It is not often that I write about issues related to literature. But I see that in Italy there is much discussion (unlike in countries where this has not happened) of the re-translation of the Lord of the Rings, by Ottavio Fatica.
The first thing to say is that it is a provincial controversy. By provincial I mean something that makes sense only within a specific territory, despite the fact that we are talking about something that is known on a larger scale. Remember those municipal motions against the cold war. Ok, sure, sure: USA and the USSR were terrified by the opinion of the Mayor of Sbronzate on Crippa. We are sure of it.
In the same way, the Italian translation of the Lord of the Rings causes little sensation outside Italy, and concerns a circle of speeches which in turn cannot cross borders because they only make sense in a hierarchy of values that exists only locally. And no, justifying yourself with cultured quotes from this or that great author does not change the location of the discussion. A provincial discussion therefore remains.
Like all provincial discussions, it needs one thing: the local axiom that is stated in "what we think of the thing the rest of us drunk on Crippa comes before the thing itself". Provincialism is also recognized by the substance replacement procedure, which is replaced by local gossip about the substance itself.
So let's get started. What is the Lord of the Rings? It is part of a larger saga, of a genre that today is called "fantasy" because almost no adult has the courage to call it with the right name: "Fairy tale". A bit like people who don't go to bagasce but go out with an escort: many prefer to admit they love fantasy but don't confess to reading fairy tales .
Those who have read Frazer, on the other hand, know that the fairy tale is a complex genre, with a very important social function, and a power that constitutes the anthropological foundations for the construction of religion . If adults did not read fairy tales, or did not do so, there would be no religions, which are not adult fairy tales, but the adult reworking of reality in the form of a fairy tale .
So how does fantasy work, that is, the fairy tale? Essentially, it is always the story of a rite of passage. It is a concept very dear to anthropologists, and there is talk of a ritual, that is, of a narrative, of the way in which a child becomes an adult accepted as such in society. In the course of the fairy tale, the child must first know the evil, defeat it, and in doing so must acquire the moral baggage that will make it an adult: friendship, strength, courage, loyalty, cunning, competence, resilience, discernment between good and evil , and all you need.
A fairy tale is a novel that begins by describing the protagonist's initial state as childish . The fairy tale can do it in a metaphorical way like The Hobbit County , who evidently live in a childish state, unaware of the evils of the world. It can also be an explicit condition, as happens to Harry Potter in Rowling's fairy tale, which begins with the protagonist who is actually a child, and ends his fatigue as an adult.
After the first phase, an external entity comes into play (which has always existed, it is ancient or at least previous, but was waiting for the protagonist to enter the scene to return), an entity that is normally evil and disturbing the status quo. It is often also superhuman, or at least magical . Often it is also personified, or at least idealized: it certainly has a proper name. In magic, for an entity to exist, it is sufficient for it to have a name.
At that point the protagonist is asked to fight evil, and to get out (willy-nilly) of his childhood condition to fight, and thanks to the fight. In some cases the same life in the shadow of the evil entity is characterized as a long march towards the adult era, a ritual of passage made of battles that continue over the years.
Around him there are figures representing moral and social categories, such as parental figures, (although the male protagonist rarely has a maternal figure with him, and the same happens to female figures, who almost never have a father to look after them) , non-parental but patriarchal figures (Gandalf and Saruman, for example), political figures (kings and queens, military commanders, teachers and masters, and more) and religious figures, who in the fairy tale always take on the contours of magical figures (Lady Galadriel, for one thing) and there appear (often sublimated) other figures with which the adult must deal with when he grows up. From the interaction with them the protagonist must draw the moral baggage that will make him an adult accepted as such by society.
In short, a fairy tale (or if you prefer "the fantasy tale") is a novel, structured accordingly (normalcy, disturbance / adventure, new normalcy), which narrates a ritual of transition from childhood to adulthood. In some cases everything is identified as a metaphor (The Shire as a childish situation, to say) or very explicit as it happens in Harry Potter, which is literally the story of a child who becomes an adult, the formation of his moral background, and the tests that must pass, together with the teachings that must acquire.
What does it have to do with a translation? It has to do with it because I wanted to point out the clear existence of a canon , that is, something that must be there if you intend to write such a thing. There is a canon of science fiction (even more than one, to be honest) and a translator can not help but respect it, or risks obtaining a catastrophic effect. For example, we could define hobbits as mature and reserved adults, and elves as a club of effeminate intellectuals, but this would clearly clash with the intent of the author and the needs of the canon.
In the same way, if we defined Lady Galadriel as "MILF", we would probably be quite adherent to her status (in fact, it would even fall into the genre "GRANNY", given the age), but despite her similarity to the facts of the narrative this translation would put out of place … the narrative. And even if we called the marriage between Arwen and Aragorn "interracial" we would say the truth, but we would move the narration on tracks that are not those of the fairy tale. (unless the adults told you REALLY strange fairy tales).
In short, words count, because words are characteristic of a genre. If we said that the ring is "malware" that if worn for a long time "can deploy a new hostile firmware in your mind" we would describe what happens to those who carry it, but the IT terminology is not suitable for that of the fairy tale, or fantasy if you prefer. And to say that the previous rings were Trojans that kept an open backdoor for the ring that would control them all would describe the ring, but the words would be out of context.
A translation is never "neutral". You can make all your mental saws on the noumenal text, but in the end using an IT terminology in a world that is described technologically speaking as a mix between the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Baroque makes no sense.
It is clear that if we describe an archaic world, technologically and socially (everything suggests a society of the Middle Ages), we will have to use obsolete terms, or archaic addiructure. Moreover, if I were to do cyber science fiction and described a virus that takes control of a computer as "demonic possession", or as an "attack from distant places" an attack by hackers on the Internet, I would not get along very well. Even "hacker" translated into "powerful wizard" would work, but the story would not be the same.
First of all, therefore, I can criticize the translation of Fatica because abandoning archaic terms in describing an archaic society ends up distorting history. It's not neutral. And I'm sorry, but it's wrong: I repeat, I could rewrite all LOTR using IT terms. After all, almost everything we do in IT has its magic correspondent, because before it was possible to think of an attack by a malware as a "spell" if not "possession". And maybe I could define the elves as "IBM", and somehow it would work too. I think. I hope. Everything.
But I wouldn't get LOTR. I would get an extravagant FS cyber novel, with an unusual epic intent. Or maybe I would only get Matrix with less fetish clothes: "one doesn't do a SQL injection to Mordor.evil so easily".
And there is an aggravating circumstance. Tolkien was an academic in the field of literature, specialized in ancient English, known for translating epic poems like Beowulf. That is, if a person of such a background decides to use archaic or obsolete terms, he has several good reasons for doing so . And he put study there. Work. Research. It was part of the creative process . In the use of archaic terms, Tolkien values the novel. It makes him wanted .
To make a comparison, the German translation of LOTR, in order to respect this creative process, came up with words that only Odin's proctologist knew before. If you have never had contact with Odin (or his proctologist) before today, reading LOTR in German is almost impossible.
It is not possible, because of what I would call "the logic of human facts", that we can remove the archaic component from the language of LOTR. You cannot take away from an author his entire training, and cancel an important part of the creative process. Even because',
if you remove the author's language from a book, you are removing the author from the book.
And you can also stick the noumenon where Odin's Proctologist rarely arrives.
The last point is the epic. Many, especially on the left, don't like talking about epics. It does not like it because they recognize an epic narrative of the nation in fascism, it does not like it because the epic is centered on the figure of the hero, and many heroes on the left do not want to hear it, unless it is the simulacrum said " people".
Still, the epic is a need. The need for epic narrative pervades both society and individuals. The male self could not exist without an epic narrative. And I have strong suspicions also on the female one. There is a need for heroes. Someone wrote that he is sorry for a nation that needs heroes. It is a pity that the nations that do not need it are, in general, gigantic shopping malls with no purpose.
Why do I say that? Because LOTR is definitely an epic novel. You can do as many hoops as you want, but it wasn't the people who shot Sauron down. Although the proletariat of Mordor is severely mistreated, it was Frodo who killed him, along with a handful of warriors . Warriors, not metalworkers.
And I don't know what your daily life is like, but I'm pretty sure you haven't met a Balrog in the past few weeks. You have never participated in gigantic horse battles, you have never participated in a siege in arms, faced mephitic swamps and other things. You never killed an ogre, nor kissed an elf. If you often do this, you probably take drugs. Or, you will have to admit that LOTR narrates more epic stories of your daily life.
I insist: LOTR is an epic novel. It is epic to suck, because however you tell those stories, the Fosso di Helm does not look like your favorite supermarket. For a fucking nothing. And you can change the language as you please, but it's always a fortress. Not an apartment building. Not an office. Not a supermarket. Not a gas station. It's a fucking fortress.
And being inside a fortress while twenty thousand orcs (seven thousand according to the police headquarters) besiege you is an epic thing. Much more epic than the meetings you do in the office. Of the arguments you do with your wife. Much more epic than anything that has ever happened to you, and that will happen to you in life.
Once it is established that LOTR is an epic novel, the problem is that Fatica's attempt to normalize the language, removing the epic to transform LOTR's plot into a quarrelsome business trip, does not work. You can't take the epic out of a novel that exudes it. The plot itself, the logic of the plot, is about a group of HEROES who challenge virtually every known and evil force to accomplish a HEROIC mission. It's a fucking dude who has to destroy the weapon of judgment inside a cursed volcano, which is located in the middle of a deadly desert, surrounded by millions of orcs, inside an impenetrable fortress, guarded by EVIL in person.
It's not your mother-in-law who goes to Pilates. It doesn't even look like a smear.
If you remove the epic from LOTR, you are telling the story of your mother-in-law going to do pilates. Of course, driving a Fiat 600 to the gym can be complicated. Finding even worse parking. But your mother-in-law doing Pilates doesn't look like a cavalry assault (to be honest, a rather unlikely assault, but Tolkien was not an expert in military history) against an army of Uruk-hai. I'm sorry. I don't want your mother-in-law. They are different things.
And this is where we go back to provincialism. Surely, the usual who bring out the noumenon every time they go to the toilet (in short, certain that approve the new translation have spent five years on the littorina for Ferrara, giving themselves airs for the bourgeoise high school they attended !!!) will say that all my objections are null.
They will say that in the end the noumenon from here and the noumenon from there, the rava et the bean , and that in the end the LOTR epic is invented and artificial, and they will come up with unlikely bullshit concerning the proletarian revolution that has brought down Saruman: the Ent as ante litteram Luddites, right?
And all the usual whirlwind of bullshit that characterizes them, and blablabla.
And here we return to Italian provincialism. Where LOTR is a book on the right . In the asphyxiated Italian panorama, it is claimed that all political and intellectual categories are attributable to a diarchy, "right" and "left".
In the provincial mind of those who approve the work of Fatigue, there are too many unbearably right elements in LOTR: the epic, the reference to a traditional and bucolic society, the "indissoluble bond between man and his land", and the nationalism inherent in the fact that every people is different from the others, even biologically, therefore aesthetically. Not to mention that there are no niggers. (Oops!)
If it were rewritten by the snooty who are approving the new translation, the elves would be workers from Pozzuoli, the Hobbits would be trade unionists from Casalecchio di Reno, the orcs would all be swift, and in the end Frodo would be a guy who arrives in Mordor to attend the revolt proletarian orcs, who want the end of American imperialism, symbolized by President Sauron.
But the attempt to reduce LOTR to something more "left", something more "modern" (in the sense of "pop") by flattening its language, diluting the epic, modernizing the archaic terms, is more pathetic how ridiculous. Why 'does nothing but show the embarrassment of those who preached a cultural hegemony, when he is faced with a work that the provincial bullshit between Peppone and Don Camillo does not care.
Sorry for the snooty Wu Ming, (I had the misfortune to
endure getting to know one of them personally on the Littorina for Ferrara, every day for years, and I have to say that " I hope he has improved a lot by growing ") and I'm sorry for all the pastry chefs too of shit trying to offer a bad translation as cast gold, but for them what I wrote on the "Tirotta manifesto" is worth:
And the translation of Fatica does nothing but build a pop version of LOTR, which others will use in minimal quantities, taking care to add unnecessary arzigogoli, trivial and meaningless like the noumenon to what is a dish already ruined by his willful insipidity. Not to mention the constant ambition inherent in the apologia for the work of Fatica.
Because in the end, let's face it, the product of many, if not all the Italian "intellectuals" is just that: a minimal amount of pop shit laid flat with a side dish of useless, trivial and meaningless, decorated with all the possible ambition.
Because if fascism is only a disguise by strong males, the Italian left is only a disguise by intellectuals . People who entered the bookstores in the 1980s saying "I have to make a culture, give me the most boring book you have". People who at home had an encyclopedia chosen on the basis of color, which matched the furniture.
And then they took the Littorina for Ferrara.