[New publication] Perspectives, Volume 26, Issue 6: Special Issue on ‘Popular Fiction in Translation’

Perspectives, Volume 26, Issue 6: Special Issue on ‘Popular Fiction in Translation’

Edited by Diana Bianchi & Federico Zanettin


‘Under surveillance’. An introduction to popular fiction in translation

Diana Bianchi & Federico Zanettin

Abstract: The translation of popular fiction is an under researched field within Translation Studies, with a very limited number of general studies and a few articles scattered among different journals and edited collections. The introduction to this special issue on popular fiction in translation highlights the novelty of the volume, looking at translated popular texts from a broad-based perspective, providing a literature overview and identifying some common traits in the translation of popular fiction. First, we introduce some general issues related to the study of popular texts, ranging from questions of definition of the field to aspects concerning the position of popular fiction within the wider cultural system. This is followed by a review of available research on various genres and aspects of popular fiction in translation, including those discussed in the nine articles contained in the volume. The contributions are then introduced with reference, in particular, to three recurring themes: the role of censorship and self-censorship, the pervasive practice of remediation, and the way in which gender issues affect translated popular genres. The introduction ends with some suggestions for future research.

From antiheroes to new realism: French and Italian crime fiction in the twentieth and twenty-first century

Titika Dimitroulia

Abstract: Crime fiction has been constantly present in Greek popular culture, mainly through translations published in newspapers, magazines and in book form, from the nineteenth century to the present day. While the Anglo-American influence on the development of Greek popular literature as a whole has undoubtedly been paramount since the beginning of the twentieth century, other national traditions have also played an important role. In this article, I provide an overview of cultural transfers between Greek, and French and Italian crime fiction in the twentieth and twenty-first century, taking into account the major influence of French culture and literature in Greece since the Enlightenment, and the common emergence of a new French and Italian crime fiction in translation after the 1990s. In particular, I look at the interplay between translated crime fiction and indigenous Greek texts, focusing on the emergence and consecration of the genre in relation to key texts, agents and events. Drawing on a definition of translation as rewriting, I examine interlingual, as well as intersemiotic practices, showing how the history of the genre in Greece has been (re)written through translation.

Dracula’s Italian hosts: the manipulation of Bram Stoker’s novel in early Italian editions

Antonio Bibbò

Abstract: This article investigates the first two Italian translations of Dracula as significant cases of manipulation of a classic of popular literature. It provides a brief survey of the malleable status of the text in its interlinguistic and intermedial translations in order to introduce the specificity of the Italian case. These two Italian translations represent two different, somewhat antithetical approaches to introducing gothic literature to early-twentieth century Italy. They show different strategies to overcome the deep-seated resistance of the Italian literary field by presenting the novel in very distinct ways. The Sonzogno edition highlights the novel’s popular character and shocking features, and domesticates its most unsettling aspects by focusing on the ghastlier elements and through systematic removal of all the novel’s political and socio-anthropological references. In the Bocca edition, Fedi adopted a reframing strategy that linked the novel with occultist beliefs, thus turning it into a sort of fictional treatise on vampirism and emphasizing its philosophical and mystical import. In order to make sense of these two cases, this article considers the interconnections between censorship and translation as a metonymic process, which can stimulate unorthodox readings that can ultimately be productive and grant books a more varied readership.

Stemming the flood: the censorship of translated popular fiction in Fascist Italy

Christopher Rundle

Abstract: In this article I will show how the hostility towards translation in Italy during the Fascist regime, and in particular in the 1930s and the early 1940s, was principally motivated by a hostility towards popular fiction and its dramatic impact on the Italian publishing industry. I also want to show how, when the regime eventually intervened against translation, its main objective was to restrict the flow of popular fiction and protect the masses from its perceived harmful influence. In conclusion, I shall argue that the history of translation and of popular fiction in this period are inextricably linked, and that an examination of this theme can provide significant insight into the evolution of Fascist cultural policy.

Foreign literature as poison: (self-)censorship in the translation of German popular fiction in Italy during the 1930s

Natascia Barrale

Abstract: Between the 1920s and 1930s, the translation of foreign contemporary novels into Italian was encouraged by publishers, meeting the needs of a new readership, which was larger and more heterogeneous than before the war. However, the sharp rise in the number of imported novels provoked strong disapproval. In a context of heightened nationalism and cultural autocracy, translation was considered a polluting, anti-patriotic and servile practice. The censorship that took place, however, was mostly implemented via a tacit compromise between the publishers and the regime, rather than by repressive institutional actions. In order to protect themselves from sanctions and requisitions, publishers and translators often deleted potentially unpleasant elements from the texts, including topics such as abortion, suicide, pacifism, sexuality, women’s emancipation or episodes belittling Italy. The analysis of German popular fiction translated into Italian in this period suggests that popular literature was translated with a high degree of manipulation. This may be ascribed to the low cultural status accorded to this type of literature and the modernity of the themes it contained. Furthermore, while ‘high literature’ catered to a niche readership, the widespread circulation of popular literature made it seem more dangerous and thus more subject to censorship.

Translation, censorship and the development of European comics cultures

Federico Zanettin

Abstract: This article provides an historical overview of the role played by translation and censorship in the development of national traditions of graphic storytelling in Europe. In the mid 1930s, comics industries witnessed a boom in countries like Italy, France and Spain, largely due to the influence of imported American comics. Other nations followed different routes. The UK, for instance, acted as an exporting country towards the rest of Europe but imported little foreign production, and the British comics industry reached a peak only in the 1950s. In Germany, a comics industry was not born until the 1950s, and a national tradition developed only much later. While the production of comics in all these countries was regulated at various points by official censorship, preventive self-censorship was applied independently of political color and form of government, and translated comics were often heavily manipulated to suppress verbal and visual representations of violence and sensuality, and to alter unwanted political and cultural references. National traditions were promoted by censorship against foreign products, and developed by incorporating the themes and visual language of American comics in original production, while the translation of comics was characterized by the norms regulating the translation of popular fiction more generally.

Science fiction, cultural industrialization and the translation of techno-science in post-World War II Italy

Giulia Iannuzzi

Abstract: A wave of translations of Anglo-American science fiction characterized the Italian publishing market during the years of the ‘economic miracle’ (1950s–1960s). Starting from an assessment of quantitative data about science fiction novels published in specialized series, the article discusses the agency of publishers and editors in shaping and marketing ideas of genre, in terms of selection of texts to be translated, adaptation through the paratextual apparatus and translation strategies. Translations in popular series were in fact characterized by a vast range of domestication and manipulation phenomena. A close reading of a number of cases reveals a complex series of motives at work behind these practices: from the adaptation to a readership younger than the original one – and/or believed by the publishers to be less culturally prepared – to economic factors, as the physical characteristics of each book were strictly standardized, and issues of cost and seriality often took precedence over artistic considerations.

Dangerous visions? The circulation and translation of women’s crime fiction and science fiction

Diana Bianchi

Abstract: Crime fiction and science fiction (SF) have long been associated with male writers and readers. Typically, in these popular genres the main characters have been men, while women have been mostly represented in a traditional way. This changed when, in the 1970s and early 1980s, a number of women writers appropriated these forms of popular fiction, subverting their conventional elements and introducing heroines and themes that had a strong feminist character. Since a number of these texts were also translated into Italian, the question I want to consider is to what extent these gender-based innovations in crime fiction and SF were represented in the Italian versions, at a time when Italy was going through remarkable transformations, in relation to the role of women in the family and society. In this article I explore this issue by analysing the way in which subversive models of female identity in a corpus of English crime fiction and SF were introduced and translated into Italian. The results show that while most of these texts were allowed entrance into the Italian cultural space, a number became the site of gendered discourses, affecting both the paratextual and the textual levels.

Translating violence in crime fiction

Karen Seago
Abstract: Translatorial and editorial intervention in the handling of taboo topics or material considered sensitive in the target culture has been well established, especially in the translation of genre literature. These have been discussed in the context of explicit censorship and of self-censorship. Since 2000, authors and academics have articulated growing concern over the escalation of explicit violence in Anglo-American crime fiction; the present article investigates how this controversial textual staging of violence is mediated in the German translation of Val McDermid’s Wire in the Blood series. Focusing on the representation of physical violence, I consider to what extent the translator negotiates (or identifies) what the expectancy norms are when norm-validating authorities such as publishers and reader reception promote violent content and representations, but critical and cultural reception (academics, authors, cultural pundits) on the other hand problematise and oppose such issues or representations. The first three novels of the series have been translated by three different translators, and results indicate that it is the translator’s positionality and genre expectations that shape their translation decisions, rather than public concerns over violence.

Genetically modified TV, or the manipulation of US television series in Italy

Chiara Bucaria

Abstract: Although a considerable amount of research has been carried out in the field of global media studies on the ways in which US television and audiovisual products in general travel to different countries, little attention continues to be paid to the cultural and linguistic adaptation that such cross-cultural transfer inevitably requires and to the modifications to which these products become subject in the process. This paper focuses on the adaptation into Italian of a number of recent US television series containing controversial language and potentially disturbing themes, such as references to death, disability, sexuality/homosexuality and drugs. By analysing dubbed, subtitled, and fansubbed versions of such series, this study shows how the dubbed versions of the series tended to be toned down as far as taboo language and subjects are concerned, as opposed to the fansubbed versions and to some extent the official subtitles. In some of the more extreme cases the series seem to have undergone a ‘genetic modification’ of sorts, with Italian viewers watching sometimes radically different shows with respect to their US counterparts.