Norman Thomas di Giovanni  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Norman Thomas di Giovanni (born 1933) is an American-born editor and translator known for his collaboration with Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges.



Di Giovanni was born in Newton, Massachusetts in 1933 and was named after Norman Thomas, leader of the American Socialist Party.He graduated from Antioch College in 1955. Over the next ten years, he collaborated with the Spanish poet Jorge Guillén, then on the faculty of Wellesley College, as editor of a collection of translations in English of fifty of Guillén's poems by eleven translator-poets including di Giovanni himself. The collection was published in 1965 as Cántico: a Selection.

Di Giovanni first met Borges in 1967 while the latter was the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University. Di Giovanni proposed that they collaborate in publishing an edition of Borges's poems in a manner similar to the Cántico selection. Twelve translator-poets were involved, including John Updike who worked from a literal translation by di Giovanni. First published on several occasions in The New Yorker, the translations appeared in book form in 1972 as Selected Poems, 1923-1967 with the Spanish and English versions on facing pages.

After Borges returned to Buenos Aires he invited di Giovanni to join him there and begin working with him on English versions of ten of his books. The first product of this collaboration, The Book of Imaginary Beings, was published by E.P. Dutton and Company in 1969. An account of their collaboration appears in Di Giovanni's 2003 book The Lesson of the Master.

In an interview at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in April 1980, Borges stated that Norman Thomas di Giovanni claimed his translations were better than Borges's originals.<ref>Borges at Eighty: Conversations. Willis Barnstone, Ed. Indiana University Press, 1982.</ref>

After Borges's death, his widow Maria Kodama renegotiated the English translation rights for his works. In particular, she terminated a longstanding agreement between Borges and di Giovanni under which royalties for a number of translations on which they collaborated were divided equally between author and translator. New translations by Andrew Hurley were commissioned and published to replace the di Giovanni translations, which were allowed to go out of print.<ref></ref>

Di Giovanni also wrote the novel Novecento, published in the US and UK as 1900, based on the similarly titled film by Bernardo Bertolucci.<ref>Di Giovanni, Novecento (Milano: Euroclub, 1977)ISBN 0-440-16203-3</ref>


Translations of Borges

  • The Congress (1974)




  • Di Giovanni, Norman Thomas, The Lessons of the Master: On Borges and His Work (London: Continuum, 2003)
  • Brown, Kimberly, 'In Borges' Shadow'
  • di Giovanni's website which defends his view on the controversy regarding his translations.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Norman Thomas di Giovanni" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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