Gente di corsa (english version)

dicembre 29, 2010

T. Rossi, Gente di corsa,  translated by ‘A. Anaya, Garzanti, Arabic/Italian edition, Tunis 2002.

I usually translate from Arabic into Italian and, as I have written here more than once, I’m of those who think an ethic of translation does exist and that translators have a responsibility, especially when translating literature since an “ethnocentric translations violence” has always been perpetrated and perpetuated.

I do not translate from Italian into Arabic – except for some seasons greetings or short sentences some friends ask me for – and in no way as a rewarded job. This should be done by Arabic mother tongue translators.

This does not prevent me from reading really bad translations into Arabic on banners or advertising, bad not because they are grammatically incorrect but most because they do not make sense in Arabic; that is to say to translate something more than a language’s knowledge is needed.

At this point I ask myself: is there an “ethnocentric violence” the other way on? i. e., from Italian into Arabic in literary translations?

To answer this question there is nothing better than Gente di corsa by Tiziano Rossi, a poet I love. The translation was published in 2002 (together) with the original text and I had it thanks to a friend of mine who had two copies.

Let’s start with the title Gente di corsa, which the translator rendered a questionable choice because I imagine people running one after another, trying to win a race to get first somewhere, who knows where. “Di corsa” here in Italian refers both to the people who are in a hurry and to the poems which were written “in a hurry”, as they are very short.

But let’s see some “gems” (only some here and there). Some poems are titled (bambino G.), or (bambina M.) and so on and describe children (in Italian “bambino, masculine/bambina, feminine”)

(bambino G.O.) (p. 14)

Come Toro Seduto, sbaraglia uno squadrone
vestito di blu, ma là scantona un gatto:
mica si ferma la vicenda, e allora
cambierà il prefissato copione?

“جالس مثل “ثور

.بعد أن شتٌت جمعا

الأزرق رداءه

انفلت قط

لم يتوقف الحدث

هل يتبدل المقدور سلفا؟

We are talking about a child who’s playing and, in the play’s fiction, he imagines to be Sitting Bull, a proper name that in Arabic is الثور الجالس – and this is his name,  like it or not, and we are NOT talking about a child who is “sitting like a bull” as the translator writes. As Sitting Bull the child wins a group of Union soldiers who as it is well known – only the translator doesn’t know it! – were wearing blue jackets (uno squadrone vestito di blu)

(bambina U.F:) (p. 20)

A testa bassa incontro al poi e l’avanti
va con gambette metropolitane
dove c’è fumo del Duemila. E forse
solo ricorderà questa azzurrina bilia.

برأس منكس

ألاقي الماضي والآتي

أرحل بسيقان قجيرة

حتى سراب الألفية الثانية


تذكر الكويرة الزرفاء هذه

I only underline that while translating verse 2 “va con gambette metropolitane” the translator made three mistakes in three words: “va (she goes, we are talking of a female child)” which he translates in the masculine, “gambette” (legs, but in Arabic this should have been in the dual form not in the plural one because do we know people with more than two legs?) and “metropolitane” which here means the child is used to living in a big city not as the translator writes legs which can move.

The best one is this:

(bambino U.B.) (p. 26)

Ripete ostinato la stessa parola,
com’è noioso! Però se ascolti bene
dentro l’immobile dire
fa lievi variazioni: una sua scuola.

يعيد بتكرار نفس العبارة

كم الأمر مكدر

بيد إذا ما أصغيت جيدا

داخل العمارة


هناك تنوعات طفيفة

منها التدبر

Oh my God: “immobile”, which is here an adjective and means “not moving” has become a real estate (in Italian also “immobile”)!

When I say that we need something more than a linguistic knowledge to translate I mean that in this case the translator does not know the author’s work, nor he has a sound general culture nor he asked the author or an Italian mother tongue speaker for explanations.

I suppose – looking at the book – that this is one of those translations done and paid to “develop the Italian culture knowledge in the world”. The only solace is that usually they are useless and no one reads them – in this case, so it is written on the book only 1000 copies were printed. In any case if I was an Arab who reads this stuff I would think that Tiziano Rossi is a bad poet and that Italian poetry in not worth a look. What a shame.

A couple of years ago I used this book to teach how NOT to translate. Strongly advised.

3 Responses to “Gente di corsa (english version)”

  1. […] [post un po' lungo, lo so] english version here […]

  2. […] as we live in Italy: Mr X –i.e. the one who edits these translations from Italian into Arabic is him. Yes him. Fantasy is often overcome by […]

  3. […] [post un po' lungo, lo so] english version here […]


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