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Translating the Italian classics

Tradurre Machiavelli in inglese: questa la sfida intrapresa con grande passione e divertimento da Tim Parks. Il risultato? Un Machiavelli più autentico, chiaro e moderno. E l’impresa successiva? Leopardi! By Mark Worden - LANGUAGE LEVEL C1 (ADVANCED)

Tim Parks (Standard British accent)

Well, I was invited many years ago to translate The Decameron, which I didn’t do because on... on careful attention I... I just felt that... that the translations available were... were actually... were actually OK, and that the real interest, when we read The Decameron in Italian, is... is a sort of connection with the language of the time that, actually, if you detach the stories from the language of the time, they’re not so brilliant! I didn’t feel so... Then I was invited to translate The Prince, Machiavelli, and... and that was completely different because I felt there, reading the Machiavelli, enjoying it in the original now – I’m now able to do that – and realizing that, really, the whole style of the original is “Let’s see how clearly, how brutally and plainly everything can be said.” And when you looked at the translations there I felt a lot of them read like, you know, old translations of Cicero, they had that whole school feel of slightly Latinate, slightly rhetorical, whereas in fact I felt that Machiavelli probably, in spirit, is actually close to the whole modern pragmatic, brutally Anglo-Saxon take. So I did that translation and really enjoyed putting Machiavelli very clearly, I hope very correctly, in extremely straightforward English. Very recently now, I’ve translated a selection from Leopardi’s Zibaldone, which was a completely different enterprise, which... which I undertook because I love Leopardi, but... but I found it terribly difficult!

(Tim Parks was talking to Mark Worden)


Anglo-Saxon take. Punto di vista/atteggiamento anglosassone. Il verbo to take (prendere) è uno dei primi verbi che si imparano in inglese. C’è anche il sostantivo take, che ha vari significati: ad esempio “presa, incasso” e anche “ripresa”. Qui vuol dire “posizione, atteggiamento, punto di vista, interpretazione” ecc. Se qualcuno ti chiede “What’s your take on the Scottish referendum?” vuole sapere “Qual’è la tua posizione sul referendum scozzese? Qual’è la tua interpretazione ecc.