Translation of “Lapide ad ignominia” for April 25th

It’s already April 25th in Italy, Liberation Day, when the fall of the Nazis and Fascists is celebrated.

In 1952, convicted war criminal Albert Kesselring, responsible for the Ardeatine Caves massacre in Rome among many other crimes, was released from prison on the grounds of ill-health. He arrogantly claimed that rather than imprison him, the ungrateful Italians should have built him a monument.

There is a monument. It’s in Cuneo, and it has this poem on engraved on it. I am posting my translation for Liberation Day. Ora e sempre.

Memorial Plaque for Disgrace

by Piero Calamandrei

You’ll get it,

Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring,

the monument you claim from us Italians

but what stone it’s built from—

that’s for us to choose now.

Not from the scorched stones

of the defenseless hamlets you mutilated, eradicated,

not from the earth of the graveyards

where our comrades, so very young,

rest serenely

not from the inviolate snow of the mountains

which for two winters defied you

not from the springtime of these valleys

which saw you turn and run away.

But only from the silence of the tortured

tougher than any boulder

only from the hard rock of this pact

sworn among free men

assembling as volunteers

for dignity not hate

fixed on redeeming

the shame, the terror of the world.

Should you ever feel like walking these streets

again you’ll find us at our posts

the dead and the living determined alike

the people closing ranks around a monument

which is called

now and forever


Very happy to announce…

…that my translation of Marina Tsvetaeva’s play Fortune (the original of which I reviewed in this post) will be published this October in Cardinal Points, Volume 8. This is the literary journal of the Brown University Slavic Department.

I’d like to thank my patrons on Patreon, my bilingual beta readers Anatoly Belilovsky and Eugenia Bronfman, my Russian teachers at Georgetown, Erik of XIX век who publicized the translation in its earliest days, and the editor of Cardinal Points, Boris Dralyuk (bdralyuk on WordPress). It wouldn’t have been possible without you all!