Andrea Camilleri is not a only a successful writer in Italy. Many of his texts (which range from pure fictions to historical writings and biographies) have been in fact translated worlwide with positive responses. As far as English-speaking countries are concerned, it is indicative that the only translated novels are those of the Inspector Montalbano Series. This choice is a first indicative symptom of the way Camilleri’s idiosyncratic character Salvo Montalbano and Sicilian dialect (which he has partialy re-invented) have been approached by the editorial market and by his “official” translator Stephen Sartarelli. With the exception of single words, of the names of some Sicilian culinary specialties and of police operator Catarella’s (unintentionally comic) register, Camilleri’s peculiar Sicilian language has been translated “fluently” – to use Lawrence Venuti’s definition – gaining much praise from readers and critics who are confronted with a “sardonic laughter” which is a “sound” that, although it is typically Sicilan, paradoxically “translates so smoothly into English” (as one reviewer says). But while on the one hand Sartarelli’s translating strategies (along with his detaled explicatory notes at the end of each edition) partially succeed in conveying what many reviewers have called the “flavour” Camilleri’s Sicily, on the other hand his “domesticating” translations raise relevant questions related to the transference of linguistic difference from one cultural system to another. The aim of our analysis, which will include excerpts from all of Camilleri’s novels translated in English up to 2008 (from The Shape of Water to The Paper Moon), is to assess the advantages and the inevitable side effects of this partially domesticating attitude towards an author such as Camilleri, who has chosen to “foregnize” his language as a way to offer an alternative perspective not only on Italian culture, politics and society but also on universal values, making Commissario Montalbano both an “everyman” and a typical Sicilian hero.

“‘I am Montalbano/ Montalbano sono’: Fluency and Cultural Difference in Translating Andrea Camilleri’s Fiction”

TOMAIUOLO, Saverio
2009

Abstract

Andrea Camilleri is not a only a successful writer in Italy. Many of his texts (which range from pure fictions to historical writings and biographies) have been in fact translated worlwide with positive responses. As far as English-speaking countries are concerned, it is indicative that the only translated novels are those of the Inspector Montalbano Series. This choice is a first indicative symptom of the way Camilleri’s idiosyncratic character Salvo Montalbano and Sicilian dialect (which he has partialy re-invented) have been approached by the editorial market and by his “official” translator Stephen Sartarelli. With the exception of single words, of the names of some Sicilian culinary specialties and of police operator Catarella’s (unintentionally comic) register, Camilleri’s peculiar Sicilian language has been translated “fluently” – to use Lawrence Venuti’s definition – gaining much praise from readers and critics who are confronted with a “sardonic laughter” which is a “sound” that, although it is typically Sicilan, paradoxically “translates so smoothly into English” (as one reviewer says). But while on the one hand Sartarelli’s translating strategies (along with his detaled explicatory notes at the end of each edition) partially succeed in conveying what many reviewers have called the “flavour” Camilleri’s Sicily, on the other hand his “domesticating” translations raise relevant questions related to the transference of linguistic difference from one cultural system to another. The aim of our analysis, which will include excerpts from all of Camilleri’s novels translated in English up to 2008 (from The Shape of Water to The Paper Moon), is to assess the advantages and the inevitable side effects of this partially domesticating attitude towards an author such as Camilleri, who has chosen to “foregnize” his language as a way to offer an alternative perspective not only on Italian culture, politics and society but also on universal values, making Commissario Montalbano both an “everyman” and a typical Sicilian hero.
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