From translating literature to translating Loredana [the sixth hidden tale]

La mia introduzine all’edizione inglese di Storie d’Amore Inventato di Loredana De Vitis (ilmiolibro.it), che ho avuto il piacere e l’onore (e lo stress) di curare.

From translating literature to translating Loredana [the sixth hidden tale]

Translating a literary work means rewriting it.
Rewriting Loredana is almost impossible.

To edit and to tailor the English edition of “five stories on the love we made [up]” has meant matching these two apparently irreconcilable ideas. That’s why the translating challenge started with the choice of the official translator (Caroline Miranda Feetam). She was not just a translator here but a careful and patience observer and listener. In order to translate Loredana, it was compulsory to “study” Loredana, her literature, her personal imaginary linked not just to this collection of tales but to everything she’s been writing and doing up to now. For Loredana, as a matter of fact, each word has an exact meaning, it’s never just a matter of chance. So, this job was a kind of crossroads where two languages and a personality had to meet.

As everything has to adapt to Loredana, language is not an exception. So, the work of translation has followed the path: Italian LanguageEnglish Languageshades of imaginative and cultural meaningshades of meaning “Loredana”.

I’ll just illustrate a small example. It took an exchange of and debate over a couple of revisions and e-mails between me and [the very patient and professional] Caroline in order to fully clarify the meaning of the words “wonderful” and “beautiful” for Loredana and her personal artistic path (http://www.iosonobellissima.it/en/). So, we had to think about the reason why we could not translate the word “fichissimo” as “beautiful” when referring to the perfect body of the potential secret lover of the mean husband in “This one has to be set on fire”.

The five stories are written in a metropolitan language that is sometimes very hard to render in another idiom. Language is affected, sometimes its postulates are razed to make way for new shades of meaning. So neologisms take the place of the usual vocabulary, punctuation is undermined and the formal rules demolished. Like it often happens in new chats and spoken language. Like everything in the life and literature of Loredana.

Each language has its strongholds and its rules; when violated, the reader is estranged. But what are the unavoidable rules in the imagination of the reader who reads in English? Translating Loredana also means studying the linguistic ways that lead to the alienation and the loss of the usual sense of things. So, during the translation work, Caroline and I bumped into such requests from the author:

“How strange and unacceptable is the use of I [subject] in lowercase letters?”.
“Very hard to accept”, was the answer.
“Ok, that’s why I want in lowercase letters”, was the conclusion.

Moreover, the translation was not just thought up for the “English speaking people’s imaginary” but also for the e-book reader from all over the world. This implied other priorities in the choice of the language and meanings. For instance, we decided to turn the Italian “sugo [sauce]” into a more international term “potatoes”, in order to give to every reader the idea of the attention the character of “This one has to be set on fire” has to put into such a triviality like common cooking instead of changing her life.

It’s a shame the reader cannot read all the comments and variations made in the translation process, both for the tales and the titles. But that’s just another [translation] story. Maybe the very sixth hidden tale of this collection. (Sabrina Barbante)

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