"The original is unfaithful
to the translation."
Jorge Luis Borges

"The translator is without any doubt the only authentic reader of a text. Surely more than any critic, maybe even more than the author himself, since the critic is just a text’s unstable admirer, the author its father and husband, while the translator is its lover."

Gesualdo Bufalino

"This is the task of the perfect translator: without going astray, he must find the expressive reason of his labour; his personality is not erased because it cannot, but rather becomes transparent, shrinking to a crystal wall that allows to see without deformations what is on the other side, but whose thickness keeps the rooms separated."

Benvenuto Terracini

A good translator – according to tradition – is invisible.

From an etymological point of view, to translate means trans-ducere, i.e. to transport, to bring to the other side. At this regard, since I started asking myself questions about translation, literary in particular, I have always imagined a case full of sparkling gold nuggets that has to be transported intact from one bank to the other of a stream (language and culture of the original text on one side and target linguistic-cultural universe on the other side) trying not to lose or wet any of them.

On one hand, the translator is asked to be “omniscient”: he/she has to know the translation theory, the grammar and syntax of the languages from and to which he/ she translates, translation techniques and strategies, the desires of the customers, the entire oeuvre of the translated author, the cultural environment of this latter, the relevant secondary literature and so on, along with having inborn faculties and being able to use in the best possible way the help of dictionaries, glossaries and handbooks.

On the other side, in order to become immersed completely in a literary text and its transposition, the translator has to make a clean sweep of all the knowledge mentioned above. In order to fully adhere to a literary text it is somehow necessary to annihilate oneself, not to superpose one’s taste or style to the author’s, but rather create with the original text what has been appropriately defined a relationship of “intuitive intimacy”. Only later and with some detachment, ideally after an interval also in time, should the translator turn back and look at the work again, now with the critical eye of the proofreader and reviser. In this sense, translation can be considered as a meditation exercise: to absorb the source text (structure, plot, characters, language, rhythm), allow it to penetrate in all cells, metabolize it.

Then become empty again, read and translate with an objective, critical distance, without prejudices, filling this void space with the “right” words that will emerge on their own, always provided that the necessary prerequisites such as sensitivity, an ear for rhythm and writing talent are given. If you perceive a text as a music score, the translator can be considered as the interpreter of a piece, a violin or piano player who allows what is already written to come to life and vibrate again. It is well known that the translator’s task is to allow the author’s voice to emerge as it is, trying to make up for its strength and volume with other means.

The more a translator is humble, in the sense of flexible and ready to become a medium for the “spirit of the text”, the more the translator will be faithful. And compliant with his/her role as “medium”, “vehicle”, “bridge builder”. If he/she succeeds in this undertaking, the translator’s invisibility is thus conscious, conquered word after word, page after page, palpable and eloquent.