Sunday, November 17, 2013

The final translation

My favorite translator, William Weaver, has died at 90:
Deft in handling a variety of writing styles, from Calvino’s delicacy of language to Mr. Eco’s show-offy erudition, Mr. Weaver was prolific. He translated dozens of books, a dozen by Calvino alone, including “Invisible Cities,” which posits descriptive and philosophical conversations between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, and a collection of short stories, “Cosmicomics,” for which Mr. Weaver won a National Book Award for translation in 1969....

Even a partial list of the writers Mr. Weaver translated — which includes Alberto Moravia, Eugenio Montale, Oriana Fallaci, Ugo Moretti, Carlo Emilio Gadda, Elsa Morante, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Italo Svevo — is, as Mr. Botstein wrote, “nothing short of astonishing.”

Mr. Weaver talked about his work in a 2000 interview in The Paris Review. “Some of the hardest things to translate into English from Italian are not great big words, such as you find in Eco, but perfectly simple things, buon giorno for instance,” he said. “How to translate that? We don’t say ‘good day,’ except in Australia. It has to be translated ‘good morning,’ or ‘good evening,’ or ‘good afternoon’ or ‘hello.’

“You have to know not only the time of day the scene is taking place, but also in which part of Italy it’s taking place,” he continued, “because in some places they start saying buona sera — ‘good evening’ — at 1 p.m. The minute they get up from the luncheon table it’s evening for them. So someone could say buona sera, but you can’t translate it as ‘good evening’ because the scene is taking place at 3 p.m. You need to know the language, but, even more, the life of the country.”
What an epic and productive literary career. I think my next fiction read will have to be one of his translations of Eco or Calvino. That being said, having required several days and multiple consultations of dictionaries and native speakers alike to puzzle out a single Italian word coined by Eco, (celodurismo, in this case), I find it very difficult to accept that the simple words are harder.

Then again, I suppose it's a lot easier when you can actually ask the great man what he was thinking when he coined it.



Anonymous Idle Spectator November 17, 2013 8:06 AM  

What a tangled web we weave.

Anonymous Idle Spectator November 17, 2013 8:07 AM  

That weave that now takes it's leave.

Anonymous Salt November 17, 2013 8:07 AM  

I wonder how he'd have handled trashy English women-speak, ghetto talk, or redneck into Italian. Sometimes translation has to be a nightmare.

Anonymous English Spectator November 17, 2013 8:15 AM  

Ah bollocks, the trashy English is not that bad you tosser. Even when having a chin wag with the girls up-market, after a piss-up for some serious quid.

Anonymous Idle Spectator Jackson November 17, 2013 8:16 AM  

what the fuk dawg? it aint ghetto it ebonics

we be oficial now n shit

Blogger sykes.1 November 17, 2013 8:23 AM  

You might like Mandelbaum's translation of Dante.

Anonymous Appalachian Spectator November 17, 2013 8:25 AM  

You sure a quare'un Salt. Pass me some of them cornpone.

Road was all sigogglin from the storm with the skift. I could not make it to the store a piece back yonder for them groceries.

Anonymous jg1 November 17, 2013 9:16 AM  

OT: Scientistry of the Higgs-Boson. Thought you might like this.

Anonymous Sensei November 17, 2013 9:16 AM  

Purely out of linguistic curiosity and not a background in Italian, did you eventually decide on an English gloss for celodurismo? Or is it one of those words that needs a phrase to explain it?

Anonymous buzzcut November 17, 2013 9:31 AM  

celodurismo m (pl: celodurismi )

(neologism) (politics) tendency to approach a decision, presumptuous and arrogant to politics
(by extension) tendency to a voluntarist approach, presumptuous and arrogant to life

Hyph.png Hyphenation

EC | the | du | ri | smo

Nuvola apps edu languages.png Pronunciation

IPA: /' ʧelodu/rizmo
Nuvola kdict glass.pngEtymology / Derivation

abstract format using univerbizzazione from ce l'ho duro (popular phrase for "I'm in a State of erection"), used since the 90 's, the leader of the Northern League, Umberto Bossi, to indicate, with a slang lexicon, a specific claim "manly" of his party

Anonymous buzzcut November 17, 2013 9:42 AM  

Oops - credit to

<a href=">Italian Wikipedia</a>

Anonymous allyn71 November 17, 2013 9:56 AM  

RIP Mr. Weaver.

Anonymous VD November 17, 2013 10:31 AM  

Purely out of linguistic curiosity and not a background in Italian, did you eventually decide on an English gloss for celodurismo?

Yes, I eventually figured it out. But this was LONG before Wikipedia had the definition quoted by Buzzcut. It's from Umberto Bossi and his habit of saying "c'e l'ho duro". Which basically means "I got a hard one".

Anonymous 445supermag November 17, 2013 11:26 AM  

VD, have you an opinion on Stephen Sartarelli, translator of the Il commissario Montalbano books? According to wikipedia, he and Weaver shared translation credit on at least one project.

Anonymous VD November 17, 2013 11:30 AM  

I do not, sorry. I haven't read them.

Anonymous bob k. mando November 17, 2013 12:14 PM  

you're pretty fluent in Italian and you WANT to read the English translation?

what's your primary purpose in this? as a sort of commentary on the original Italian? to hone your own comprehension?

Anonymous kh123 November 17, 2013 2:23 PM  

Much respect to anyone who delves that deeply into a language other than their own.

Anonymous VD November 17, 2013 2:58 PM  

you're pretty fluent in Italian and you WANT to read the English translation?

Have you ever read Eco in English? Well, it's not any easier in Italian... for native-Italian speakers. I read La misteriosa fiamma della regina Loanna in Italian and it was difficult. So, while I can handle reading a slim Calvino novel in the original, a full-blown Eco novel takes more intellectual energy than I can spare right now.

Anonymous Difster November 17, 2013 3:13 PM  

So the translator has become the translated.

Blogger mmaier2112 November 17, 2013 6:33 PM  

Sheesh... I hope someday I can read novels written in either German or Italian. That would be pretty sweet.

Anonymous kfg November 21, 2013 7:51 AM  

I adore Eco. I am awestruck at Weaver's translations, I am a Bard alumnus and thus was acquainted with him in passing, and now in passing.

My world grows ever darker.

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