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Butterfly of Dinard

Butterfly of Dinard

by Eugenio Montale, translated from the Italian by Oonagh Stransky and Marla Moffa, introduction by Jonathan Galassi

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Best known for his poetry, Nobel Prize winner Eugenio Montale was also an elegant and incisive prose writer whose stories appeared regularly in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. Butterfly of Dinard is a collection of fifty pieces whose distilled language, sprightliness, and subtle irony defy the limits of traditional short stories.

Although initially skeptical of inventing fictional worlds, by drawing on his admiration for Katherine Mansfield, Anton Chekov, and Giovanni Verga, and by trusting his own understated sense of humor, Montale began to write about his experiences, “those silly and trivial things which are at the same time important.” Butterfly of Dinard represents a sort of autobiographical novel, albeit in fragmented form. It offers occasions for reflection and sudden flashes into the author’s inner dialogues, evoking people, objects, and animals dear to him while simultaneously shedding light on the social, cultural, and political events of the times.

Divided into four parts, the book begins with Montale’s childhood and youth in Liguria; the second and third parts reveal aspects of his adult life in Florence and travels abroad, both before and after World War II; the fourth section is devoted to his final years in Milan. The volume concludes with the prose poem “Butterfly of Dinard,” in which Montale encounters a butterfly, his symbol for artistic creation, visible for a moment and then gone again, a vanishing enigma.

These culs de lampe, as Montale later termed them, were first published in book form in 1956. Montale added further stories for subsequent editions, culminating in the final 1973 Mondadori edition. This volume is the first complete translation of the final edition and includes five stories never before translated into English.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681378169
Pages: 224
Publication Date:


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