Vola gigino? Translating David Malouf's novels into Italian

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Date: Spring 2003
From: Southerly(Vol. 63, Issue 1)
Publisher: English Association
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,279 words

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THE novels and short stories of post-colonial authors put Italian translators face to face with a series of very specific problems. If, to quote Rushdie, the post-colonial writer is a "translated man" (1), since his word has been borne across the world, from one place to another, from one linguistic territory to another--which is what makes every post-colonial text already translated--a post-colonial writer translated into Italian is forced to go through a double translation. Since translating is indeed first and foremost an act of communication between two cultures even more than it is between two different language systems, the work of a writer being translated into another language also undergoes cultural mediation on behalf of the translator, who uses his own mother tongue to retrace the same path that led the author to be both the first interpreter and the first translator of his own text. The stories narrated by post-colonial authors are often stories of forced separation from one place and of utter deportation to another far-away, alien place. They are stories of diaspora and of exile, of alienation from one's own past caused by the imposition of another culture. They are stories marked by a fracture, by a painful dislocation. Lastly, they are often stories of cultural eradication, where language becomes the weapon for fighting to claim one's right to exist.

The topic of translation in a broader sense has always been there in David Malouf's work. There is indeed a recurring subject in books such as Fly Away Peter, The Great World, Remembering Babylon, The Conversations at Curlow Creek (2): European culture is seen under a new light. Its transformation is due to its translation into a different place: Australia, precisely. In an interview he gave me, Malouf told me: "In Australian writing there are recognisably European themes and interests, symbols, aspirations, but they work themselves out here in a different society and under different circumstances" (3). As far as Malouf's narrative work is concerned, Fly Away Peter provides an explicit quote: "What he could not know was to how great a degree these trips into the swamp, in something very like a punt, were for Ashley recreations of long, still afternoons on the Cam, but translated here not only to another hemisphere, but back, far back, into some pre-classical, pre-historic, primaeval and haunted world ..." (4). Unlike what happens with novels by African, Caribbean or Indian writers, European readers of Malouf's novels do not fall under the impression they are being confronted with some new or exotic culture; rather, they feel more as if they are being confronted with something that is and yet is not European. It is the other side of the same medal. To quote Adair, the Irish protagonist of The Conversations at Curlow Creek: "the simultaneous underside of day". In other words, European readers are confronted with something more subtle and disturbing: their own hidden dark side, that lives and pulsates simultaneously to what is visible and apparent to them.

The first...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A126492247