Peter Blum and Italy: ‘Italië het ons aangegryp’
Early readers of the two volumes of verse—Steenbok tot poolsee (“Capricorn to Polar Sea”, 1955) and Enklaves van die lig (“Enclaves of the Light”, 1958)—of Peter Blum (1925–90) recognised his original and distinctive grasp of Afrikaans, although he was not a native speaker, and acknowledged that his work brought to the language a strong sense of European culture and history. Within that Europeanness, the Italian dimension of Blum’s work is explored here. There are some biographical sources for the sensitivity to and knowledge of Italy revealed in the poetry. This paper explores particularly Blum’s “Kaapse sonnette” (“Cape Sonnets”), versions of some of the Sonetti Romaneschi of G. G. Belli (1791–1863), transposed to Cape Town of the 1950s, and “Die klok in die newel: ’n narrasie in twee episodes” (“The Bell in the Mist: A Narration in Two Episodes”), an autobiographical mini-epic that brings together Blum’s adolescence and young manhood in an account of his calling as a poet. Although Blum chose Afrikaans as his poetic medium, and rejected his native German, his embrace of Italy was largely mediated by his reading of Goethe.
Keywords: Afrikaans poetry, G. G. Belli, Italy, J. W. von Goethe, Kaaps (Afrikaans language variety), Peter Blum, Sonetti Romaneschi.