After a year, Vittoria Alliata returns to the attack by Bompiani and the new translation of The Lord of the Rings, this time with a letter. Let's analyze.
Before starting this article, it seems to me necessary to write a premise.
This article has no defamatory intentions towards the person of Vittoria Alliata. The criticisms that will be raised will be addressed to his words and his translation of The Lord of the Rings. No one here allows himself to harm a person's dignity.
However, criticisms of others' work are always legitimate. They can be unpleasant, and they can even be incorrect. But it is legitimate to make criticisms. We are not perfect beings who cannot make mistakes, nor can our behavior necessarily please everyone.
And we have to make this thing go well.
Because criticism can be annoying, it can be unpleasant and it can even be gratuitous and incorrect. But criticism can be made. When someone threatens me with death or says I won a doctorate because I gave it away, then I'll summon the lawyers. But personal threats and defamation are not critical.
So, with that premise in mind, let's get started.
Victory Alliata VS Ottavio Fatica: a clash that has been going on for some time
The question is quite long, so if you want to get a better idea, all of our articles on Tolkien and the controversy surrounding the translation of Fatigue are here.
Let's quickly go through the different stages and introduce the main characters.
Alliata victory was the first translator of The Lord of the Rings, a book that he faced at the age of 15/17. His translation of The Fellowship of the Ring it was published by Astrolabio in 1967. However, this edition sold very little, and a few years later the rights passed to Rusconi. This publishing house made use of Vittoria Alliata's translation, but had it widely revised by Quirinus Prince, before publishing it in 1970.
Over the next fifty years, the edition of The Lord of the Rings would have passed into the hands of Bompiani and it would be subjected to further minor revisions on a cyclical basis. When, in 1974, it was still in Rusconi's hands, the work would have undergone a revision in which the word was replaced gnome with elf, for example. Instead, in 2003 Bompiani will publish a new edition with the help of the Italian Tolkien Society, again with the Alliata-Principe translation, but in which several typos and scoters was replaced with orc. Recently, Bompiani hired a professional translator, Ottavio Fatica, to re-translate The Lord of the Rings. The editorial history is also reported in this article by Claudio Testi.
The interviews with Ottavio Fatica and the 500 errors on page
On April 29, 2018 it came out on The Republic interview to Ottavio Fatica, signed by Loredana Lipperini. In this interview, Lipperini asks Fatica if the previous criticisms of the “historical” translation of The Lord of the Rings have reason to exist. Fatica points out that Alliata had done an excellent job for her young age, but that some of her stylistic choices are still questionable and, in the light of the current theory of translation, real mistakes. Fatigue here use a 'hyperbolic expression to talk about Alliata's work:
Here, it was necessary to realize that it was not possible to correct five hundred errors per page for one thousand five hundred pages.
Subsequently, al Salon of the Book of Turin of 2018, Fatica reiterates that Alliata's translation, as impressive as it is, has problems. In particular, Fatica talks about the stylistic feature della Alliata to translate a single English word with a pair of Italian words. According to Fatica this would not be a problem in itself, only that it gives the impression that these pairs are a Tolkien style, whereas they are the work of the Alliata.
Vittoria Alliata's lawsuit
In January 2019, however, on The newspaper released an article written by Oronzo Cilli, who reports an interview with Vittoria Alliata. Here, Alliata claims to have sued Fatigue. It seems that, to be particularly incriminating, was the expression “five hundred errors per page”, which being hyperbole does not correspond to the truth.
During a meeting at the University of Parma, on 12 December 2019, Fatica will talk not so much about the lawsuit, but about what he said about Alliata's work:
Regarding what I said at the Book Fair, I'm convinced of what I said, but maybe I could say it another way and I'm sorry if it was taken as an attack. Of course there were 500 errors on the page, but there were more or less five. But it's like when instead of saying you went to a place seven times you say you went a thousand times.
Vittoria Alliata's letter of denunciation
On December 31, 2019, however, Vittoria Alliata publishes one letter of complaint against Bompiani and Fatica. Since this is the new piece of Tolkien's war, let's see in more detail the contents of the letter.
Vittoria Alliata's letter “to the Italian Tolkienians” was released on the Facebook page Tolkien Italy and is fully legible here. Given its length, we will not report it all, but we will quote the most important passages to comment on them. We invite you, however, to read it all at the link above.
IMPORTANT NOTE ON TRANSCRIPTION AND QUOTES
The quotes from written sources have been copy-pasted from the original websites or Facebook pages, specially linked.
The quotes from oral sources (hence from recordings) have been transcribed, trying to keep as much as possible the exact expressions used by Vittoria Alliata, including repetitions, reformulations and hesitations. I point out that all these phenomena are practically inevitable in speech, even controlled, and that therefore reporting them in written form absolutely does not want to ridicule the translator, but serves to increase the accuracy of the reported speech.
When the symbol is found in the quotes [...] it is because a part of text (a word, part of a sentence or whole paragraphs) has not been carried over. This may be due to the need for brevity or because a certain word has not been well understood by listening to the recordings. To integrate these missing parts, see the original writings or recordings, linked.
An editorial issue: the rights for the translation of Vittoria Alliata
Vittoria Alliata, in the second paragraph of her letter, denounces one incorrect editorial situation. Indeed, the rights to its translation de The Lord of the Rings they would have expired, and nevertheless Bompiani would still be selling the book without paying the translator.
So writes Alliata in his letter:
Having ascertained that my version [...] continued to be printed and marketed by Bompiani-Giunti in total disregard of the copyright law and the minimum rules of correctness, as the rights had expired for several years, I warned the publisher to withdraw it immediately off the shelves.
The answer of those who have collected millions from my translation to date, without having spent even one euro, revealed that a revision of my text was underway, which I would have "given an account of in detail, if I wished (sic!) A the revision work was completed in September ". [...] conditioned the payment of the amount due by law (both for the illicit use of my work and for its manipulation by third parties already implemented in the Ebook version) to two unfair clauses: the obligation to revise my text “Under protection”, as well as the obligation to sign a renewal of the contract for 10 years, which includes and remedies the past, at an annual amount of 880 Euros.
[...] The provident editor would have allowed me to present my translation myself, in the version revised by Tolkien's "actualizers", with an introductory text that - besides the insult - would have thus canceled, free of charge and without excuses, the crime of defamation. Not only that, but by getting stuck in a sort of lethal embrace with the new platoon, it would have made me somehow complicit in the new translation […].
In general, Alliata's letter contains a great deal of information. Even just these three paragraphs are full of things to say. So let's try to understand better what happened.
Why hadn't Bompiani renewed his contract with Alliata?
In recent years, Bompiani has not had an easy editorial life. As early as 1990, in fact, Bompiani was part of the RCS Libri group, until, in 2015, it was not purchased from Mondadori.
However, part of Bompiani's executives and editors had not willingly accepted this change of management, preferring to found their own publishing house, Theseus's ship. Thus, also the editorial director of Bompiani, Elisabetta Sgarbi, who would later be replaced by Beatrice Masini, was gone. As if this were not enough to undermine the new management of Bompiani, a 'survey of the Antitrust Authority: Mondadori, in fact, seemed to have aggregated too many publishing brands. So, in September 2016, Bompiani has been purchased from Giunti.
Now, the details of the de translation contract The Lord of the Rings they are not public, but it seems that should have been renewed during 2016, obviously a very problematic year for Bompiani. It is therefore easy to speculate that, during the 2016 changes, nobody noticed that Alliata's contract had expired.
The warning and denunciation of Vittoria Alliata to Bompiani
The details on the judicial issue between Vittoria Alliata and Bompiani are not particularly known, as can be expected. However, Vittoria Alliata herself gives us some details. The most important is certainly the Macerata conference, Glimmers of things higher, deeper or darker than its surface, held from the 4 6 2019 December. Here is what Alliata said, reported by the recording of the event (about 12 and 13 minutes), which you can find here. The bold is ours.
I found myself in a very difficult situation in these years, because really as a result of these insults I discovered a regrettable thing. That Bompiani continued to publish my translation without having the right, therefore illicitly the book, my edition is still on the shelves. It is sold. I am not paid. I don't have a contract. The sale of the de translation is therefore absolutely abusive The Lord of the Rings in my version today, for some years. And what's going on?
I obviously having discovered this fact, following the unpleasant sentences that have been said to me, I had to resort to warnings, both against the publisher and obviously the translator, and also to criminal complaints, when the warnings have not produced any results.
So, Alliata learned of the expired contract, probably after the Turin Book Fair in 2018. At this point, the translator, as she says, first resorted to warnings, then complaints to resolve the situation and protect herself.
After the article-interview with Vittoria Alliata appeared on The newspaper and in which the translator revealed that she had sued Ottavio Fatica, Bompiani sent her own response, always appearing on The newspaper il January 16 2019 and signed by the director Beatrice Masini.
In this answer, Bompiani explains not only his reasons behind the new translation ("careful maintenance of the catalog"), but also his position on the Alliata. The bold is ours.
We announced it [the new translation], instead of acting in silence, precisely because this did not exclude and does not exclude the maintenance of the historical translation in the catalog.
We proposed to Vittoria Alliata not only of renew the translation contract (expired recently and for an oversight not immediately renewed) but also of review his work, as it is right to do after so many years, in view of a new edition, and we have not obtained any definite answer from its lawyers; a direct confrontation never took place because it was never accepted.
Vittoria Alliata's answer
Vittoria Alliata's reply was not long in coming and at the bottom of the article linked above (16/01/19), that of Masini's reply, we read (our emphasis):
[...] while continuing to publish my translation (contract expired for years) he purposely expelled me, endorsed Mr. Fatica's seriously defamatory statements and following the legal warnings has confessed to being doing "proofreading" through the new translator (unauthorized!) of my text "of which many choices remain valid and will be maintained".
Still at the Macerata conference (5/12/19), Alliata brings further clarifications (from the minute 13 to 17 approximately) (our bold):
Now, what do I read? I read repeatedly from… from Bompiani and also from the politically correct group […] that practically I would have… rejected any agreement with the Bompiani publishing house.
So, I ... I would like to clarify a fact [...] that this time it is the Italians who invoke by popular acclaim the permanence on the shelves of my version, while obviously [...] I was told that patience, in short, [...] there 'was another one that arrived and then mine […] I could throw it in the bin.
At this point it is a paradox, because after combining this Bompiani mess and the architects of the new make-up uh ... they accuse me of refusing the offer, the hypothetical offer of Giunti-Bompiani. So, I have been patient ... I have been patient for two years, that I have had meetings with the doctor arrived, meetings between my lawyers and those of Bompiani, and I wait and wait for a proposal. A proposal that ... a proposal from them, that ... that legalizes this illegal situation we're in… they keep publishing my version.
It should be said incidentally that when I protested what was going on, they told me that they were revising, that the new translator was revising my text. So a third offense, of course, and I, and I warned not only to review my text, but also to continue printing it. Now, would I have rejected Bompiani's proposals? But I would like to know, a halter contract cannot be imposed with abuses and illegal. Because we, the Sicilians, define this as an offer that cannot be refused. [...]
So that the publisher is using it for a translator who has allowed him to sell ... millions of copies of the book and who has never spent a cent, let it be said very clearly that I have never had a euro from Bompiani ... er, so this publisher should be a little more grateful to those who allowed him these results and treat him not with an offer er… so to speak, er… halter, but er… arguing politely, as we have tried to do, to find an intelligent solution. Which, however, did not happen because, as you can see, I continue to attack and my edition, my version is always on the shelves and I still do not take a penny.
Let's summarize: the Alliata / Bompiani editorial story in brief
In 2016, while going through a stormy period, Bompiani did not renew the rights for the translation of The Lord of the Rings by Vittoria Alliata. In mid-2018, following Ottavio Fatica's claims, Alliata discovered that his contract with Bompiani had expired and took legal measures.
In January 2019, Beatrice Masini revealed to us that Bompiani offered Alliata the opportunity to renew the contract. However, the author will be able to do so only after having reviewed her translation, as Bompiani intends to keep it on the shelves together with that of Fatica, thus publishing a new edition. But Masini claims he never received a response from Alliata's lawyers.
The translator, therefore, also in January 2019, states that Bompiani has purposely excluded her (from the new translation?) And that she is having her translation revised by the new translator. Subsequently, in December 2019, Alliata says she participated in meetings with Giunti-Bompiani and that she was waiting for a proposal from the publishing house. She then reiterated that the new translator would be revising her text and that she, from Bompiani, would never have received a euro, instead now suffering from an incorrect contract.
Finally, on 31 December 2019, Alliata reveals Bompiani's offer: to renew the contract for 10 years, subject to a review of the The Lord of the Rings "Under guardianship". This new edition of the old translation would also have had an introduction written by Alliata, in which he could explain the reasons for his choices. Alliata did not appreciate the offer.
Let us clarify the issue of editorial rights
Now, that the rights to Vittoria Alliata's translation had expired without having been renewed is irrefutable. Why the renewal did not happen immediately, however, is difficult to understand. Probably, as Masini says, it was one oversight due to the stormy period for the publishing house, which would earn nothing in risking having one of its flagship books removed from the shelves. However, nothing is certain.
Obviously we cannot absolutely know how the meetings between Alliata and Bompiani are taking place: each carries different versions, and without further evidence it is impossible to understand who is right.
However, until now it has never seemed that the new translator (Ottavio Fatica? Alliata it seems to me that in these cases he never makes a precise name) had been called to review the work of the Alliata. Although, in fact, Fatigue (if it is him) has read the first translation and underlines its weaknesses, it does not seem to me that he ever claimed to have revised it. Also because, in the meantime, he had to re-translate from scratch The Lord of the Rings, a task which he himself described as difficult. So it is not clear where he could find time to do this job too.
On the contrary, it seems, according to Masini, that it was Bompiani who asked Alliata to revise his translation, in view of a new edition with an introduction by the translator. But this, for Alliata, would seem to be an affront, because would make it "complicit" in the new translation and the "newist" front.
Personally, I am amazed by the words of the translator, because I believed that a new version of The Lord of the Rings supervised and explained by her was her wish. Now let's see why.
A new edition revised and introduced by Vittoria Alliata: a proposal dating back to the nineties
Vittoria Alliata has stated more than once, over the years, that she asked Rusconi to be able to revise her old translation of The Lord of the Rings. This is to make it a revised and corrected edition, also with an introduction written in his own hand.
Why, according to Alliata, would a revised edition of his old translation be needed? Because there are typos dating back to the Astrolabe edition, which therefore remained for years despite the revision of Principe and the passage to Rusconi.
Errors in the old translation, dating back to the Astrolabe edition
Al Tolkienian rally in San Marino since 23 to 25 August 2019 (of which you can listen to the recording qui!), Alliata talks about these errors (from minute 132 to minute 132: 50, then from minute 133: 10 to minute 133: 40 approximately) (bold mine):
So there will certainly be, there are mistakes, but I tell you more. There are some errors I found, which are still typos from the Astrolabe edition. That is, with all the passages they have made […] there are still the typos, the lack of sentences, bits of verse that is incorrect. [...]
Fortunately, Oronzo [Cilli], I don't even have the book of ... er, the book of ... the book of Astrolabe anymore. He [Oronzo Cilli?] Had it, so he sent it to me, he scanned it all for me, goodness. He sent it to me and I made a nice comparison with today's edition, and, I tell you, I found the king-fu-si, but do you understand it? That is, a scandalous thing.
Rusconi's proposal for a new revised edition, corrected and enriched
For this reason, Alliata wanted to edit a new edition of her translation (later revised by Principe). Still in San Marino he says (from minute 135 to minute 135: 30 approximately) (bold mine):
If they had made me do it in the nineties '96, when we renewed the contract with Rusconi, I asked to do a presentation introduction myself, no? I asked, okay, the renewal. But there are typos, there are things I want to explain, because in the meantime new things had arisen […]. Then some Tolkien texts came out, some information came out, right? Which I obviously didn't have in my day.
Similarly, the translator also makes similar statements at the Macerata conference (from 26:45 to 28:25 minutes) (bold mine):
Obviously there are mistakes, obviously if I had been entrusted with the task of the new, in quotation marks, translationthat is, if I had been, as I had already asked in the nineties, in '92 I asked Bompiani, I urged ... indeed, Rusconi was at the time, I urged Rusconi to let me do some ... small interventions and above all a let me write an introduction to explain the reasons for certain choices (We are talking about Orcs, we are talking about "gnomes" instead of "elves", which were choices discussed with the author).
Well, surely if I could, in the 92s, already in 'XNUMX, do this ... this operation, I probably would have modified, enriched some of the poems, both in the light of what in the meantime was known about ... of Tolkien, of his ... of his preparation and his vision of the worlds, and in the light of how I had matured in the meantime, who had translated one of the greatest living poets in the world today, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, […].
On the basis of these great works that I have translated, clearly it was me… I had also developed one… of, if you will, some more poetic skills, or at least some perceptions, right?… Obviously more mature than when I was sixteen. Therefore I would have probably made changes, additions or filings and… surely I think they would have been… it would have been a good thing.
But also in the end of 2019 letter Alliata takes up Rusconi's refusal to publish a revised version of The Lord of the Rings (my bold):
A reaction [that of Bompiani] all in all similar to that of Rusconi of 1996, who refused - so as not to spend a few lire - my request to review the testor, which still presented the same typos of the Astrolabe edition, with all due respect to those acrobats who are struggling to argue, against all evidence, that someone in 1971 would have even rewritten my translation.
Rusconi also rejected my proposal for an introduction more suitable to illustrate the intentions and the figure of the Author, as well as my comment to explain the choices of style and nomenclature. Shortly after the rejection a new edition came out anyway, and always with the same typos, but with an introduction in which Tolkien's work was given a "pagan", neo-Gothic and gloomy interpretation, as if it were to be placed in the literary legacy of a satanist like Aleister Crowley.
A project that is still hoped for?
But there is more: in Macerata, Alliata seems to have hopes on the possibility of carrying out this correction and explanation operation in the future (from minutes 28:25 to about 29) (emphasis mine):
We don't despair of doing this. We really hope to be able to put my hand back to the text, working together with all of you, all of you Tolkien fans who want really give it back its rightful place and make an edition ... serious, important, commented and, er ... and reasoned, that can serve the whole world as an introduction to The Lord of the Rings.
So why not accept Bompiani's proposal?
For all these reasons, it is unclear why Vittoria Alliata does not want to renew the contract with Bompiani. Because, from what she and Masini say, it would seem that Bompiani asks you to do the operation that the translator had proposed to Rusconi in the XNUMXs. If Alliata still remembers this past project of his and says he wants to do it again, why not take the opportunity with Bompiani?
We have no answers to this question.
Has Vittoria Alliata's translation been approved by Tolkien?
In the letter at the end of 2019, Vittoria Alliata takes up a statement we have already heard many times, namely that her translation was approved by Tolkien himself (emphasis mine).
Ascertained that my version, that vilified by revisionists although (or precisely because) approved by Tolkien himself [...].
In this situation, it is evident that my translation, just because desired by the Author and by those who really love it, it cannot remain on the shelves in common with those who manage it like a drum of detergent. [...] the "naive" will agree with me that the translation approved by Tolkien it must be removed once and for all from such a publisher, who, without even realizing it, is the first and true enemy of one of his own Author.
This claim has been repeated on many occasions by the translator. Here are some of them.
The interview with Vittoria Alliata in 2002: one of the best translations made?
In 2002 Vittoria Alliata spoke about her own experience of translating Tolkien in theinterview Alliata: translation appreciated by the professor, by Nicola Adragna, appeared on an insert of the newspaper Sicily, Styles. My bold.
I did the translation test that the meticulous glottologist Tolkien approved with enthusiasm, so that the impassive Ubaldini, a cultured man full of humor, did not hesitate to entrust the approximately two thousand pages of the first two volumes, with a regular contract, to an unknown fifteen-year-old.
[…] But Tolkien had no objection [about the translation]. Rather, when the work was completed he informed Ubaldini that he considered it one of the best translations made. It must be said that I agreed with him on the most critical points and that I asked him to clarify any doubts, again through Ubaldini, given that Tolkien - as an inveterate misogynist - shunned direct contacts with strangers women. [...]
Nothing had to remain in English by the author's precise will, and in fact I translated for example, Sackville-Baggins into Borsi-Sacconi, agreeing with Tolkien.
More interviews with Vittoria Alliata on Tolkien's approval
Alliata reiterated that Tolkien had read and appreciated his translation also in the January 2019 article in which he revealed that he had sued Fatica (emphasis mine):
These include the exchange of correspondence between the English publisher Allen & Unwin and Ubaldini and the other materials they try the active participation of the Professor in my work e the enthusiastic approval of the final text not only from Tolkien himself, who knew Italian from having studied it during the First World War, but also from his son Michael and from his friend, a well-known professor at the University of Oxford, Camillo Talbot D'Alessandro, to whom he had sent copy
Similarly, also at the Macerata conference (around minute 8) Alliata reaffirms Tolkien's approval of his translation (emphasis mine):
In doing this work […] you can imagine, as there is nothing written about Tolkien, that I would address myself, as I was asked, to the author himself to clarify points and to follow his indications. This has been done, it has been approved by the author, we also know from documents published by Oronzo Cilli that this was a thing known to all, how much the work was appreciated and even given by Tolkien.
There is a problem: is the evidence missing?
Vittoria Alliata's declarations are numerous, but, from what we can see, there is a lack of evidence attesting the Professor's approval of his translation. Indeed, Alliata speaks of a written correspondence with Tolkien via Ubaldini, ma unfortunately this correspondence seems not to have been made public.
Currently, the only evidence of a certain "approval" by Tolkien towards the translation of Alliata would seem to tell a somewhat different story, as Claudio Testi reports in this article. In fact, in The JRR Tolkien Companion and Guide. Chronology, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull report (emphasis mine):
19 February 1968 Tolkien writes to Alina Dadlez. He is horrified by the cover proposed for the Italian translation of The Lord of the Rings 'based on and even degraded from the frightful Ballantine cover' (Tolkien-George Allen & Unwin archive, HarperCollins), but is comforted by a letter from someone he knows, and whose opinion he respects, praising the Italian translation. He sends the letter for her to see, and asks for its return of hers.
The same passage is also taken up in Tolkien and Italy (on page 138) by Oronzo Cilli, as reported by Claudio Testi (my bold):
“The Alliata […] translated: Thorin Oakenshield into Thorinio Ochenscudo (the Fellowship of the Ring, 1967, p. 17); Baggins in Sacconi (Ivi 25), Sam Gamgee in Samio Gamigi (Ivi 26); Merry Brendybuck in Felice Brandibucco (Ivi 44) and Sackville-Baggins in Borsi-Sacconi (Ibid.) Choices recognized, indirectly, and appreciated by Tolkien himself who, in a letter dated 19 February 1968, wrote to Aliana Dadlez: 'I am comforted by a letter received from someone I know, and whose opinion I respect, who praises the Italian translation. I am sending you a letter for information, then asking you to return it to me '(Chronology.
From this passage it is clear that Tolkien was reassured that the Italian translation of Vittoria Alliata was well done. However, from this one proof we probably cannot deduce that Tolkien had read the translation of Alliata. Indeed, from what Cilli reports it seems that Tolkien had not read the translation, but had asked the opinion of a trusted acquaintance, because he says "indirectly". That perhaps the book of Cilli contains other passages with other proofs of Tolkien's reading of Alliata's translation?
Therefore, as long as it is not possible to recover the messages exchanged between Ubaldini and Tolkien (as long as they have not been lost, as can happen for this kind of documents!), it is difficult to say for sure if Tolkien had approved Alliata's translation.
Furthermore, I think it is at least questionable that the goodness of the first translation should continue to be based on an approval not yet proven, as far as we know.
Fatigue guilty of not reading Tolkien before translating it?
In her late 2019 letter, Vittoria Alliata has something to say about the fact that Ottavio Fatica was not an expert on Tolkien, or who had read it before translating it:
[...] that [translation] of those who had not read it before translating it and thought that Tolkien was an author "rickety, as is so much fantasy literature" (on Friday) [...]
This is not the first time that we have read such an accusation against Fatigue: many on the web think it the same way. On this article on Fatica rained the comments of those who believed that The Lord of the Rings should be translated by a Tolkien fan. Or at least by a Tolkienian expert who was familiar with the legendarium. However, there is a problem with this argument, if used to support Alliata.
Was Vittoria Alliata not a "fan" or an expert on Tolkien either before translating it?
This is said several times by Vittoria Alliata herself. In a'interview of 2017 on The Republic, the translator said (my bold):
D: Among the notable things, before the Arabic, there was the work of translating the "Lord of the Rings", how did this company start?
A: “I was in the last year of high school, but even then I wanted to be financially independent to travel. I had already translated Ferlinghetti and some other Beat generation stuff. I asked Ubaldini, editor of the Astrolabe, if he had any translations for me to do. To my surprise he gave me the first two books of the Lord of the Rings ”.
Q: How was the impact with Tolkien's novel?
R: "I didn't understand what that work was exactly. Tolkien sent me some kind of "instruction manual" on how to translate the novel. When the work finally came out, in a partial capacity, it was a resounding failure ”.
At the Macerata conference in 2019, Alliata tells (minutes from 25 to 26:45) (my bold):
I, of course, worked without knowing absolutely anything, because there was no literature on Tolkien. I was given nothing but the nomenclature document. And so, um, I had to do it on my own based on what my passion for poetry was.
I had already translated poems, the Beat Generation poems, which were fashionable at the time, and I had translated a lot of Latin poetry, let's say, at school. I was a passionate translator of poetry. So, I was based on my culture, my background and also on the fact that I had studied English and Shakespeare since… since I was a child, in short, with… with the governesses. And… and then I tried to do my best.
Honestly, having one year, you must think that I had less than a year to translate the first two volumes, that is, I had eight months to translate the first two volumes. And… and that at the same time I was sixteen and at the same time I was doing the Bachelor, or the high school license. And so I did my high school certificate, I started translating, I did my high school certificate and then I went to the summer where for ... I didn't sleep, eat, or do anything during all the months of the summer until Christmas : I translated. I have translated two volumes.
And… and so… and so obviously I didn't have much time for… on the contrary, I absolutely didn't have the time to do research, I had to do what I could.
A tradition of Tolkien's non-expert translators or fantasy literature?
Therefore, it is permissible to want an experienced Tolkien translator to deal with The Lord of the Rings. Tuttavia, this desire cannot be said to derive from the example of Alliata, who apparently did not know Tolkien or writers close to his style before translating it. In this sense, Ottavio Fatica, who had already faced Melville and Kipling, who knew the Inklings and who, before attempting the translation, studied the legendarium Tolkienian (being joined by Giampaolo Canzonieri!), he could be said to be more qualified than the young Alliata on Tolkien.
And certainly, Fatigue will say that Tolkien is not fantasy attracting the disapproval of many (including me!). But also Alliata says that Tolkien is not fantasy, at the Macerata conference (from minute 51:45 to 52:10 approximately) (bold mine):
We understand that the new translator de The Lord of the Rings does not love Tolkien. [...] I is not, I have no sympathy for fantasy and we know that Tolkien is not fantasy, but [the new translator? editor's note] hasn't even figured out yet that Tolkien isn't fantasy.
So, we could say that with Fatica we are simply continuing the tradition of having de translators The Lord of the Rings who do not consider the Professor as belonging to fantasy literature.
Quotes to national newspapers
In her late 2019 letter, Vittoria Alliata brought many small quotes from local newspapers, underlining with them how much the new translation of Fatica was not very welcome to the public of “real” Tolkienians.
"There is perhaps no memory of such an awkward launch in the history of Italian publishing," writes the Corriere, commenting on the thousands of jokes, cartoons, videos, all elegant and creative, which have flooded the web with disappointment and consternation.
[...] would have made me somehow complicit in the new translation, the one that "fights with the Lord of the Rings" (Republic), that of those who had not read it before translating it and thought that Tolkien was a "ramshackle, as is so much fantasy literature "(on Friday), that, in short," which has aroused an ocean of growling disappointment "and" a storm of unprecedented hostility "(Corriere della Sera).
From these quotations it might seem that the national press destroyed the translation of The Fellowship of the Ring. But in reality things seem to be not quite like that.
The quote from The Corriere della Sera: missing the end of the article?
Vittoria Alliata takes up some sentences of a article de The Corriere della Sera, published on 22 December 2019 and written by Vanni Santoni. However, Santoni's article criticizes the new translation, but also does not spare that of the Alliata. In the end, even considers the work of Fatigue superior:
Net, then, of the clamorous communication error represented by the rhyme of the Ring instead of one of the many pages translated better, it can be said with good approximation that the new translation, even with its limitations, is superior to the old.
Similarly, thearticle (which is only one!) by Piero Melati for the Friday di The Republic, while using strong expressions to describe the effort of Fatigue (HA!), in the end he paints a very human picture of the translator. We talked about it here
The supposed attacks of Ottavio Fatica on Vittoria Alliata
Also on the words of Ottavio Fatica the first Italian translator de The Lord of the Rings has something to say, in the end of 2019 letter (my bold):
In April 2018, my Tolkien friends reported an intrepid assault on my translation of the "Lord of the Rings" (in Repubblica and at the Bompiani stand of the Turin Book Fair) in the name of newism and politically correct. Gracefully but firmly I asked the publisher - through my lawyers - to publicly dissociate from defamatory statements of those who accused me of an "improvised youthful adventure", with no less than "500 errors per page out of 1500 pages". [...]
Not only did [Bompiani] not dissociate himself from it at all serious offenses you speak against me, [...]
And the serious defamation?
I have already expressed myself extensively on the matter this article. In essence, although Fatica used a hyperbola 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, after all, it is Vittoria Alliata herself who, in the quotations above, seems to emphasize that she has matured in the meantime and that today would make different translation choices. And although the XNUMX-year-old Alliata who first approached Tolkien was certainly a young woman of culture, great talent and excellent criticism, I don't think it's a crime to say that at fifteen we haven't become the best version of ourselves yet. .
I will not express myself on the use of "newism" and "politically correct" (the latter hammering in conferences!), Except to say that "Politically correct" is the new parsley in the Italian controversy and many, in general, use it without knowing its meaning. I do not see the reason to approach it with the translation of Fatica or Bompiani's editorial policy.
The withdrawal of The Lord of the Rings by Vittoria Alliata from bookstores?
In the famous letter of December 31, 2019, Vittoria Alliata writes (bold mine):
At the last warning my lawyers replied with an ineffable verdict, according to which "in addition to not agreeing to revise her translation, her client chooses to bury it - now and definitively - with withdrawal from the trade".
Many have shown perplexity to this statement: is it possible that the translator could ask for the withdrawal of her translation? And, even if it were possible, why on earth would it do it, possibly putting the fans who supported it in difficulty? Or is it Bompiani who chose this route? From Alliata's letter it is difficult for me to understand it.
Recently, some assumptions have emerged that make this possibility much more real, unfortunately.
Inability to order The Lord of the Rings in translation Alliata-Principe?
The alarm was raised on Facebook a couple of days ago, and the situation is currently being monitored by Tolkien fans. It seems, in fact, that both on Amazon and on the Bompiani-Giunti website it is no longer possible to order certain editions of The Lord of the Rings, all with the Alliata-Principe translation. Similarly, many also report about not even being able to buy the e-book version of the old translation.
When Tolkien fans went to their trusted bookstores to inform, the responses they received were discordant. It seems, in fact, that in the Rome area no bookshop is aware of a collection of copies of The Lord of the Rings. Instead, it appears to have been branched out to other outlets an email from Bompiani, requesting the collection of certain copies of the Alliata-Principe translation.
Thus writes a user of the group Tolkienian studies:
At a large store in Libraccio I was very kindly read the email with which Bompiani-Giunti requested the collection of copies from bookstores, which arrived the day before yesterday. The return was processed yesterday, I don't know if it applies to Libraccio alone or to everyone.
Issues requested for withdrawal should be:
- The Lord of the Rings, 2017 (Amaranth paperback with flaps), ISBN: 9788845294044;
- The Lord of the Rings ill. by Alan Lee, 2017, ISBN: 9788845294778.
- The Lord of the Rings, 2014 (60th anniversary, paperback with cuffs, white at the top and bottom and in the center the characters of the Ring in a circle), ISBN: 9788845277627. About this I am less sure because the reading was a little quick and I see that there are still some surviving copies in the stores.
- The Fellowship of the Ring, 2012 (black paperback), ISBN: 9788845270741;
- Le Due Torri, 2012 (black paperback), ISBN: 9788845270758;
- The Return of the King, 2012 (black paperback), ISBN: 9788845270765.
A final judgment on this letter
Aside from the huge amount of topics that have been addressed (often only tangentially), Vittoria Alliata's letter seems to me to bring up many unclear questions, and rarely in favor of the translator.
The dispute with Bompiani continues to be unclear, but I can hardly see the intent to boycott Alliata or to make money at his expense. It makes no sense for Bompiani to spontaneously withdraw the old translation of The Lord of the Rings, since it is common for the classics to have several translations on the market at the same time, especially in the case of the "historical" ones. And I struggle to understand what reasons may have led Alliata to reject Bompiani's offer.
There is little to say about Tolkien's approval of Vittoria Alliata's translation: the only physical evidence that is known seems to tell a different story, unless we missed something along the way. And this workhorse has been used a little too much by some fans, to be an allegedly unconfirmed claim.
I have already expressed myself widely on Ottavio Fatica's ability as a translator of Tolkien. His version of me The Fellowship of the Ring I really like it, although some names are still indigestible to me. And if my opinion for Alliata is just another of the "desperate 'reviews' on caverns, notebooks and stalls, and even 'test-window' style posters and promotions" (again from the December 2019 letter!), I'll sleep peacefully anyway .
On the offenses against Vittoria Alliata and on the "revisionist intellectuals"
With regard to the supposed "offenses" of Fatica in Alliata, I have already reiterated that, as far as I'm concerned, Fatigue has not defamed anyone. The decision will undoubtedly be a court and not me, but when a hyperbole is considered the same as "Giulio, speaking with Filippo, Lorenzo and Gabriele, says that Stefano is an idiot without a brain" (example taken from here!), we will truly live in a world where nothing more can be said. Unlike what the continuous "politically correct" evoked by Alliata would lead us to believe. After all, with Fatica no one was politically correct, attacking the translator not only in his work (which is legitimate) but also in his person. When I see Alliata that Fatica's lawsuit for a "500 errors per page", when Fatica finds himself constantly defined as "superb, inept, equal to Google Translate, ignorant, arrogant" and so on, I feel like smiling.
I don't particularly like how this phrase "my translation, [...] because it was desired by the Author and by those who really love it", can possibly evoke an idea of opposition between "real" Tolkien fans and "revisionist intellectuals". First of all, we have seen several times (and in situations very different from this one!) How the rhetoric of the "real fan" has been used to make gate keeping in a fandom, often seeing experienced characters in name only in the role of "bouncers". Secondly, the possible opposition between "naive fans" and "intellectuals" is very reminiscent of the typical opposition of populist rhetoric: pure people VS the corrupt elite. Although, in fact, it is wrong to snub the "people" as a generic mass of simpleton, reducing the Italian Tolkien diatribe to a polarized clash between powerful left-wing professors and poor sensible fans does not allow us to understand the complexity of the situation.
Finally, I don't see why anyone who appreciates Fatica's translation can't be a real Tolkien fan. I've been reading and loving Tolkien since I was 11 (so for almost twenty years) e The Lord of the Rings it has conditioned many of my subsequent life choices. I challenge anyone to tell me I'm not a real fan, just because I don't take the side of Vittoria Alliata.
However, one thing is for sure: if the withdrawal of the old translation is confirmed, the fans will lose out. And if the withdrawal was requested by Vittoria Alliata, it is to her that we should ask for explanations.
The cover photo was published by Condé Nast Traveler and was shot by Serena Eller