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Ilaria Varriale

A Drink from the Pitcher Like a Drink from the Spring: Q&A with Riccardo Duranti

Riccardo Duranti at his family farm in the hills of Sabina, Italy.

Riccardo Duranti and his granddaughter at his family farm in the hills of Sabina, Italy.

Riccardo Duranti is perhaps best known for being one of the select people in the world to have translated all of Raymond Carver’s work. (According to Duranti, there have only been two: he and Haruki Murakami). But his work includes translating more than one hundred titles by authors such as Richard Brautigan, Peter Orner, Elizabeth Bishop, Cormac McCarthy, Philip K. Dick, Tess Gallagher, Lou Reed, Sandra Cisneros, Ted Hughes, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Tibor Fischer, Michael Ondaatje, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and many more. Duranti is one of the most notable literary translators of English into Italian, and his career has its roots in the United States, where he met Tess Gallagher, who introduced him to Carver.

Translator, essayist, and poet, Duranti taught English Literature and Literary Translation at “La Sapienza” University in Rome. In 1996, he was awarded the National Prize for Translation, Italy’s most important translation prize. Recently, he decided to fulfill his dream of refurbishing his family’s old country farm located in the wild hills of Sabina just outside of Rome. Now living with his two dogs, Baldo and Nero, and eight cats, he spends his time sowing seeds into colorful flowers and fruit trees, turning organic olives into delicious oil, and translating powerful visions into graceful haikus. We spoke to him at his farm about his work.

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Balancing Being Herself and Being True to the Author: Q&A with Silvia Pareschi

Silvia Pareschi's translation of Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom"

Silvia Pareschi’s translation of Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom”

In his novel Freedom, Jonathan Franzen has one of his characters make a pun that would make anyone groan. “Nor-fock-a-Virginia!” a character says in a fake Italian accent. When his German translator asked for clarification, Franzen explained: “Punchline of a pun about an Italian who won’t fuck virgins. The pun refers to the city of Norfolk, Virginia. Anything that works in German and is both dirty and refers to Italy or Italians would be fine with me.”

If it was hard to come up with a solution in German, it was almost impossible in Italian: “It had to be something which was not really Italian but would sound Italian to American ears,” says Silvia Pareschi, “and it had to be dirty and silly, because that was the spirit of the character who pronounced it.” After thinking about it for months, it suddenly struck her: “Fuck-accia! was my word.”

It was just another challenge for a top-tier literary translator. Besides working with Franzen, Pareschi has also translated works by Don DeLillo, Junot Díaz, Amy Hempel, Cormac McCarthy, E.L. Doctorow, Nathan Englander, Julie Otsuka, Denis Johnson, Annie Proulx, and many more into Italian. She and her husband, author and artist Jonathon Keats (whose book of fables, The Book of the Unknown, she translated in 2010) live six months a year in her native Lake Maggiore, and the other six months in San Francisco.

I interviewed Pareschi about her work as a translator in her San Francisco apartment over a bowl of home-cooked risotto.

ZYZZYVA: There are so many definitions of translation that I’d like to start with a provocative one. Boris Pasternak said that translation is very much like copying paintings. How would you respond?

Silvia Pareschi: Pasternak’s quote comes from an interview with Olga Carlisle published in The Paris Review in 1960. While ostensibly defending the translators of Doctor Zhivago from the accusation that their work had not done justice to his book, Pasternak rather condescendingly says, “It’s not their fault. They are used, like translators everywhere, to reproduce the literal sense rather than the tone of what is said—and of course it is the tone that matters. Actually, the only interesting sort of translation is that of classics. There is challenging work. As far as modern writing is concerned, it is rarely rewarding to translate it, although it might be easy.”

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