Friday 30 January 2009

“The wee carafe timmit down till the dregs.” (Robert Garioch after Belli)

The beauty of Italian events is that there’s always a lot of food and good wines at the end of them – which perhaps explains why we had a full house at the Italian Institute of Edinburgh yesterday for the launch of our new edition of Boccaccio’s Decameron. It was a good event: the three speakers kept to twenty minutes exactly, delivering a brilliant, informative talk. JG Nichols touched on some of the main challenges of translating the Decameron, Prof. Jon Usher put this work in the context of Boccaccio’s career, while Prof. Ó Cuilleanáin (pron. O’Kooinoin) provided a short history of some of the previous translations of the Decameron, starting from the 1620 one, attributed to John Florio. The highlight of the talk was when JG Nichols, to explain Boccaccio’s warped humour in a particular passage, mentioned the Yiddish joke of the boy who is about to be sentenced for killing his parents and asks the judge to be lenient on the ground that he is an orphan.

After some stuzzichini at the Institute – which included olive ascolane and farfalle al sugo – a couple of cabs whizzed us over to Giuliano’s, a restaurant that wouldn’t look out of place on Piazza Dante in Naples. On the way to our table, I walked past the usual trio of fat Mafioso-looking guys that you’ll find in any respectable Italian restaurant abroad – only this time one of them nodded his hello to me as if he’d known me for a long time. Obviously I craned my neck in and walked on with nonchalance.

The food, the wines and the company were excellent – and the English people around the table spoke flawless Italian, which was a joy to my ears – but after an hour I had to leave for my dinner with Mike Stocks. Mike is one of our best authors, and he has promised that he will contribute to Bloggerel in due course. He has also started a blog for The Elephant House, one of the cafés where JK Rowling is rumoured to have written her Harry Potter books. Our dinner was at Lazy Lohan’s, 158 Canongate. It’s a lovely little place, but for the first half of our meal we’d have renamed it “Loud Lohan” or “Clumsy Lohan”, on account of two preposterously noisy tables and the staff’s almost metronomic dropping of cutlery, glasses and dishes. The food and the wine, however, were delicious, and if you are into “slow food” and don’t want to pay extortionate prices for it, then I suggest you pay this bistro a visit next time you are in Edinburgh.

After the meal, we went to a nearby wine bar for a night-cap. We were really good boys, and were home just before midnight.

I was glad, this morning, to read the feature on John Calder in The Bookseller, and a good TLS review of Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli’s Sonnets, which Mike and I spent more than two years working on.

In both cases, better late than never.


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