Dario Rivarossa was born in Cuneo, North-West Italy, in 1969. He studied philosophy, theology, and comic art with a view to working first as a journalist and then as a translator from English and German. His translations include science fiction, essays on history or economy and interfaith studies. His first-and-a-half job is as an artist, with works published and collected in the USA. A member of International Authors since 2010, he recently created the “Magic Trio” team of illustrators together with Tiziana Grassi aka Selkis and Eva Nieri aka Nivalis. He now lives in Perugia, near Assisi (the homeland of St Francis), where he married Paola in 2006. He also sings in a “mountain choir” as a first tenor. His most notable publication to date is Dante Was a Fantasy Writer (International Authors, 2013).
Dario is currently working on an English translation of Il Mondo Creato by the 16th century Italian poet, Torquato Tasso. It should be published by next Spring
PML: Dario, can you begin by telling us a little about Tasso? Who was he exactly?
DR: “A madman,” according to commonplace opinion in Italy. But he was jailed in order to make him go insane, not because he was: a way to make a dangerous citizen be quiet, like it would happen in the 20th century in the USSR.
PML: Why has he had such a bad press?
DR: He threatened to reveal dark secrets about the Este family, the rulers of Ferrara, in central Italy, where he lived. But this overshadows the fact that he was one of the greatest Italian poets ever.
PML: Whose idea was it to translate Tasso?
DR: It came from a dear friend who is now the co-translator in the project, Prof. Salwa Khoddam. Since I have a blog, tassonomia.blogspot.it, wholly devoted to Tasso and the translation of his works into English, especially Gerusalemme Conquistata, she asked me if I meant to make a book of it. I replied, “Naa, nobody would care about this stuff.” And she, “Are you joking?! It would be of great interest, etc. etc.!” We then chose Tasso's poem Il Mondo Creato (The Seven Days of the World's Creation) because it was shorter and less difficult than the Conquistata, 10,000 lines instead of 20,000, and because it may have been a source for Milton's Paradise Lost.
PML : Tasso's Il Mondo Creato was a source for Paradise Lost?
DR: Oh, yes, this is a very intriguing side of the problem. In Naples, during his Grand Tour in Italy as a young man, Milton met Count Giovanni Battista Manso, who had been one of Tasso's best friends. Milton would even title a poem after him: Mansus. Well, Tasso had decided to write Il Mondo Creato precisely after exchanging theological conversations with the Count's learned mother. So, it would be strange if Milton knew nothing about that poem which reworked the first chapters of Genesis. Was Paradise Lost meant as a sequel?
PML: How did you come across Tasso?
DR: Following the rings in a literary chain. I have been a fan of Dante since I was 10 or so. Some twenty years ago, my Dante studies led me to William Blake, and in turn Blake to Milton. Some five years ago, Milton made me curious about the great Italian poets of the Renaissance, whose works he knew well: Ludovico Ariosto, and Tasso, precisely.
PML: What attracted you to his writings?
DR: On first reading his best-known poem, Gerusalemme Conquistata (“Jerusalem Delivered”), I thought: “See, there are many cool episodes and lines, who could have believed that?” The second time, it sounded rather like: “Wow, all this is really great!” And the third, “Oh my God, this guy is greater than Dante!” He became an uncontrollable passion. A whole new universe was opened by the opportunity to retrieve his so-called minor works: Il Re Torrismondo (the only Shakespearean tragedy written in Italy during Shakespeare's lifetime, and later), Il Mondo Creato, and Gerusalemme Conquistata (1593), the remake of the Liberata (1581). It is unbelievable the number of silly statements about the Conquistata that have been spread by scholars who haven't even taken the trouble to flip through its pages.
PML: Do you think Tasso still has relevance today?
DR: For tomorrow, I daresay. In my opinion, the Modern Era, i.e. the epoch in the Western history that started in the 17th - 18th centuries, is approaching its end; see the Charlie Hébdo affair as a symptom . . .
PML: Are you a decadent, Dario?
DR: Even further back than that: a pre-decadent! Yeah, I think we'll probably have to re-adopt a Renaissance attitude towards . . . everything.
PML: What does it mean to adopt a Renaissance attitude?
DR: Tasso's message is not specifically different from the message of the other great Renaissance writers and/or poets and/or artists. To make it as brief as possible, it would mean to pass from unilateral thinking (see the Enlightenment: “We are the light. Everything before us, or different from us, is darkness”) to a multilateral view. Since the universe, or even society, surpasses our faculties infinitely, we always need at least two opposite keys in order to approach it, and assume that both / all of them are significant.
PML: So concretely that means...
DR: . . . that there are no pre-conceived solutions, but we should learn each time from events. Again, think about the hot issue of Islam. In Ariosto's and Tasso's poems, we don't find the one attitude to be held. It depends on which Christian meets which Muslim. They might be fierce enemies, but respect each other at the same time. Vice versa, the current “liberal” society tolerates Muslims but, at the same time, despises them. Saladin was a hero and a model of courtesy even in the eyes of the Crusaders. But today, what common elements remain between the West and ISIS? Oil, weapons, TV.
PML: What sort of technical difficulties did you encounter in the translation?
DR: A huge number of difficulties! Tasso has not – not yet? – many fans, not even in Italy, for a number of reasons: Dante – not Tasso which could have been the case – was chosen as the Standard Bearer of Italian Literature after our National Unification (1861). And, according to the 18th-19th century mainstream culture in Italy, influenced by France, he was “too” religious. And, he was dismissed as a madman. But honestly, a part of the problem is also that he loved to make his verses long, and thorny, and full of Latinizing words. This new English version of ours follows the text line by line, word by word, but puts it into plainer language. We hope it'll promote a rediscovery of this brilliant, “gigantic” poet.
PML: Did you learn anything about yourself during the translation work?
DR: Yes, I learned that I understand much less than I boast to. Incidentally, a billion thanks are due to Dr. Carter Kaplan, who immediately accepted to publish the book for International Authors. He even collaborates as the final editor – and a very careful and clever one, at that: I've nicknamed him “American Sniper.”
PML: Once Il Mondo Creato, is finished, what'll your next project be?
DR: To trust in God.
PML: No, seriously!
DR: Is there anything more serious than that?! Ask Tasso. But to go flatly professional, I have a dream, rather than a project: To switch full-time to illustration and design. Se son rose, fioriranno. “If these sticks happen to be roses, it will be shown in their blooming.”