Question: Can you provide more information about the embassy’s activities in commemoration of the death anniversary of the renowned Italian poet Dante Alighieri?

Italian Ambassador to Vietnam Antonio Alessandro: We have partnered with the Voice of Vietnam to organize a poetry program in May to honor Dante Alighieri, the author of one of the most celebrated works of world literature, “The Divine Comedy.”

Prior to this, we held a digital exhibition called “Inferno V” in Hanoi from late March to early April. This exhibition showcased a wide range of images, videos, and narrations that provided visitors with an immersive experience of “The Divine Comedy.”

In October, as part of the Week of the Italian Language in the World, which is celebrated in the third week of October, we will collaborate with the Social Sciences Publishing House to reprint the Vietnamese version of “The Divine Comedy” translated by Prof. Nguyen Van Hoan. We have also reached out to the Hanoi University Faculty of Italian Language and the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Literature to publish articles on Dante Alighieri’s works in Vietnamese.

These events have received significant support from Italians living in Vietnam and various Italian corporations operating in the country.

Prof. Nguyen Van Hoan’s translation of “The Divine Comedy,” initially introduced in 2009 by the Italian Embassy in Vietnam, is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, accurate, and elaborate translation of the Italian work to date. Previously, excerpts of “The Divine Comedy” were translated into Vietnamese by Professor Le Tri Vien and poet Khuong Huu Dung. What are your thoughts on these translation projects?

I am deeply impressed by the dedication and profound understanding demonstrated by the three Vietnamese translators. Translating “The Divine Comedy” requires not only fluency in the Italian language but also a profound knowledge of Italian culture in order to fully capture the “voice,” verse, and content of the work in Vietnamese. I am grateful for their efforts, which have contributed immensely to both our country and Vietnam.

In this reissue of the Vietnamese version of “The Divine Comedy” translated by Professor Nguyen Van Hoan, we plan to include an article discussing what motivated the three translators to introduce an Italian work to Vietnamese readers, as well as the differences in their translation styles.

The leaders of the Dante Alighieri Society, an organization established in 1889 to preserve Dante’s legacy and promote the Italian language worldwide, have also had the opportunity to meet with Prof. Nguyen Van Hoan. During his lifetime, the Vietnamese professor also had business trips to Italy. In 2002, he was awarded the Italian Order of Merit in recognition of his contributions to promoting and increasing the influence of Dante in Asia.

I would also like to express my gratitude for the support of Dean Tran Thanh Quyet of the Italian Language Faculty at Hanoi University, who also serves as the Director of the Dante Alighieri Society in Vietnam.

An artwork on display at the digital exhibition “Inferno V” in Hanoi from late March to early April, commemorating the 700th anniversary of the death of the great Italian poet Dante Alighieri. (Photo: VNA)

Which Vietnamese literary work has impressed you the most?

Vietnamese literary works have helped me gain a deeper understanding of Vietnam, which greatly assists me in my diplomatic mission. Although I do not speak Vietnamese, I always find ways to keep myself updated on Vietnamese literary works, both past and present. I am particularly intrigued by the process of converting old Nom-script works into Latin script. The Vietnamese literary work that has impressed me the most is “The Tale of Kieu” by the esteemed poet Nguyen Du.

Could you tell us about your plans to promote literary cooperation between Vietnam and Italy?

The Embassy is actively promoting the translation of Italian literary works into Vietnamese by collaborating with various translators and publishers. The most recent Italian work translated into Vietnamese is “The Search for Identity” by Italian writer Luigi Pirandello.

We have also been championing Vietnamese literature in Italy. Most recently, we supported the publication of the Italian version of “An So” (The Unknown), a poetry collection by Vietnamese poet-writer Kieu Bich Hau, as translated by Laura Garavaglia.

I believe that enhancing bilateral cooperation in literature requires an understanding of the languages of both countries. In Vietnam, there are two faculties that teach Italian, namely at Hanoi University and the Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City’s University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

In Italy, we offer Vietnamese language courses at Orientale University in Naples and Ca’ Foscari in Venice. Additionally, we have the Centre for Vietnamese Studies in Turin, led by Sandra Scagliotti.

Through practical initiatives, I hope to facilitate a better mutual understanding of the rich literary heritages of both Vietnam and Italy.

Thank you very much for your insights!