Editor’s Note: The Catholic Book Club is reading Alessandro’s new translation by Michael Moore. Manzoni’s classic Italian novel, fiance.
Moore’s published translations range from 20th-century classics to contemporary novels. He is the former Chairman of his PEN/Heim Translation Fund and holds a PhD in Italian from New York University. For many years he was an interpreter at the United Nations and a permanent staff member of the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations.
of The following interview with Mr. Moore has been edited For length, clarity and style.
“Manzoni created the modern Italian language. His novel–yes, he wrote only one–is still the greatest novel in the Italian language.”
James T. Keane: This book was a commitment to read. I can only imagine what it must have been like to read it in another language and then translate it. Why this book and why now?
Michael F. Moore: I promessi sposi (original Italian title fiance) is a beautiful, sweeping novel that every Italian has read. Having translated many contemporary authors (including Pope Benedict XVI), I have always wanted English readers to gain a deeper understanding of Italian literature and culture. Tradition weighs heavily on Italian artists, and when they create they have to contend with that glorious tradition.Manzoni created the modern Italian language and his novels—yes, he wrote His only one — is still the best novel in Italian.
I felt it was underrated in the US due to the lack of existing translations. I failed to capture the energy, eloquence and scope of Manzoni’s prose.
However, when I began translating this novel with the ambition of returning it to its rightful place in world literature, the world situation gave the novel new significance as it neared publication. 19 Pandemic. In his two chapters of the novel, his 31st and his 32nd, Manzoni describes his bubonic plague outbreak in Milan in 1630.
The portraits he gives of the Capuchin brothers, to whom local authorities have been assigned responsibility for caring for the sick, the dying, and the dead from the bubonic plague, highlight both their Christian mission and practical know-how. I’m here. Cardinal Federico Borromeo, then Archbishop of Milan, reminds priesthood holders of their duty to serve the poor and needy. And the hero of the story is Padre Cristoforo, unafraid to face those in power, sacrificing his life for the victims of the plague.
The novel has a strong ethical dimension, sensitive to the moral complexities faced by its characters, yet clear and firm in its encouragement to justice, faith and forgiveness.
“I have always wanted English readers to have a deeper understanding of Italian literature and culture.”
over the years, fiance It has appeared in various lengths, versions and even translations. Did you read all the previous versions or did you have a ur-text of choice?
Manzoni wrote three versions of the novel. first time, Fermo El Lucia, 1821, published only in recent years, mainly for scholars. Second, I promessi sposi, 1827, the third with the same title is 1840. In that final version he corrected the language but otherwise did not change his novel.
I translated the 1840 edition, although I referred to the edition comparing the 1827 and 1840 editions to understand the cautions he took in the writing process. On the title his page you will notice that it says “revised edition by the author”. This is what his 1840 edition says, indicating that Manzoni rewrote his novel.
After completing the first draft, I referred to the two previous translations as a way of double-checking the accuracy of my version. If the translation was too far off, I went back to Italian. You may find better ways to interpret passages, words, or ideas.
how do you classify fiance Genre? Is it romance, is it historical, is it epic, is it war? Or are all these palimpsests?
In the tradition of Sir Walter Scott, who at the time was immensely popular throughout Europe, he called it a historical novel. I call it an Italian epic. Historically faithful, but with elements derived from various sources. opera comic and Gothic novels (like frankenstein Also The Mystery of Udolfo).
“Throughout my translation, I was striking a balance between my loyalty to Manzoni’s style and my desire to write in excellent modern American English.”
Many years ago I took a class don quixote Taught by Edith Grossman, who had just published a translation of Cervantes’ classic. She said that in doing her translation, she consciously tried to use a language with Latin and Romance roots so that the book was in clear English but also conveyed Spanish. roots. Did you use a similar strategy when translating from the Italian source?
Edith was one of the people who encouraged me to read the novel, and advised me to try it for just a few pages and see if it worked.
Throughout the translation, I struck a balance between my loyalty to Manzoni’s style and my desire to write in good modern American English. His sentences can be very long and his paragraphs are endless. Sometimes they were split into smaller pieces without sacrificing content or wordplay.
At times he indulged in Latin language, but was more interested in reviving the novel’s popularity. Too often, the classics are rendered in a decorative and sophisticated style. An approach that would have violated Manzoni’s aims. He wanted to bring the written and spoken Italian closer together. His criticism of elaborate language can be seen in various parts of the book, particularly the introduction, preface, and quotes from his 17th-century text.
“Too often, the classics are expressed in a classy and regal style, an approach that defies Manzoni’s purpose.”
What was the biggest difficulty in translating the text into modern English?
Sometimes it’s tempting to use modern expressions like “take a break” or “get lost” to capture the emotional temperature of the expression, especially in conversation. To avoid being too modern, I always checked Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, which gave me the first date a word or expression was used. Although it has its roots in the 19th century, or rather the 20th century, I aimed for an expression that is still relevant today. But I always wanted the words to sound natural.
In general, the main challenge was to capture changes in Manzoni’s register. He is poetic, but he writes with the accuracy of a historian. He is good-natured, but serious. A novel is truly an encyclopedia of styles.
I am a big fan of Liu Cixin’s science fiction novels. The novel is translated from Chinese, but historical events that Americans are unaware of (for example, the Cultural Revolution, or famous Chinese medieval figures). Given that history is a major player, how did you handle this conundrum between providing the necessary context and stopping the flow of text? fiance?
I didn’t need a lot of footnotes that I felt would get in the way of the story. As Manzoni himself described events that occurred 200 years before him (he wrote in his 1820s, the story is set in his 1628 to his 1630), he often Describe the event carefully. To help modern readers, the first page has a map of northern Italy at the time of the story, and notes at the end of the novel regarding historical background and a list of historical figures.
That said, one of the hardest things to communicate, especially for young people today, was courtship.Incorrect answer” With Lucia: Literally, he talked to her. In traditional societies, a man’s approach to a single woman was a sign of anything other than friendship!
“Manzoni’s voice can cut through the fog of our sorrow with wisdom, wit, and a comprehensive appeal to philanthropy.”
Why do you think this novel (and this translation) resonates with modern readers?
This is a novel about a world plagued by corruption, social injustice, famine and plague, all aggravated by war and foreign occupation.
Manzoni lived through turbulent times, from the French Revolution to the birth of the Italian state. He recognized the need for change, but he also feared mob tyranny. At the center of his novel, set against the backdrop of a massive conflict between Spain, France, and the Holy Roman Empire, is a humble peasant couple who only want to get married but are unable to do so on a whim. powerful.
All of these themes resonate with our own times. We have been through devastating times: pandemics, wars between politics and science, the rise of authoritarianism in the world, and public cries for justice. The failures, and even evils, of capitalism have become apparent (I can’t help but think of the plight of the elderly who have to die in a nursing home, inconsolable beside their families and loved ones). Find a way forward. Manzoni’s voice is able to cut through the fog of our grief with wisdom, wit, and an all-encompassing appeal to charity.
I think my translation struck a chord because it speaks to all of Manzoni’s eloquence and musicality in today’s language.
Pope Francis has described it as one of his favorite novels. Reason?
In public, he mentioned two sides. First, it is the story of a young couple overcoming obstacles before getting married. He sees the novel as a kind of parable of the roads that people in love must travel before they can be together. Secondly, he regards Cardinal Borromeo as a good example of a pastoral vocation. Let us remember that a “pastor” is literally a shepherd, a good shepherd who takes care of sheep.
On a more personal note, Pope Francis wrote me a letter of thanks, quoting what he thought of the novel’s virtues: Today the world needs to restore a culture of providence, hope and forgiveness. ”
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