Thursday, 2 February 2017

Anna Livia Plurabella Part 2

The story of the Italian translation of Anna Livia Plurabelle has a villain – the journalist Ettore Settanni, who stole the co-authorship credit from Nino Frank and mutilated the text.  

'Settanni writes me from Capri that he thought it well to soften certain passages. Please obtain a copy of the review and note the variants in the margin. In that way I will have our original text. Settanni writes me that your name does not appear for reasons you will understand at once. But it will not always be kept hidden I trust.'

Joyce to Nino Frank 13 March 1940 Letters III p 468-9
Nino Frank

The reason for Frank not being credited was that he had been exiled from Italy for anti-fascist activity – ironically, by Curzio Malaparte, the editor of the very review in which the translation was published. Malaparte had been a prominent early fascist, but later became an opponent of both Hitler and Mussolini. In 1932, he had been stripped of his fascist membership and sent into internal exile on Lipari. His offence was writing a book in which he called Hitler 'a woman'! (Hitler: Une Femme)

Curzio Malaparte, who called Hitler a woman!
Settanni, who was ignorant of the original text being translated, took it upon himself 'to soften certain passages', without consulting Joyce. He also changed the text of Joyce's letter (quoted in the previous blog) when he pubished it in the same journal:

'The April issue is publishing a letter I wrote to Settanni. The text shows that the third person singular pronouns have been changed to second person plural pronouns!  By the way, did I ever lend you At Swim Two Birds by F.O'Brien? I am only asking, not accusing you.'

Joyce to Nino Frank, 9 April 1940  Letters III p474-5

The pronoun changes were made was because, in 1938, had Mussolini banned the use of 'Lei' replacing it with 'voi' in formal speech.

(I've included that last bit because it's the only independent confirmation I can find of Joyce's love of this book – which still carries an unsourced approving quote from him: 'That's a real writer, with the true comic spirit')

Here's Nino Frank on the changes made to 'Anna Livia Plurabella' by Settanni:

'A dozen slight modifications, most of them absurd, had been made in our text – I mention only a particular sentence in which, by means of puns, Joyce inserted the names of four counties of Ireland: Derry, Cork, Dublin, and Galway; the newcomer changed the words and spoiled the puns.'
Nino Frank, 'The Shadow That Had Lost Its Man', in Portraits of the Artist in Exile ed Potts, p 202  

So this is one passage 'softened' by Settanni:
'And his derry's own drawl and his corksown blather and his doubling stutter and his gullaway swank.' 197.04

Joyce and Frank translated this as:

'Un ghigno derriso del corcontento, ma chiazze galve dal cervel debolino'

Settanni had no idea what was going on here, so he changed it. 

Back to Nino Frank:

'Furthermore the text was presented as the work of Settanni himself, my name having completely disappeared; the Italian wrote that I 'would understand.'
 His reasons were doubly good: for more than ten years I had been a literary fuoriuscito*, and it happened that I owed my very exile to the hate of that very Malaparte – it dated from his 'ultra' days (To finish with Settanni, I will add that these reasons no longer existed around 1955, when he republished the text, still omitting my name. He was later forced to rectify the error). Yet Joyce seemed somewhat troubled the day he informed me of the intrigue...'

*One exiled from Italy for political reasons. 

Yes, in 1955, Settanni published James Joyce e La Prima Versione Italiana del Finnegan's (sic) Wake, (Venice: Cavalliino) which includes a reminiscence in which he claimed to have worked on the translation with Joyce!

This morning I discovered the typescript of Joyce and Frank's translation online on the National Library of Ireland's wonderful website. Although this is the original typescript, it's described as an 'Italian translation by James Joyce, Nino Frank and Ettore Settanni.'

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