Fabio Pusterla was born in Mendrisio, Switzerland in 1957. He received his laurea degree in modern literature from the University of Pavia. He lives and works between Lombardy and Lugano, where he teaches Italian language and literature in a high school.
In addition to being a poet, Fabio Pusterla is an active translator (Philippe Jaccottet, Yves Bonnefoy, Nicolas Bouvier, André Frénaud, Guillevic, Nuno Júdice, Corinna Bille Maurice Chappaz, Eugenio De Andrade, Benjamin Fondane, Jean-Luc Nancy) and essayist. He was among the founders of the literary magazine Idra, published in Milan by Marcos y Marcos, and he edited the anthology of contemporary French poetry Nel pieno giorno dell’oscurità (In the Full Day of Obscurity, Milan, Marcos y Marcos, 2000). He writes for newspapers and magazines in Switzerland and Italy. Some of the literary awards that he has won are: the Montale Award, the Schiller Award, the Prezzolini Award, and the Lionello Fiumi Award.
One of the recurring characteristics of his poetic production – which has nonetheless evolved throughout the years from both a formal and thematic point of view – is a close contact with reality. This reality is not only filtered exclusively from a historical-cultural point of view (even though there often emerges a strong ethical tension in his work) but also in its more brutally ‘object’ and material condition. In this sense, Pusterla takes up the discourse initiated in Italy by Eugenio Montale and before him by Guido Gozzano (with his “little things without importance”) and in Anglo-Saxon countries by Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot. Nevertheless, while in the case of Eliot and Montale there was a preventive ‘selection’ of the materials subject to the poet’s regard and perception, Pusterla’s ‘nominalism’ – to use the words of Mattia Cavadini – brings him to observe the objects that surround him (even the most apparently marginal or squalid) through a glance that neither censors nor selects, but becomes the only true intermediary of his poetic writing. It is not the poet, therefore, who makes objects speak: on the contrary, it is the things themselves that narrate stories, evoke memories and even denounce misdeeds. It is up to the poet to be the vehicle, while avoiding any concession to hypertrophic individualism of a romantic sort. This corresponds to a gradual withdrawal of the lyrical self, which does not disappear but becomes almost like an invisible intermediary between the objects that surround it (pure matter) and the various problems or questions that are dealt with (the poetic message).
This interest for “things without history” (from the title of a 1994 collection) and for landscapes that are reproduced without concessions to expressionism is surely due to the influence of another poet, Philippe Jaccottet, for whom Pusterla is the (almost) official translator in Italy. Both poets come from Switzerland, a territory and a landscape that is on the border. They both conceive of nature not as a subject and a picture to be painted but as an infinite source of inspiration the more it is perceived without psychological intermediations or individual (and individualistic) conditioning. In the face of nature the poet disappears, in order to annul himself and let the objects themselves speak: “This is what I am: nothing/I want what I am: strongly,” affirms Pusterla. Therein derives the ‘epiphanic character of the landscape that filtered with no discrimination or preventive selection, reveals the sense of being in a mystic key. “Everything, through its firm, sober, marvellously learned voice, is always at the same time everyday, close, true and vast, real and nonetheless mysterious.” This is how Philippe Jaccottet speaks of poetry to the younger Pusterla.
Even the previously unpublished short sequence of poems that we present here belongs to this type of poetic quest, although ‘Stories of the Armadillo’, which was born of almost casual circumstances, has a progression that appears distant from Pusterla’s other works. But once you begin to penetrate the text it quickly becomes evident that beyond the simplicity of an unadorned, ingenuous and at times almost infantile vocabulary, the poem assumes a tone that is “vaguely allegorical” – as the author himself writes in his notes to the text. Behind this tone, albeit in a more derisive and bitterly amused way, can be found that same “painful awareness of not being able to assume a central position with respect to the world and events” (Vitaniello Bonito) that is present in his other works.
The armadillo, this rebel without extremism, slow, cowardly and armoured, with his short-sightedness and his delicious, protected flesh, proceeds alone, against the tide, one step after the other, reads Cervantes, and has a modest future. His steps, though vague, are still going somewhere, as he waits for happier times, because the armadillo knows that hope is not entirely impossible. It is in this vague allegory, in this obscure heroism of the everyday that goes unnoticed by History with a capital ‘H’, that the ultimate sense of reality can be found, together with a lesson in noble humanity and great poetry.
Concessione all’inverno (Concession to Winter), preface by M. Corti, Casagrande, Bellinzona, 1985
Bocksten, Marcos y Marcos, Milan, 1989
Sotto il giardino (Under the Garden), La Suisse Assurances, Lausanne, 1992
Le cose senza storia (Things Without History), Marcos y Marcos, Milan, 1994;
Danza macabra (Macabre Dance), LietoColle, Camnago, 1995
Bandiere di carta (Paper Flags), Fabrizio Mugnaini, Scandicci, 1996 Isla persa (Lost Island), Il Salice, Locarno, 1997
Laghi e oltre (Lakes and Beyond), with Alida Airaghi and Anna Felder, LietoColle, Camnago, 1999
Pietra sangue (Blood Stone), Marcos y Marcos, Milan, 1999
Pietre (Stones), lithographs by Massimo Cavalli, Sassello, Novazzano, 2001
Ipotesi sui castori (Hypotheses on Beavers), Flussi Edizioni, Valmadrera, 2002
Movimenti sull’acqua (Movements on the Water), with drawings by A. Ferrario, LietoColle, Camnago, 2003
Sette frammenti dalla terra di nessuno (Seven Fragments from No-Man’s Land), edited by V. Girelli, graphic elaboration by L. Schizzi, Flussi Edizioni, Valmadrera, 2003
Folla sommersa (Submerged Crowd), Marcos y Marcos, Milan, 2004
Philippe Jaccottet, Il barbagianni. L’ignorante (The Fool. The Ignorant One), with an essay by Jean Starobinski, Einaudi, Turin, 1992
Nuno Judice, Adagio, Ripatransone, Sestante, 1994
Philippe Jaccottet, Libretto, Marcos y Marcos, Milano, 1995
Philippe Jaccottet, Edera e calce (Ivy and Lime), Ancona, 1995
Philippe Jaccottet, Paesaggio con figure assenti (Landscape With Absent Figures), Dadò, Locarno, 1996
Corinna Bille, Piccole storie crudeli (Little Cruel Stories) Casagrande, Bellinzona, 2001
Philippe Jaccottet, Austria, Bollati Boringhieri, Turin, 2003
Philippe Jaccottet, Alla luce d’inverno. Pensieri sotto le nuvole (In the Light of Winter. Thoughts Under the Snow), Marcos y Marcos, Milan, 1997
Philippe Jaccottet, Note dal botro, seguite da E, tuttavia (Notes from the Deep Ditch, followed by And, Still), Marcos y Marcos, Milan, 2006
Translations of Pusterla’s works into other languages
Me voici là dans le noir, in Achevé d’imprimer, translation by Mathilde Vischer, Empreintes, Lausanne, 2001
Une voix pour le noir. Poésies 1985-1999, translation by Mathilde Vischer, preface by Philippe Jaccottet, Éditions d’En bas, Lausanne, 2001
Deux rives, translation by Philippe Jaccottet e Béatice de Jurquet, Cheyne, Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, 2002
Les choses sans histoire, translation by Mathilde Vischer, preface by M. Cavadini, Empreintes, Lausanne, 2002
Solange Zeit bleibt. Dum vacat, translation by Hanno Halbing, afterword by Massimo Raffaelli, Limmat Verlag, Zürich, 2002
Stvari bez istorije, translation by D. Ilic, Radbooks, Beograd, 2003
/>An interview with Fabio Pusterla by Mathilde Vischer