Tradurre (come) Making: Two interlaced texts

One day, in the depths of my doctoral labors, I was reading a book. Or, to be fair, I was half-reading one, as another unrelated stream of thoughts flowed through my mind, resurfacing intermittently before my consciousness: it was a thinking of alternative ways of living; of ways to connect more dots and to fulfill more desires. And the book was there too, with its own flows of recurring thoughts about creative hands and the making of things, corresponding with the world and knowing with the body. — What if I translated this book? Two streams were now flowing together.

A volte passano giorni prima che arrivi l’illuminazione che rivela la parola giusta, l’unica che funzioni non tanto come traduzione fedele del termine originale, ma come elemento ben integrato nell’armonia del testo finale. Ogni traduzione è infatti la creazione di un nuovo testo che possiede una voce indipendente, nonostante il suo legame di filiazione con il testo di partenza. L’unica differenza tra il tradurre e lo scrivere è che chi traduce parte dalla conoscenza profonda di un unico testo, mentre chi scrive parte da un insieme di testi, spesso cuciti insieme o rielaborati dal lavoro dell’immaginazione. È per questo che molte scrittrici sono anche traduttrici, e viceversa. Chi traduce riscrive il Don Chisciotte come il Pierre Menard di Borges.

And so I started, writing on my notebook while waiting to be boarded onto a plane directed to Italy. A casual circumstance that would later acquire meaning: translating has become a way for me to negotiate spaces of practice in my native language — Italian — amidst an overwhelmingly English-practicing environment. Through the exercise of translation, I sought to transform the daily strain of this tiresome albeit self-imposed erasure into something valuable: a bridge with an attached potential for both-ways crossing. And so I continued, typing on my laptop in the boredom of a Sicilian Christmas filled with too many family gatherings. The first chapter took shape in the lamp-illuminated darkness of my childhood desk. And off it went, towards the desks of a handful Italian publishers.

Dizionari e traduttori online sono spesso ottimi alleati, ma non esiste nulla che possa affrettare l’intuizione del termine giusto: l’abbondanza di opzioni può anzi confondere il fiuto di chi traduce. Bisogna andare avanti, rimettendo alla prossima stesura le questioni irrisolte. Come tutte le pratiche — dalla ceramica all’antropologia, dalla cesteria al disegno — tra cui Ingold rimbalza nella sua esplorazione dell’atto creativo, anche la traduzione è una corrispondenza con qualcosa — un testo — che si sviluppa secondo tempi e dinamiche che non possiamo mai controllare del tutto. Per questo posso dire che questo libro è stato tradotto tanto nelle biblioteche siciliane quanto per le strade e i battelli di Istanbul.

A silence of more than one year.

And then, when I was living in a different country, once again immersed in the thick of new doctoral labors, an email from the Milan-based publisher Raffaello Cortina. Some negotiations after, a contract was signed. The daily practice of translation had now to slot into a wholly different set of activities, taking up most of my week. And so my translation Saturdays began, spent half sitting in libraries and half exploring the neighborhoods of Istanbul. I would translate in cafes, public work spaces and even in fish markets and ferries crossing the Bosphorus. When I moved to Sicily for the summer, a route among Sicilian public libraries began, and the long street walks were replaced with swims in the Mediterranean.

With time, as the daily practice of translating — with its necessary companion breaks and its unpredictable yet never to-be-rushed rhythms — began to sink in as a reassuring and nurturing habit, I realized that I was witnessing glimpses into that alternative lifestyle I was longing for. Somehow, the two streams of thoughts that opened this story are still flowing together. And my intuition tells me that they might continue to do so.

E, come spesso accade quando si percorrono sentieri di creazione, alcune tra le migliori sorprese avvengono su strade secondarie. Questo viaggio di traduzione tra testi, lingue e paesi diversi è stato anche un viaggio alla (ri)scoperta delle meravigliose biblioteche pubbliche della Sicilia, l’isola in cui sono nato e cresciuto. Da Siracusa a Palermo, tra finestre aperte sul blu, scaffali di legni intarsiati, cortili barocchi e giardini nascosti, queste biblioteche sono state preziose oasi di frescura, quiete e libri nel cuore della torrida mondanità dell’estate siciliana. Spesso sovrastimiamo il potere che i luoghi hanno di influenzare la nostra capacità produttiva o le nostre abitudini. E ne hanno sicuramente, ma non è tutto. Oltretutto, dentro i luoghi ci sono altri luoghi, e al loro interno ci sono altri luoghi ancora.

P.S. The Italian edition of Making was published in January 2019. Puoi trovare il libro qui.

Translating at the Biblioteca Regionale Universitaria di Catania, Sicily
Translating in the neighborhood of Kadıköy, on the Asian side of Istanbul
In translation at the Biblioteca centrale della Regione Siciliana Alberto Bombace in Palermo, Sicily
Biblioteca Alagoniana in Siracusa, Sicily
Translating at the Biblioteca Centrale di Lettere e Filosofia at the University of Palermo, Sicily
In translation in Mardin, Turkey, overlooking Syria
Translating at the Biblioteca Paolo Orsi della Sovraintendenza in Siracusa, Sicily
The Italian edition of Making fresh from the press, January 2019

Making paper to write thank you notes to plants

In this period I am hungry for nodes of growth and connection. Along this path of discovery, a few days ago I found myself in Santa Cruz for a two-day paper making workshop facilitated by someone who embodies connectedness better than almost anybody I know: someone who is a gardener, naturalist, artist, poet, educator, maker of all sorts of things and beyond all that a human being — Melody Overstreet.

Along with a curious and spirited bunch of local artists, teachers and self-defined “craftoholics”, I was guided to discover the multiple unexpected connections that bring about something as simple as a sheet of paper. The joy of learning — together — the ways of paper quickly filled the room, as did the playfulness of co-responding to something that was slowly taking shape before our eyes, with all sorts of surprising and often exciting twists and turns.

As I look at the first paper sheets I’ve ever made, still drying up on my bed in this unusually moist end-of-May, I realize how my hidden intention really was to write thank you notes to plants: for the life they create and sustain on this planet, for the nourishment they give to our bodies, for their cheerful and nurturing companionship, for the gift of paper, and for much, much more. Because — as Melody would put it — it all boils down to plants.