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Thursday, September 18, 2014 | Last updated: 2:41am

Poetry reading translated from Italian shows another side of WWII



Gamma Kappa Alpha, a national Italian honorary society, is holding a poetry reading, translated from Italian by a faculty member and student, to show students a side of World War II rarely talked about.

Beppe Cavatorta, an associate professor in Italian and director of the Basic Italian Language program, and Brenna Ward, a senior studying Italian, classics and music began translating Emilio Zucchi’s “Le midolla del male” — “The marrow of evil” — last semester after Ward wanted to be more involved in a class of Cavatorta’s that she was auditing, according to Cavatorta.

The class, taught in the spring of 2012, concerned the resistance war in Italy during World War II, and “The marrow of evil” was the perfect poem to translate as a project outside of class, Cavatorta said, adding that it deals with one of the most famous fascist torturers and a partisan woman who was tortured and killed.

The victim, Anna Maria Enriques Agnoletti, was tortured by Pietro Koch, who was notorious for his anti-partisan activity and was later convicted and executed by the Allied High Court for his violent acts during the war. According to Cavatorta, “The marrow of evil” follows Koch and Enriques until the former’s eventual execution.

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“You have a window open on Italian culture, true literature in this case – Italian poetry – but also on a historical event,” Cavatorta said of the poem. “It was very important … and an aspect that not everybody knows about.”

He also added that while the poem may deal with somber topics, discussion of it is important to remember along with other tragic events during the war, such as the Holocaust.

“When you have something that is totally atrocious happening, to talk about it is a good way not to forget,” Cavatorta said. “I think this is the lesson that in many cases is given to us by scholars about the Holocaust, and is actually relevant to the Holocaust as well, because Maria Enriques … was actually a Jew, that during the year decided to convert to the catholic religion in order to avoid the persecution that unfortunately she was not able to avoid.”

There is a positive message at the end of the poem, Cavatorta said, reminding readers that there is good in everyone.

“[In] the last stanzas, there is some hope,” he said. “Because we have the voice of Maria Enriques in this last part, praying that maybe there was a spark of love in something that [Koch] actually did.”
Aside from what students can learn from the poem, Cavatorta said he also hopes the event in general serves as an example of what undergraduates are capable of.

“[The event] is a little bit different because it’s open to the whole campus, and it’s also sponsored by a University of Arizona grant, a student-faculty interaction grant,” Cavatorta said. “It’s a good example to show that it’s possible to have an active collaboration between an undergrad student and a professor. You don’t necessarily need to be a graduate student, but you can do something if you have the passion, the willingness to work.”

Copper room of the Student Union Memorial Center, tomorrow from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

Jason Krell is the Copy chief. He can be reached at arts@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @Jason_Krell.


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