His: Poets In A Landscape
A second aspect of the book is the poetry. Highet gives his own translations from the poets. I think he's a sensitive and strong translator, with a real feel for the metrics. He's also an enormously civilized individual, quoting Eliot or Pound or Tennyson appropriately. For instance he cites Tennyson's witty 'Hendecasyllabics' in discussing Catullus. Highet isn't known as a translator, but based on this he could have been.
The weak link in the book is the criticism of the poetry. It's not exactly wrong, but it's terribly flat-footed. It wouldn't have been out of place in the Victorian era, but Highet was born in 1906. It's possible to read his criticism for amusement, but that's about all. Highet has the grace to quote Yeats' poem 'The Scholars' but doesn't manage to escape its mockery of 'bald heads forgetful of their sins' reading Catullus.
It would be a wonderful book to take with (or read in advance) should you be able to take a trip to Italy. ***Heavy sigh***
Highet dedicated his book to his 'Travelling Companion'. Turns out she was writing a book, too.
Hers: North From Rome
I probably read North From Rome when I was teenager, but if so I didn't remember it, and it felt blissfully new.
The American Bill Lammiter has written one hit play. He's there for rewrites in New York during the production; he goes to Hollywood to consult because they're going to make it into a movie. His fiancée Eleanor Halley has broken it off with him because of his unavailability and has subsequently announced she's going to marry an Italian count.
The novel starts with Bill living in a Roman hotel on the Via Vittorio Veneto, near the Pincian Gate. He's been there four months, making no progress either on his next play or in winning Eleanor back, and he's thinking about chucking it all and heading back to the U.S.
Late that very night, smoking on his balcony, he sees a man jump out of a car and attack a pretty Italian girl. He yells, they run off, and our story is off, too. Pretty great.
It was amusing to read them together. At one point Bill visits a professor staying at the American Academy in Rome. Well, Highet in his acknowledgements gives thanks to the American Academy in Rome. I imagine Gilbert looking for signs of Propertius' farm in the countryside near Perugia, while Helen was there pacing off a possible shoot-out between Bill Lammiter and some Communist goons.
Her dedication also reads, "To my travelling companion."