23
Apr

Translating and Translator: Todd Portnowitz and the Italian Translation of Il Duce's Explorer

This book on Giuseppe Tucci, his first biography and the first reconstruction of Fascist policy in South and East Asia—after the chapter Renzo de Felice dedicated to this topic in his Il Fascismo e l’Oriente (1988) —was originally written in Italian and published in early 2012, then republished with corrections and additions in August 2012, and finally edited once more and published in April 2014. All in Italian.

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Il Duce’s Explorer: The Adventures of Giuseppe Tucci and Italian Policy in the Orient from Mussolini to Andreotti: With the Correspondence of Giulio Andreotti is the English translation of this work. A wonderful English, I believe, for which I give thanks to my translator, Todd Portnowitz. A qualified young professional in love with Italy, an incredible smart and talented guy whose job is just that—to translate Italian into English.

Todd is a methodical worker and has a keen sense of language and of the beauty of words, a taste and enthusiasm for syntax, meaning, for rendering content in its most elegant form. But Todd is not only that: he is a poet, and what a poet!—as well as a musician and songwriter. His work is excellent, in fact, particularly in capturing Tucci’s own voice, and in translating original documents of the time and literary passages.

Of course the editing of his translation was no easy task. Todd was not used to the language of history, so distant from poetry, and knew very little about Asia, politics, and the like. Meanwhile, I am as fussy as they come—I want a translation to convey exactly what I mean. Moreover, while I may accept a slight change to my language, as long as the meaning is conserved, in order to adapt it to the English, I demand that all original documents are translated word for word. Mistakes included. That is, I have asked for a diplomatic translation of these passages. Very little or virtually nothing should be left to interpretation, particularly now, at a distance of a few decades, and in this completely different context. We have no right to alter their words, their intentions, their meaning and, if possible, their style.

Three versions of the text —with minor changes and ameliorations, questions, points of discussion—went back and forth between New York and Milan. And I am very glad that Todd questioned me and my various solutions, that he challenged me, that more often than expected we came to the same conclusion. And that he improved the text. I hope that he learned from me as much as I learned from him.

This lengthy post is all to say one simple thing: Thank you Todd! I am grateful to you. And I am happy to have chosen you, among many others, to work with. And to have met you here in Milan!

P.s. You can follow Il Duce’s Explorer: The Adventures of Giuseppe Tucci on Facebook – and in Italian, at Giuseppe Tucci, L’esploratore del Duce. Chat with me on Twitter  or write me on my public page. I can be reached my email at Asiatica Association info_at_asiatica_dot_org

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