Luciano Bianciardi: Interventionist translation in the age of mechanical labour

Massimiliano Morini

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.

Publication history
Table of contents

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).

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