the girl who was smoking
Igor Moritz, Redbreast Road North Corner, 2019. Courtesy of the artist

Language: Italian
Region: Italy
Poet: Natalia Ginzburg
Translator: André Naffis-Sahely

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the girl who was smoking

A poem by Natalia Ginzburg translated by André Naffis-Sahely

Natalia Ginzburg (1916-1991) was one of the most important Italian novelists and intellectuals in twentieth-century Italy. Lessico famigliare was awarded the prestigious Strega Prize in 1963 and La famiglia Manzoni was awarded the 1984 Bagutta Prize. From 1983 to 1987, she served in the Italian parliament as an Independent Leftist.

André Naffis-Sahely is the author of the collection The Promised Land: Poems from Itinerant Life (Penguin, 2017) and the editor of The Heart of a Stranger: An Anthology of Exile Literature (Pushkin Press, 2020). He is from Abu Dhabi, but was born in Venice to an Iranian father and an Italian mother.

Stagioni

Chi ha dimenticato l’inverno
Non merita la primavera,
Chi ha dimenticato la campagna
Non deve camminare in città.
La ragazza usciva sola
E amava camminare in silenzio:
Siccome non portava il cappello
Riusciva sgradita alla gente.
Le sue spalle curve e magre
Dicevano: io non voglio nessuno;
Io voglio soltanto
Camminare in città.
Chi non riconosce il volto
Della passione, non deve
Non deve esistere al mondo.
La ragazza che fumava, sdraiata
Sul divano, che taceva sola,
Non bisogna dimenticarla
Se pure è finito il suo tempo,
Se il suo corpo ha dato dei figli
Come una donna può fare.
Chi ha veduto il cielo al tramonto
Non deve dimenticare il mattino,
Poiché la vita che ci è data
È questa: morire e nascere,
Nascere e morire, ogni giorno.
La ragazza che usciva il silenzio
Non c’è più, ma forse i suoi figli,
Nati dal suo corpo, un giorno
Vorranno uscire da soli,
In silenzio, a sfidare la gente.

Seasons

Anyone who’s forgotten the winter
Doesn’t deserve the spring and
Anyone who’s forgotten the countryside
Shouldn’t go for a stroll in the city.
The young woman would go out alone
And she loved walking in silence:
Seeing that she wasn’t wearing a hat
People looked on her disdainfully.
Her curved, skinny shoulders
Would say: I don’t want anyone;
I only want
To stroll in the city.
Anyone who cannot recognize
The face of passion, should not
Must not exist in this world.
The girl who was smoking, lying
On the couch, silently, on her own,
Must not be forgotten
Even if her time’s come to an end,
If her body birthed children
Like some women can.
Anyone who’s seen the sky at sunset
Must not forget the morning,
Since the life we are given
Is this: dying and living,
Living and dying, every day.
The young woman, the silence
Are no longer there, but maybe
One day the children born of her body
Will want to go out on their own,
In silence, to ruffle people’s feathers.