Soranzio
One Name for Three Nations
by Massimo Soranzio

Here I am, a family around me
that is no longer there, no longer mine —
but I’ll come back to that some other time,
the point here is how I came by my name.

Marco, the first choice, was soon discarded:
my parents’ friends had used it for their son;
Stefano, not bad and still not taken,
did not convince my mother (so she said.)

No middle name was chosen, so that’s it:
my first name is the third they came up with —
a vowel sequence and the same stressed vowel
as in my father’s surname: A, i, o.

About my surname there’s much more to tell:
not quite the same my father was born with,
it is linked to the history of this place,
to a family’s lost origins and pride.

Without that ‘i’ the family had been
Venetian for centuries, and boasting
a Doge in the Fourteenth Century,
a glorious past fated to become myth.

Then the so-called Great Liberator came,
Napoleon, who at Campo Formio
dissolved the millennium-long Republic:
the next day my family was Austrian.

In the course of the Nineteenth Century
the name lost all its import and prestige,
and what more than birth records could prove that?
The first sign was the loss of the last ‘o.’

The first ‘o’ succumbed, too, turned into ‘a,’
and that explains how after the Great War,
no longer Austrian, but Italian now,
my great-grandfather bore a ‘foreign’ name.

The blind and brutish nationalism
of Italy in the Thirties dictated
the Italianization of all names
sounding German, or Slavic, or other.

One fateful morning, my father told me,
a shy and blushing schoolchild, he stood up
in class, and said: Signora Maestra,
as of today, I’ll be called Soranzio.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author, surrounded by his mother, father, and elder sister at home in Gorizia, Italy (1963).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The story of my family’s name is one I often happen to tell people, also because it is even more complex than I have made it here. What has always fascinated me of my family’s history is the fact that it has reflected the changing times in its name: Soranzo for centuries, in the Republic of Venice, then Soranz/Saranz in the Austrian interlude, the 19th century, ending up with the Italianization of a name that only ‘sounded’ foreign to its present form, Soranzio.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Massimo Soranzio writes on the northern Adriatic coast of Italy, about 20 miles from Trieste. He teaches English as a foreign language and English literature in a high school, and has been a journalist, a translator, and a freelance lecturer on Modernist literature and literary translation. He took part in the Found Poetry Review‘s National Poetry Month challenges Oulipost (2014) and PoMoSco (2015). He posts some of his found and constraint-based poetry on his blog, massimosoranzio.tumblr.com.