar originally held at the University of Bologna on 28 March 2012 as part of Prof. Giovanni Tallarico’s French Translation course and under the patronage of CeSLiC (Centre for the Study of Languages and Cultures). Leaving aside the debate on the untranslatability of poetry, the author aims to investigate what poetic translation can in fact offer. The argument is divided into two sections: a theoretical introduction offering some examples and a textual analysis essay. In the first section, the metaphorical opening is identified as the typical signifying tool used in the modern poetic text (Renzi 1991). Attention is drawn to how the opening is generated within the text through the style’s agency. Refusing with Meschonnic (1969) to interpret style as a ‘deflection from the standard’, the latter is rather defined as the setting up of an unprecedented matching system between signified and signifier, in a process of re-motivation of the sign process (Risset 2011) typical of the literary text. Style thus covers all levels of the signifier, from word order to each phoneme’s distinctive features and at all levels its action may be spotted by observing the interlace between the level of equivalence and that of difference (Jakobson 1987a). Through further reflection, style’s potentialities within the poetic text are seen to extend into the space and time of a specific tradition, with its specific, different and changeable values from generation to generation. The impossibility of comparing different traditions results in the impossibility of any replacement option or equivalence between the original text and the translated text, which are rather distinct terms of a relationship. This aspect is developed with reference to Fortini’s remarks (1987 and 2011), from which the distinction between three types of translation – paraphrase, artistic translation and re-make – is drawn. An illustration of the introductory theoretical remarks is offered in the second part through the text analysis of a poem by Henri Michaux, La Cordillera de los Andes, alongside the Italian translations by Luciano Erba and by Mario Luzi. The former translation tends to soften hard angles in the original’s vocabulary, metre and syntax, by modifying its expressive framework and by overturning its axiological structure. The latter is more subtle in its use of register nuances and slight semantic shifts, thus opening the text to a transcendental dimension. This study offers some essential reference points for the debate on poetic translation in the twentieth century. It accepts the hypothesis that poetic translation may be aimed at translating a stylistic system, irrespective of the different values that will still be assigned to it within the literature of the destination language. Finally, through an original analysis it exemplifies the concrete ways and the different extent to which the two poets-translators transform the same original text by drawing on their own different poetics and stylistic resources.
Translated title of the contribution[Autom. eng. transl.] Translating poetry: the action of style. Erba and Luzi Michaux translators.
Original languageFrench
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Henri Michaux
  • Poetry
  • Stile
  • Style
  • Testo poetico
  • Tradition
  • Tradizione
  • Traduzione
  • Translation


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