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Issue 14 – Christmas 2022

Arts and Letters

Most Shameful Excesses

On Alessandro Manzoni.


The Betrothed
Alessandro Manzoni (Translated by Michael F. Moore)
Modern Library, pp. 704, $28.99

Alessandro Manzoni’s novel I promessi sposi (usually translated into English as The Betrothed) was first published in 1827 and is celebrated as both the first modern Italian novel and one of the greatest literary works in the Catholic tradition. If you cannot understand Italian, you should read Archibald Colquhoun’s stylish 1951 translation (reprinted in 2013 by Everyman’s Library). Other, more recent versions may be more accurate; but Colquhoun’s version feels and sounds like Manzoni in ways that its successors rarely do. In 1954, Colquhoun followed up his translation with Manzoni and His Times: A Biography of the Author of The Betrothed. There is no more readable introduction to Manzoni in English. Colquhoun was not a Catholic; like many of Manzoni’s twentieth-century champions he was skeptical of Christianity. This leads him to highlight material that many of Manzoni’s more orthodox apologists would prefer to ignore.

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About the author

Jaspreet Singh Boparai

Jaspreet Singh Boparai is a former academic.