This is the final part of our interview with Nico Lorenzutti of ROH Press. Thanks again, Nico!
Do you try to stay with very literal translations or give yourself a little room for creativity?
When I first started, my translations were very literal, almost word for word in fact. Respect for the author, his phrasing, his word choice. What I ended up with was a stilted text that did not match the quick pace and energy of the original Italian. I looked at what other translators did and was particularly inspired by Edith Grossman, the translator for Don Quixote and Love in the Time of Cholera. She states that a translation can be faithful to tone, intention, and meaning, but that it can rarely be faithful to words or syntax of the original language for those characteristics are not transferable. So I decided to change my approach and write the way I imagined Salgari would have written the novel today had he been writing in English.
I do at times change or drop small passages from the original text. I’ve removed anachronisms, changed a couple of names and tightened dialogue when it appeared superfluous or overly melodramatic. Salgari’s adventures were all based in places he had never visited, and he drew his information from the travel and scientific journals of his time. Like many of the writers of the late 19th century, he wanted to educate his readers while entertaining them. I check facts, even hunt down his original sources to get an idea of what he read. His information is seldom wrong, but when it is, I correct it. I also look at Spanish, French and German translations to see what other translators have added or omitted. Still any changes I make are always faithful in tone, meaning and intention to the original. I really have no right to tamper with someone else’s story. To my surprise I discovered that in an early French translation of The Mystery of the Black Jungle the translator had added a chapter of his own. He didn’t like the way the story ended and had the hero, Tremal-Naik kill his nemesis, Suyodhana the high priest of the Kali cult. What he didn’t realize was that Suyodhana played a prominent role in the next two novels in the series.
What are some common challenges you face when translating?
Finding the right word. There are times when I can translate a chapter in a few hours, yet other times when it’ll take days to find the right words for just one sentence. And you never know where inspiration will hit you, sitting on a train, washing dishes, on the treadmill at the gym… I always try to keep a pen at hand.
It actually takes me longer to translate the books than it took Salgari to write them. He wrote three or four a year, I usually manage to do one.
Do you see yourself branching out into other Italian authors at all?
Not immediately, there just isn’t the time. There are some other Italian and French authors I’d like to translate, but they’ll have to wait until after I finish my MA. For the moment our only non-Salgari title is Mathias Sandorf by Jules Verne. It had been out of print for 80 years and we brought it back, complete with all of its original 111 illustrations. Even though I only edited the original translation, restoring some omissions and making minor changes to the translation, it proved to be a lot of work.
You mentioned ebooks?
Yes, we’re going to make all of our titles available digitally this year. I still prefer to read paperbacks and hardbacks. I love books; I can’t imagine a home without them. But, that said, ebooks are great, I love their versatility and they allow so many new writers to reach an audience. It’s great to read stories online about how someone who was rejected by traditional publishers found their niche and has become wealthy doing what they love. Very inspiring, makes you believe anyone can do it. I’d love for it to happen to me, who wouldn’t? But I take the stories with a grain of salt. There’s always someone that wins the lottery jackpot out of millions that play, just enough winners to keep you buying tickets. I do this work because I enjoy it, as I enjoy teaching, studying, travelling and so many of the other things that fill my day.
How do you see yourself?
A person who wears many hats and lucky enough to enjoy all of them.
Next week, Andrew Oberg on some of the limericks a fugitive gorilla painted on the metro walls in Tokyo.