AND RECEPTION OF
SCANDINAVIAN LITERATURE IN
This study is an attempt to write a translation and reception history of Scandinavian literature in Italy in the period from 1918 to 1945. While the translation and reception of other literatures in Italy in this period - which roughly corresponds to the years of Fascist rule - has been the object of important research, the encounter between Scandinavia and Italy through the medium of literary translation has never before been systematically investigated. This study seeks to fill this research gap and produce new knowledge about how Scandinavian literature was selected for translation during the Fascism epoch, how texts were transformed and manipulated in the translation process, how translations were paratextually presented to their new audience and how they were received by Italian critics and journalists.
The 1930s in Italy are known as the decade of translations, il decennio delle traduzioni. In this period Italy published more translations that any other country in the world. Many publishing houses created series specifically for translated literature, the most famous being Mondadori's two series "Medusa" and "I romanzi della Palma," the former dedicated to high-quality novels and the latter to popular literature.
There was also a widespread idea, having taken root beginning from the 1920s, that direct translations were not only superior in a literary sense to relay translations (that is, translations carried out from a third language), but might also serve to ensure Italy's independence from the cultural hegemony of France and Germany. Literary critics began to call for the publishing of philologically accurate translations produced directly from the source language.
Scandinavian literature – that is, literature originally written in one of the Scandinavian languages – formed a significant part of this general translation boom. The number of Italian translations of specifically Danish literature rose dramatically from the levels seen in the previous two decades. At the same time, the interwar years were characterized by Italian interest in the Scandinavian languages and literatures in other ways as well. Danish language study was formally instituted in 1937 when the Romance philologist Knud Ferlov was appointed lecturer of Danish in Rome. In 1926 and 1932, two literary histories of the Scandinavian countries were written by Giuseppe Gabetti and Giovanni Bach respectively. Gabetti, who went on to become director of the Istituto Italiano di Studi Germanici, also authored many entries on Scandinavian authors for the Enciclopedia Italiana. Furthermore, Giacomo Prampolini, a polyglot translator and editorial consultant for the Mondadori publishing house, dedicated a part of his world literary history to the Scandinavian countries (1938).
The years between the two wars were thus a particularly active period for Scandinavian literature in Italy. There are case studies documenting how singular Scandinavian authors fared, but a comprehensive translation and reception history of Scandinavian literature in Italy in this period - a period which was characterized by both increasing censorship and cultural autarchy as well as remarkable openness towards foreign languages and literatures - has never been written.
The study consists of three parts. The first and most substantial part involves translation archaeology: I set out to collect the raw data necessary to construct a translation history by discovering what was translated, who the translators were, what publishing houses the translators worked for, etc. The second part is translation analysis, in which I take J.P. Jacobsen's Niels Lyhne (1880), a classic of Danish literature, and analyze how it was translated by three different translators over a short period of time. Finally, I explore how Scandinavian literature was reviewed in three key literary journals.