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3 June 2020

Melania Mazzucco in other languages

Francesca Rubini (Università La Sapienza, Roma)

Melania Mazzucco believes there is great affinity between a writer’s profession and that of a translator: “Translators handle words. They know how much they weigh; They know how one word can make a sentence collapse and how the wrong rhythm can destroy a novel. They know that, what matters, is the tone of a book – which is the writer’s voice “(, 27/05/2013). To date, forty-seven translators handle Mazzucco’s voice in twenty-five different languages for readers from twenty-seven countries, as proof of her success in the world of this “authentic Lady Writer” (Asor Rosa, 2009), certainly one of the best-known Italian authors abroad of her generation.

Beyond the millennium, the first translations
Mazzucco’s entry into the international book market, almost contemporary with its Italian debut, coincided with the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the new millennium. In 1997 the publisher Seix Barral of Barcelona published the first translation of the novel Il bacio della medusa (The kiss of the jellyfish,1996), followed the following year by the Spanish version of La Camera di Baltus (Baltus’ Chamber, 1998). Between 1999 and 2000 the two volumes also arrive in Germany and Switzerland thanks to the Bavarian publisher Piper, but it is with Lei così amata (She who is so loved, 2000) that the author conquers a European fame, then consolidated by subsequent translations in Spain, Germany, Greece (2002), France (2006), Poland (2006) and Turkey (2017).

Across the ocean, Vita 
Her worldwide success is mainly due to Life, the 2003 Premio Strega novel, translated in total in nineteen countries with over thirty different editions. Between 2004 and 2009 the book appears in Albania, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Hungary, and Denmark in 2019. The work arrived in the continents and translations were done in Canada (2004), the United States (2005), Israel (2005), South Korea (2010) and Georgia (2019). In the meantime, in 2005, a series of important awards consolidated her success: in Spain «esta espléndida novela -que no tener fin, fino que recomienza cuando debía terminar» (“El País”, 30/06/2005) won the Arcebispo Juan de San Clemente International Prize for best foreign novel; in Canada it is named Globe & Mail Book of the Year; in the United States it was the only non-English novel to be included among the Top Ten Books of the Year of the Publisher’s Weekly and the New York Times. It’s stylistic intensity and moral resilience («her narrative has an engaged intensity») approached the work Anguilla by Montale (25/09/2005) and it was included amongst the Editors’ Choice of the “New York Times Book Review”. The international launch of Life contributed to the success of Un giorno perfetto (A perfect day, 2005). The work is translated into twelve languages (for the first time also in Serbian), then adapted for the big screen by the director Ferzan Özpetek (2008). The following novels have fewer translations: six for La lunga attesa dell’angelo (The Long Await for the Angel, 2008), including a translation into Bulgarian; eight for Limbo (2012); two for Sei come sei, (You are as you are, 2013); three for Io sono con te (I am with you). Storia di Brigitte (The History of Brigitte, 2016) was translated into Croatian in 2019. If the individual books record very different results, the author’s international fortune has also been confirmed by the continuity of some cultural and editorial relationships: in Spain (nine translated works, of which the last seven by Xavier Gonzalez Rovira for Anagnama), Germany (six works) and France (five works and a large number of editions, hardcover and paperback, for the two publishing houses Flammarion and J’ai lu).

Beyond the novel
Although Melania Mazzucco’s name is linked, both abroad and in Italy, to her novels, other forms of writing have gained important recognition. The seven translations of the Storia di re Lear, (“The History of King Lear, 2011) are aimed at younger readers, including the only editions in Chinese (2015) and Portuguese (2016). The fairy tale Il bassotto e la regina (“The Dachshund and the Queen”, 2012), also translated into German, is currently the only work published in Japan (2013). Finally, as a screenwriter, Melania Mazzucco made herself known all over the world thanks to the documentary film Tintoretto. Un ribelle a Venezia (A rebel in Venice, Sky Arte, 2019), the English version of which was widespread in Russia and Latin America.