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Il resoconto FUIS del 2° Festival of Italian Literature in London (FILL)

09/11/2018

Uno sguardo sui contenuti dell'evento 2018

Il resoconto FUIS del 2° Festival of Italian Literature in London (FILL)
Qui di seguito si riporta il resoconto della seconda edizione del Festival of Italian Literature in London (FILL) tenutosi negli scorsi 27-28 ottobre 2018, elaborato dalla nostra corrispondente da Londra Katie Webb, co-Direttore internazionale FUIS.
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2018’s Festival of Italian Literature in London (FILL) - the Festival’s second edition - was a resounding success.
 
Stimulating discussions between authors of many nationalities and heritages were staged at London’s labyrinthine and historic Coronet Theatre in Notting Hill on 27th and 28th October 2018. Created by a dedicated group of London-based Italian authors, translators, teachers, researchers and digital specialists in partnership with the Italian Cultural Institute, FILL ensured that the Italian community in London made a memorable contribution to the city’s literary and cultural scene.
 
Between the formal sessions and performances, Italian food and coffee served by UK-based Sicilian company Etnacoffee - which has two cafes in London - was available, along with books to buy, signed by the participating authors, and relaxation in the theatre’s atmospheric bar. Guests could wind down at the end of the day with DJ sets bringing them the best of Italian music.
 
Katie Webb, FUIS’s International Co-Director, reports her highlights:
 
The Politics of Translation
 
 A panel discussion between Sophie Collins, a poet and translator who grew up in Holland and now lives in Edinburgh and Vincenzo Latronico, Milan-based Italian novelist and translator, chaired skillfully by bilingual translator Claudia Durastanti.
 
The three speakers had a lively conversation, conveying how relevant translation is to the issues we face in today’s global society - and how crucial the role of the translator.
 
The translator’s agency - and responsibility - in making a text and the information it conveys available in a new language, was considered not only from the time the translation is released into the world but from the very point of deciding what to translate in the first place; it is important for the translator to be in harmony with the author and their whole project.
 
The act of translating a text has effects both on the translation and the original. This can happen on purpose or accidentally, and can reverberate on the original work. For example, Elena Ferrante chose subject matter, language, syntax and even book covers that didn’t win her many literary points in Italy. It was only when she was so successful in translation in the UK and the US that Italian audiences began to really take notice.
 
As for the question of how to translate, it became clear that translation is so much more than a simple matter of being correct or incorrect. In fact, sometimes a technical ‘mistake’ in translation shows more intimacy with and understanding of the original than a correct translation would. Context is everything. Translators can choose to translate texts written by marginalised groups, or to ‘disrupt’ the canon by re-translating classics to expose historical agendas or introduce new ones, such as the recent re-translation of Homer’s classic, The Odyssey, by Emily Wilson.
 
Do respected writing styles in one language necessarily ‘translate’ well into another language? The panel compared the flowery, philosophical, wordy style weighted by tradition, which is venerated in Italy, which would not necessarily go down well in the English language, which developed around trade and values succinct, economical language. Not to mention the political implications of the dominance of English as the language of empire. Can the desire to be translated into a dominant language mean writers express themselves in the original language differently to make them more ‘translatable’, leading to what Karen Bennett terms ‘epistemicide’ - the death of knowledge?
 
In national terms, the presenters posited the idea that translation can be perceived as an act of weakness - necessary to modernise a country’s own weak canon and lean on the language of others - or one of strength: a mission to take what’s best from around the world and introduce it to one’s own language and culture.
 
Gender politics too come into play, and this goes as much for ungendered languages such as English, in which words have social and cultural associations which play into gender stereotypes and assumptions through their use over time, as it does for heavily gendered ones such as Italian. Read Gender in Translation by Sherry Simon, to explore this topic further.
 
The subject of translation is increasingly relevant as humans move more and more between countries, and is increasingly being considered a genre in itself. The fascinating scope of the topics covered at FILL was testament to that.
 
The Story of Now
 
Novelists Eleanor Laing, Walter Siti and Ali Smith discussed their role as novelists. How do they engage with the world through their work amidst the tide of news coming in, constantly and instantly, from all directions, using a literary form that is typically carefully and slowly constructed? Smith pointed out that the word novel in fact means new; it invites experimentation with form - something in common to the work of all three authors. Perhaps novelists can reshape their practise to fit this digitally dominated age.
 
The panel covered a vast number of topics, considering the novel as a way of processing the world, which can play with form and time, and which, by presenting an imagined world can remind us that our world is constructed, and that we have the power to reimagine it - an opportunity which news, delivered at high speed, demanding fast reactions - does not offer.  The novel can work as a slower form of reaction to world events, enabling us to think about and process them, as well as to feel them - not to be guided by feelings alone, which the constant availability of tweets, opinions, images and information about the tragedies in the world - from treacherous sea crossings to climate change - evoke in us.
 
Postcards from Reality
 
This event was an amazing opportunity for Italian audiences to learn about the work of writer Michela Murgia.

Working in a call centre, Michela Murgia objected to the conditions of workers and started a blog about it: ‘The World Needs to Know’. This launched her writing career, aged 35. She described writing as just one tool in the arsenal of her political activities. She said the writer needs to create good worlds and then bequeath the keys to their readers to go and inhabit them. Discussing how to bridge the gap between ‘intellectuals’ and the ‘common people’ in the current political climate in Italy, she talked about differences between religion and faith, popularity and populism, and how it is easier to unite people through fears than through ideas, as many current ruling parties and leaders around the world show us. Her activities spread beyond writing to her activism in the project Mediterranea rescue, which has seen writers and artists support migrants coming from Libya to Italy, as well as her podgcast, Mergana. She made a call to action to intellectuals to sit on the fence no longer, pointing to the example of the treatment of Lucano, the Mayor of Riace, who has been arrested by the Government for his pro-immigration work. The concept of identitysuggests we are all identical, rather than being divided. Murgia said her work and her call to arms was not a selfless act of charity - trying to save others - but ultimately about trying to save ourselves.
 
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