Friday, October 17, 2014

Esperanto and the Italian Subversives

Similar, but not Esperanto.
I don’t know what surprises me more: that there was an Esperanto group just for Italian speakers in New York, or that there was an Italian-Language newspaper in Vermont. It just doesn’t strike me as a place with a large Italian population. But they had the Cronaca sovversiva. Clearly with a name like “Subversive Chronicle,” this was a newspaper of the Italian anarchists of the early twentieth century. Sort of the thing you’d expect to see Sacco and Vanzetti reading.[1] The Library of Congress notes that the place of publication varied in its run from 1903 to 1920. No doubt when Lynn, Massachusetts became too hot for an anarchist publication, the editor packed off to Vermont.

We’ve have several threads here, weaving through the (unlikely) location of Barre, Vermont. Early on, Esperanto was picked up by the labor movement and to a degree it’s still there. The major Esperanto dictionary, Plena Ilustrita Vortaro (Complete Illustrated Dictionary) is published by SAT, the Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda, the World Non-National Association. They’re not just a dictionary publisher; their real goal is just what their name implies. Then there was the thought that in the near future Esperanto would indeed be the common tongue. So if you were an immigrant, why not learn Esperanto? And, of course, with the large immigrant Italian population of New York, why not give Esperanto classes in Italian?

As I noted, the Cronaca sovversiva was an Italian-language newspaper. I’ll be quoting it in Italian first, then I’ll provide a translation (with a little support from Google Translate)[2] If your Italian is better than mine, you can skip the quoted section after this one, if your Italian is worse than mine, you’ll want to skip to it. This appeared in the October 17, 1914 edition.
New York.Pro Esperanto. — Una lingua che si possa facilmente scrivere e parlare da tutti i popoli civili del mondo, quale mezzo ausiliari di intesa tra genti di diversa nazionalità, no è un’utopia. Essa è un realtà che chiunque può constatare.

Innumerevoli sono oramai i giornali, riviste, libri, opuscoli scritti in Esperanto con scopi letterari, sociali, scentifici o commerciali. Oltre quasi tutte le nazioni d’Europa e d’America, anche il Giappone e la China hanno giornali esperantisti.

Il nostro Comitato provvisorio inizierà, a partire dai primi di Novembre, un corso serale gratuito di lingua internazionale Esperanto, per gli italiani di New York.

Coloro che desiderano conoscere lo sviluppo incessante e sorprendente che prese detta lingua e credono utilie impararla si rivolgano
Pro Esperanto, 452 W. 40th St.
That last sentence threw me.
New York.For Esperanto. — A language that you can easily write and speak to all the civilized peoples of the world, as an auxiliary means of understanding between the people of different nationalities, is no utopia. It is a fact that everyone can see.

Now countless newspapers, magazines, books, and pamphlets are witten in Esperanto with literary, social, scientific, or commercial purposes. Additionally, almost all the nations of Europe and America, also Japan and China, have Esperanto newspapers.

Our provisional Committee will begin, starting from the beginning of November, free evening course in the international language of Esperanto for Italians in New York.

Those who wish to learn about the continuing and surprising development that language took, and believe it useful to learn are requested
As often, history has been cruel to the places mentioned on this blog. A quick look at Google Maps shows that the location where Italian anarchists once learned Esperanto is now a bus lot underneath a low overpass. I’m going to guess that the building where Pro Esperanto held its meetings was much like the brick buildings that line the adjacent block of West 40th Street.

There was a follow-up in which the Committee reminded the readers of the Cronaca of their meetings:
New YorkScuola di Esperanto — Il nostro comitato inizierà il preannunziato corso serale gratuito di lingua Internazionale Esperanto venerdì 6 novembre al 350 W. 49 st. primo piano. Il corso sarà completato con circa 25 lezioni che saranno impartite tutti i venerdì successivi da’le ore 8 alle 10. I desiderosi di imparare detta lingua sono pregati di non mancare alle prime lezioni.
Pel comitato Pro Esperanto, S. Nasengo
New YorkEsperanto School — Our committee will begin the announced free evening course in the International language Esperanto on Friday, November 6, at 350 W. 49th St., first floor. The course will be completed after approximately 25 lessons that will be given every successive Friday from 8 to 10 o’clock. Those eager to learn this language are requested not to miss the first lessons.
For the Esperanto committee, S. Nasengo
Esperanto was taught here.
This final article appeared on the 7th of November, which meant anyone reading it had probably already missed the meeting on the 6th. There’s no further discussion of Esperanto in the Cronaca, so we can’t tell how the subversives went at their Esperanto. S. Nasengo doesn’t seem to show up in Amerika Esperantisto, but I have a feeling that he might have felt out of place amidst the members of the Esperanto Association of North America. Of course, that’s a problem for the Esperanto movement generally, since even now there are avid Esperanto speakers that wouldn’t dream of joining one of its organizations.

350 W. 49th Street does still exist. I was able to find the image on Google Maps. It's an old tenement building.

  1. I remember when it was determined that they really were railroaded.  ↩
  2. I speak some Italian, but not so much that I’m going to trust my translation.  ↩

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  1. Auxiliary means (not auxiliary people) :)

    1. Thanks! Corrected! (I also caught another small error.)


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