After two years, the complaint filed by the first translator de The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, Vittoria Alliata, against the new translator Ottavio Fatica, the journalist Loredana Lipperini and the director of The Republic Mario Calabresi.
Era since a few months that we no longer spoke of all-Italian controversies about Tolkien. And maybe, after this story, we can really stop talking about it once and for all.
After all, we've been talking about it for two years. You will be bored, just as we are bored.
These days, the reporter Loredana Lipperini announced on his blog that the complaint moved by the first translator de The Lord of the Rings, Alliata victory, towards him, the second translator de The Lord of the Rings, Ottavio Fatica, and the then director de The Republic, Mario Calabresi, has been archived.
In this article, we will look at what we know about filing a lawsuit and reflect on the importance of the right of criticism.
We talked about how Vittoria Alliata sued Lipperini, Fatica and Calabresi in the article War and lawsuit over Tolkien's translation. On the editorial events that led Alliata to make his complaint and withdraw from the market copies of his translation of The Lord of the Rings we talked about in the article Vittoria Alliata and her truth.
You can then find all our articles on Tolkien in this summary article.
A brief summary of the facts
For those who are not aware of the situation, we will very briefly summarize the events surrounding the Alliata lawsuit.
Alliata victory is the first translator of The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, who translated at the very young age of 15/17. His translation of The Fellowship of the Ring it was published by Astrolabio in 1967, but selling very little. In 1970, Rusconi acquired the rights to the work from Astrolabio and published The Lord of the Rings translated by Alliata, albeit with a major revision made by Quirino Principe. For the complete editorial history of the work, we recommend this article by Antonio Testi.
Loredana Lipperini's interview with Ottavio Fatica on The Republic
In recent years, the publishing house Bompiani (who in the meantime had acquired the rights to Tolkien's works) decided to commission a new translation of The Lord of the Rings. For this job, he called in a long-time translator, Ottavio Fatica.
In 2018, Ottavio Fatica was interviewed da Loredana Lipperini su Robinson, the cultural weekly de The Republic. In this interview, the translation of Vittoria Alliata was also mentioned, towards which Fatica expressed both praise, because she had faced a titanic work from a very young age and with remarkable results when seen from this perspective, and criticism, especially regarding some of her stylistic features.
In particular, Fatigue made a hyperbolic comment:
Here, it was necessary to realize that it was not possible to correct five hundred errors per page for one thousand five hundred pages.
Vittoria Alliata's lawsuit
In 2019, Vittoria Alliata lawsuit Ottavio Fatica and, together with him, also those who were in some way responsible for the publication of his interview: Loredana Lipperini and Mario Calabresi, who at the time was director of The Republic.
It seems that the hyperbolic phrase of Fatigue we quoted above was considered defamatory.
Also, according to what back Lipperini:
The offending question, it seems, was: "The previous translation was heavily criticized: rightly so?".
For nearly three years, almost nothing was known about how and if the lawsuit was being pursued. But these days we have had some news.
How was Alliata's complaint against Fatica, Lipperini and Calabresi resolved?
As Loredana Lipperini reports on her blog on July 13, a judge dismissed Vittoria Alliata's lawsuit. Among the words of Lipperini e this article by Roberto Arduini, we can reconstruct the story.
We know that in October 2019 the prosecutor had made a request to dismiss the lawsuit to the Alliata lawyers. However, Alliata had refused archiving in March 2021, thus opposing.
The process therefore went on again, until a few weeks ago, that is until June 30 2021, when the judge rejected the opposition and definitively dismissed the complaint. The motivations of his decision came out on July 8 and are reported by Arduini in his article.
Basically, the judge said that Fatigue's words were not defamatory, also because the translator in the interview had also expressed several praises towards Alliata. Furthermore, the criticisms made were not defamations, but simply fell within the right of criticism. We quote from Arduini's article, which reports the judge's words:
In reality, as can be seen from the article in question, Fatica Ottavio recognized the commitment and value of the work carried out by Alliata who, just seventeen at the time of the events, was preparing to translate a work of great depth and complexity such as Il Signore of the Rings by JRR Tolkien.
Well, the expressions used by Fatica do not appear deliberately defamatory as they are placed in the exercise of the right to criticize. According to consolidated jurisprudence, it is believed that the right of criticism differs from that of the news in that it does not materialize in the narration of facts but in the expression of a judgment or an opinion.
We could say "we told you so"
And we will tell.
Because it is from January 2019 that we say that Ottavio Fatica has not said anything defamatory towards Vittoria Alliata.
We quote from War and lawsuit over Tolkien's translation (15 January 2019):
Fatigue may have been hard and could have even contacted Alliata before exposing her criticisms, so as to hear the translator's explanations on her stylistic choices, but the criticisms of the new translator are absolutely legitimate and posed in a polite manner, without ever attacking Alliata in the his person, but only in his work.
And criticism of the work of others is legitimate.
We then quote from Vittoria Alliata and her truth (18 January 2020)
although Fatica used a hyperbole that exaggerated Alliata's errors, in my opinion it was still a legitimate criticism of the translator's work and not of her person. On Alliata, in fact, I always seemed to read only comprehensive words from Fatica, who praised his work, even though he said that the young age of the translator made itself felt.
And we repeat it here.
Criticism of other people's work is always legitimate. They may not like it. They can be unsightly. And they can also be based on fallacious considerations because whoever makes them did not understand what the other wrote.
But you don't sue a person for criticizing our work.
If the lawsuit were the normal practice in response to criticism, no one would dare to write negative reviews anymore. Cannarsi should have sued half of the Italian youtubers who criticized his adaptation of Evangelion. There would never have been vitriolic review blogs about bad fantasy books like Fantasy shrimp. There would be no peer review in the academy, why ever or later a researcher will sue us!
The lawsuit as a means of intimidation e cancel culture
Now let's open a part of the article in which the writer will bring some personal considerations.
In all this, we should reflect on the words of Loredana Lipperini, who writes:
However, my wound remains. The things that have been said about me. The fact that I could not, "to protect myself", write in the same journal of fantastic and Tolkien. [...] But I would like this story to serve to make people think who has an easy lawsuit and who, among those ancient colleagues, supports those who have an easy lawsuit without thinking about the pain they inflict, and the damage they cause, assuming that the thing interests.
Why is it not said that Fatica and Lipperini have been "canceled"?
These words should make us think in times like ours, in which we read right and left of whining about cancel culture, on the fact that “now we can no longer say anything because of politically correct".
Then we read about situations like this. We see a translator and a journalist (people who work in culture, and you know how little culture pays in Italy!) Sued by a woman heir to a noble family (we quote directly from Wikipedia: "Descendant of the family Alliata, is the daughter of principle Francesco Alliata di Villafranca ”), for statements that are not defamatory, but which fall within the right of criticism.
At this point, probably we should think carefully about the meaning of cancel culture.
Why cancel culture it is mostly used when someone wants rich and famous people to like Gina Carano take responsibility for anti-Semitic, no-vax and transphobic claims. (No, we are not implying that Vittoria Alliata made similar claims to Carano's in turn.)
However, because it is not used in cases like this, where two people who are (presumably) neither rich nor famous have to protect themselves by being silent for three years? And for making a legitimate criticism of someone's work. Without conveying any kind of hate message. Have they not, perhaps, been "canceled" too, and much more than in Carano?
Lawsuit and intimidation: an in-depth study by Valigia Blu
There is a great article of Valigia Blu reflecting on how the lawsuit was used as a means to intimidate and, essentially, censor journalists. Here are some passages:
It happened when crime started using white-collar workers and vice versa. It happened when many realized that the most effective way to wear out a journalist, to stop his investigations, to de-legitimize him was no longer to threaten him guns in hand but to use the law as a weapon.
In fact, if in the face of the publication of an investigation or an article a reporter sees one or more complaints or requests for damages rain down on him and perhaps that journalist is precarious or is not assisted and protected by his editor, the consequences can become very serious. .
It often happens now that a journalistic work that annoys, that disturbs, is often attacked with the tools of a lawsuit, in a criminal case, or of a claim for damages, in a civil case. Sometimes the lawsuit is also used as a threat to get the reporter to stop dealing with that topic. Sometimes the goal is hit because the journalist, often precarious or underpaid, is overwhelmed by the fear of being crushed by the weight of the possible economic consequences of complaints. At other times it is precisely the newspaper, especially the smaller newspapers, the online ones or the editorial cooperatives, to put a brake or a stop to the journalist because the responsibility of the articles also involves the director in the criminal case and in the civil office director and editor in solid.
Some final thoughts
Are we therefore saying that Alliata sued Fatica and Lipperini to intimidate and censor them?
But the feeling is that, at the end of the games, Fatica and Lipperini had to censor themselves to defend themselves from an accusation, which later turned out to be without foundation. And this caused two important and interesting voices to drop out of the Tolkien debate.
For sure, we have had an impoverishment of the Tolkien debate, after this lawsuit.
And we have seen, when people compare Fatigue to a monkey, that there are double standards even in the right of criticism, apparently.