Ugly Duckling Presse

The History of Violets
The History of Violets

Marosa di Giorgio

translated by Jeannine Marie Pitas

Poetry | $15 $13
Out of Print"[A] fascinating blend of beautiful description and disturbing narrative."

Originally published in 1965, The History of Violets (Historial de las violetas) twists the familiar face of a family farm, populating the fields and grounds with gods, monsters, and a whole "foamy army" of extras. Di Giorgio—whom Kent Johnson hails as "one of the most spectacular and strange Latin American poets of the past fifty years"—locks the natural and supernatural in a perilous dance, balancing humor and violence, beauty and danger, simple childhood memory and complex domestic drama. With disarming grace, these poems leave the reader swirling about, among the flowers, where no one is safe.

Excerpt ˇ


I remember nightfall and your room's open door, through which the neighbors and the angels came in. And the clouds—November evening clouds, drifting in circles over the land. The trees filled with droplets of water, burdened with jasmines and doves. That joyous pealing, endless chirping—every evening the same.

And then the next morning, with its dead angels littered over the ground like paper birds, or the most exquisite of eggshells.

Your dazzling death.

Close ˆ

About the Author

Marosa di Giorgio
Born in Salto, Uruguay, and raised on her family's farm, Marosa di Giorgio (1932-2004) is one of the most prominent Uruguayan poets of the twentieth century. Di Giorgio began writing in her childhood and published her first book of poems at the age of twenty-two. She then went on to publish a total of fourteen books of poetry, three collections of short stories, and one novel. While some critics have categorized her as a surrealist, she herself denied membership in any literary movement or school. Although she was relatively unknown outside the Southern Cone during her lifetime, she is now becoming more and more widely read throughout Latin America and Europe.

About the Translator

Jeannine Marie Pitas

Jeannine Marie Pitas is a writer, teacher, and Spanish-English literary translator currently living in Dubuque, Iowa, where she teaches at the University of Dubuque. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks and the translator of several Uruguayan poets. She has published translations of acclaimed Uruguayan writer Marosa di Giorgio's work, The History of Violets (UDP) and I Remember Nightfall (UDP), and her own first full-length poetry collection, Things Seen and Unseen, is forthcoming from Quattro Books.

Advance Praise

There is no doubt at this point that Marosa di Giorgio is one of the greatest Latin American writers of the twentieth century. Her work, which cuts across all genres, has opened up new avenues for poetry and prose alike. Her incomparable world and style both come alive in this translation by Jeannine Marie Pitas. It was high time for American readers to have access to this and other precious jewels di Giorgio grew in her magnificent garden.—Mercedes Roffé
Drawn by memory, the narrator advances through the realm of childhood, unearthing from the family orchard in the deep Uruguayan countryside a perplexing landscape of becomings.... It is not strictly the sinister that speaks in these startling texts, but the condensation of the marvelous and the sinister, skillfully noted between dashes, like perfume in a bottle.—Lila Zemborain
Di Giorgio’s delicately extravagant poems loosely weave free verse and traditional Spanish meters to yield an unrestrained movement between the human and the animal, the overtly sensual and the intimately painful, the diaphanous underside of nature and the blunt cruelty of Uruguay’s military dictatorships.—ANNA DEENEY
There’s a lot at stake here, namely the opportunity for a new generation of American poets to take di Giorgio as a model for wresting the “poetry of witness” away from humanism’s easy faith in testimony and remembering that the imagination is the organ of compassion.—Farid Matuk
Jeanine Marie Pitas does an excellent job translating di Giorgio, and she should be commended for bringing us the work of such a strange and wonderful poet.—Daniel Borzutzky, Asymptote
The History of Violets is a fascinating blend of beautiful description and disturbing narrative. Di Giorgio's style emerges as precise and haunting in Pitas's skilled translation.—