Luciano Bianciardi: Interventionist translation in the age of mechanical labour
University of Urbino
Starting with a discussion of ‘translator-centred’ translation studies, this article discusses the Italian writer
Luciano Bianciardi as translation practitioner and theorist. Working in the age of mechanical labour and mechanical typewriters,
Bianciardi translated at incredible speed, putting in physically exhausting daily shifts. Not surprisingly, he articulated a
vision of his trade that associated it with the physical effort of shifting heavy loads of mud – a job he had seen performed by
labourers in his native Tuscany. However, he saw the process of ‘turning over’ this linguistic mud as no mere slavish effort: just
as he ‘infected’ his original writings with his own target texts, Bianciardi consciously imbued his translations with his
personality and his style.
In the last three decades of theorizing, the figure of the translator has finally started to take centre stage within the discipline of translation studies. From the 1970s onwards, descriptive scholars began to shift the focus from rules to norms (Holmes 1988, 66–80; Toury 1978), and from how translations should be done to how translations were actually done, by real translators. But it was only in the early 1990s that the financial and social conditions in which translators operate, as well as their cognitive, emotional and physical responses, were chosen as the main topic of a series of important studies. An early exploration of the field was Douglas Robinson’s The Translator’s Turn, which busied itself with the “somatics” of translation, and announced that it was now, indeed, “the translator’s turn” to be considered as the main agent of his/her craft (Robinson 1991, xvi). Four years later, Lawrence Venuti published his famous study on The Translator’s Invisibility (1995), which again posed an individual (though necessarily generic) “translator” at the centre of a very ambitious History of Translation. In the following decades, a series of monographs and collections of essays followed which had the word “translator” in their titles (e.g., Bassnett and Bush 2006; Morini 2013).
1996 “Trollope to His Readers: The Unreliable Narrator of An Autobiography.” Biography 19 (1): 1–18.
1990New Selected Poems 1966–1987. London: Faber and Faber.
1985 “Images of Translation: Metaphor and Imagery in the Renaissance Discourse on Translation.” In The Manipulation of Literature: Studies in Literary Translation, edited by Theo Hermans, 103–136. London: Croom Helm.
2014 “From La dolce vita to La vita agra: The Image of the Italian Literary Translator as an Illusory, Rebellious and Precarious Intellectual.” In Transfiction: Research into the Realities of Translation Fiction, edited by Klaus Kaindl and Karlheinz Spitzl, 127–139. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
1978 “The Nature and Role of Norms in Literary Translation.” In Literature and Translation: New Perspectives in Literary Studies, edited by James S. Holmes, José Lambert and Raymond van den Broeck, 83–100. Leuven: Acco.
1995Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
1986 “The Translator’s Invisibility.” Criticism 28 (2): 179–213.
1995The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation. London: Routledge.
2010 “Translating the Body: Towards an Erotics of Translation.” Translation and Literature 19 (1): 1–25.