Literary Islands: Salvatore Quasimodo


If I could take only one emblematic book with me from Sicily, I’d defiantly choose Salvatore Quasimodo’s complete poetical works.

One of Sicily’s Primo Nobel’s in Literature, Quasimodo illustrates all the colours of his native island. His lifetime’s work, themes and forms span from sparse expressive poetry, experimental pieces, poems inspired by mythology, politically charged works, recollections from childhood, melancholic epigrams, the migrant experience, translation of ancient Greek lyrics, sketches, observations and philosophy of his beloved Sicily.


Quasimodo’s poetical world is melancholic, tinged with emotions like regret, fueled by themes such as love and death. He creates a natural world which is as tangible as any physical object.

Reading Quasimodo is a visceral experience, his poetry is engulfed by the sensual, each body part reaching out to create a connection between the language and the reader. He can paint the emotions of a certain time and place in a few vivid words, who resonate so profoundly they stay with you forever.

The beauty of Quasimodo’s poetry is how it can be so ephemeral and contrasting, he is an enthralling artist. Quasimodo is ancient, timeless, filled with religion whether is be in prayers, saints or pagan mythology. His poetry finds it’s home in the space between darkness and light, his poetry exists in the forgotten shadows of Sicily.

My favourite poem of his is Ed e’ subito sera (Suddenly it’s the evening) it always reminds me about the brevity and immutable nature of life. I’ve contemplated having it tattooed on me, it’s certainly short enough!


Ognuno sta solo sul cuor della terra

trafitto da un raggio di sole:

ed e’subito sera.

(Everyone is alone at the heart of the earth, pierced by a ray of sunshine;

and suddenly it’s evening. )

Translated by A. S. Kline © 2012


The most well known English translation of Quasimodo’s complete works is currently out of print but I am delighted to share an e-text available of his selected poems on Project Gutenberg here.

It seems like a good translation and if you feel guilty not paying why not make a donation to the Project Gutenberg project which brings us access to literally thousands of out of print books and classics from all around the world!

(Images from Google)

More about Salvatore Quasimodo here and including his Nobel Lecture here.