Ada Negri


Paura della vita, a tradimento
or su me piombi, e il tuo nodo scorsoio
mi getti al collo; ed in me stessa io muoio
senza morire, diaccia di spavento.

Ed i giorni e le notti che verranno
m’appaion come maschere impenetra-
bili; e con peso di massiccia pietra
l’ieri e l’oggi sul cuor lividi stanno.

Da coloro che un dì chiamai fratelli
sì lontana mi sento, che a soccorso
non grido: non udrebbero: ahimè!…corso
troppo ho dinanzi a lor, con piè ribelli.

Ciò che fu non è più—ciò ch’è presente
non vale—sul futuro c’è una porta
chiusa, di bronzo.—Io son fra quella porta
e il mio terrore.—Io son quasi demente.

Pure conviene attender l’alba, attendere
con piè fermo, con fisso occhio, il ritorno
del sole. E il sol guardare, e il chiaro giorno
godere, come un fior—senza comprendere.

Negri, Ada. Esilio, Fratelli Treves Edizioni, Milano, 1914, pp. 29-30


Fear of life, now unexpectedly you overwhelm
me; and with your noose
you tighten your grasp on my neck; and inside
myself I die
without dying, frozen with fear.

And the days and nights to come
appear as impenetra-
ble masks; the livid past and present
weigh like a massive stone
on my heart.

Far away from those who, once, I called brothers
I feel, without calling for help:
they would not hear: alas!…With rebellious feet
I have run too far in front of them.

No residue of the past—and the present
is worthless—at the threshold of the future,
there is a closed door, made of bronze.—I am
between that door
and my fears.—I am almost insane.

Yet we should wait for a new dawn, wait
with firm feet and a fixed gaze toward the return
of the sun. And gaze at the sun, and bask in
the clear day, like a flower—without understanding.

The poem “Pànico” is part of Ada Negri’s volume Exile that was first published in 1914 by Fratelli Treves in Milan. In 1913, after the separation from her husband, Negri moved from Milan to Zurich; it is in this new and foreign city and in the midst of feelings after the separation that she wrote Exile, an autobiographical collection. The volume is divided in four parts, of which the titles trace the interior struggles of the author : “Solitude,” “A river among the rocks,” “Get up and walk,” and “Travel mates.” Within the fear of the war, in 1914 Negri left Zurich to go back to Milan, where she made crucial political choices supporting Benito Mussolini. After several collaborations with the most popular Italian journals, in 1931, she was awarded the Mussolini’s Prize to the career and became an icon among fascist intellectuals. In 1940, she was the first woman member of the Italian Academy. However, despite her success and recognitions, Ada Negri’s poems do not commonly appear in Italian contemporary literature manuals.

Should we remember or forget Ada Negri’s poems, given her political position?

The poems are cohesively organized to represent the process of Negri’s interior rebirth after the end of her relationship. The poem that I have here translated, “Pànico,” is in the first part of the volume. The condition of feeling “fear of life” opening the first stanza develops in the following verses and grows in panic. The leitmotiv of the first stanza echoes the condition of submission of the second stanza, of loss of hope of the third, and, ultimately, of the utter immobility described in the fourth stanza. At the end, panic has led to “not understanding,” which is a status of surrender that the author further elaborates in the following poem, titled “To understand.”

Prepared by Leonora Masini

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