The second date with Sardinian literature was held last Saturday in Sardara (Sardinia), organized by a local association. The book which was presented was the Sardinian translation by Ivo Murgia of Crónica de una muerte annunciada, (Chronicle of a Death Foretold), novel by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. Marquez doesn’t need to be presented: he’s one of the most well-known authors of contemporary literature, Nobel Prize in 1982, he wrote very famous novels who have been loved by the public. He wrote Chronicle of a Death Foretold in 1981. This is not is most famous novel, but it’s a real masterpiece. It tells the story of the death – foretold – of Santiago Nasar, a young man living in a village in Colombia, accused to have dishonored a girl, Angela Vicario. Angela’s husband, Bayardo San Roman, brings back his wife to her mother’s house on the marriage first night, after he’s noticed she’s not virgin anymore. Angela’s brothers decide to avenge their sister’s honor and ask her for a name. As soon as she tells the two words “Santiago Nasar”, the two men, who are butchers, take their knives and after having drunk two bottles of grappa, go in search of Santiago to kill him, telling everybody what they want to do. So everyone in the village knows that Pedro and Pablo Vicario want to kill Santiago, but no one is able to stop the events.
In Italy the novel was really successful and the film director Francesco Rosi took a film out of it, with Ornella Muti and Rupert Everett.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold has been translated into Sardinian in 2005 by a young man from Cagliari, Ivo Murgia, who has a degree in Psychology and a Master on Sardinian didactics, both taken in Cagliari University. He has been working for many years with projects about Sardinian language. He has worked for three years in Quartu’s municipality, he has worked with schools and private and public boards. He writes for some newspapers (‘Sa Republica Sarda’, ‘Sardinna’, ‘La Patrie dal Friûl’ e ‘Superga Cinema’). He is online with his own blog (www.ivomurgia.splinder.com), all written in Sardinian, since March 2006. He has presented for two seasons a radio program about Sardinian music. He has published 8 books until today, and 2 are going to be published. We can mention, further than ‘Crònaca de una morti annuntziada’ (Chronicle of a Death Foretold), with Condaghes, ‘Contus Africanus’ (African Tales), with Alfa Editrice.
He also writes tales in Sardinian language who have been prized in the most important literary prizes in Sardinia. Some of his tales have been translated in Gallego and German. A theatre show has been taken from ‘Crònaca de una morti annuntziada’. Today he keeps working with Sardinian language.
We are pleased to ask some questions to the translator.
A translation of a foreign literature work in Sardinian language. Why?
The answer that I always give to this question is that Sardinian is a normal language. In all “normal” languages translations are made and so, as Sardinian too is a normal language, it is normal to translate into Sardinian. No one has asked why translations into Italian are made and we don’t read the books in their original language; everyone thinks it’s perfectly logical to translate. In Italy everything is always translated into Italian, from films to advertising, and no one has argued about it. Of course, to make translations means that Sardinian language has to deal with literature models different than its, with its registers and its narrative powers, to demonstrate to be able to tell even the writing of a great Nobel prize.
Why have you decided to translate Crónica de una muerte annunciada?
When I started this work, some time ago, south American writers were very popular in Europe; so I could say that following the wave of that literary invasion, I decided to translate Márquez into Sardinian. Actually, it happened by chance. I had the book at home in the Italian edition, I had already read it and I already knew the literary value of it. It is also a short book, even if very intense, so it has been an advantage. So I decided to try, I found a copy of the original in Castilian and I started working. My work lasted for a year, two months for the first version and ten to make many revisions! Some friends, skilled in Sardinian and Castilian have helped me, and I thank them.
Which troubles have you met on your work of translation?
The troubles I’ve met are those of all translation works. Translating is a very difficult exercise, that’s why an Italian saying says ‘traduttore, traditore’ (“translator, betrayer”). As we know, every language has its distinctive way to tell and so to tell in a Sardinian way is not the same as telling in Colombian Castilian or in the personal Márquez’s style. The work of a translator is not to translate every word by itself: that would be a poor and depreciating work for the two languages. It is a double challenge: trying to move respecting both languages, without putting down none of them and emphasizing their communicative richness. I can say that the best would be to make a “concept” translation, starting from the one expressed in the original language, thinking about it and rewriting it in the new language, Sardinian in my case. Of course, this way the work becomes slower and more demanding but I think it is the only way to get good results. If I have done my work well, Márquez wouldn’t be betrayed in his original writing but it should be possible to feel some “Sardinian soul” in the telling, and this should be my part.
Do you think that a translator must also be a good writer?
My friend Xavier Frías Conde, linguist and a writer from Galizia, Gallego but skilled in other languages too, wrote in the book preface that a good translator doesn’t only have to know languages but he also has to have literary talent. Instinctively I would agree with him, and it would be a crime not to be able to express a writing level so high, as that of ‘Crònaca’, trivializing and lessening it. Of course, García Márquez is García Márquez and Ivo Murgia is Ivo Murgia… but the aspiration is that. Some days ago I was talking about these questions with a friend of mine, who is an historian, and he told me that in his opinion a translator should not be a professional writer, because the temptation to rewrite the story according to one’s aesthetical canons is always very strong. I had never seen translation under this perspective and I thought about it. I have not solved my doubts yet, but you can realize how many issues are involved in the translation work.
Translations are good for Sardinian language?
Translations are good for Sardinian language, of course. As I told you before, they allow a confrontation with other literatures and contribute to create a possible Sardinian narrative model. Sardinian literature is living a really fertile moment in these years, with good productions and commitment of many people. Moreover, as in this case, translations can help to give visibility to this hidden world. If I had published my own novel instead of this translation of a writer known all over the world, maybe today we wouldn’t be here. But I don’t want to discourage original writing in Sardinian language! I am a writer, a blogger and a cultural worker who uses Sardinian in many fields of communication and literature, so I am fully involved and aware of it. I always encourage who likes it to try to write in Sardinian, to speak this language as an exciting and enriching experience, a modern and open practice , not as melancholic nostalgia of the past , but as an adventure to live in the contest of today’s world, in a point of view of confrontation, exchange and increase.
Interview and translation into English by Veronica Atzei