Logos Multilingual Portal

11. Translation as "cloning": Vittorini, Montale, Quasimodo, Calvino and Ceronetti


c) The talisman of catharsis

For a translator, the models presented so far have a cathartic or freeing value: in the presence of the aesthetic evidence in which the philosophical and textual dimensions are summarized - each deserving a complex philological discourse - the translator can appreciate how the interior coherence, or the power of the poetic proposition, derives from the courage of transplanting the symbols of the text to the ‘shelter’ of the Contemporary, where those still unsolved enigmas that make them rise to the rank of ‘classics’ explode intact in the inextricable web of their counter-texts; thus, interpreting means forgoing understanding. Rather than understanding, it means acting: the creation of a text in the translator’s mind goes through the same web of allusions that permeate its mother-tongue reader. Transferring the dark areas to another constellation of symbols, without their gravitational power ceasing to agglutinate them around the monad-man, is the translator’s bold task.

Throughout this course, we have insisted on the idea of the translator as the first and most profound reader of a text. Now, we shall end our journey by indicating a singular figure as a testimonial of the times: Guido Ceronetti. In him, the aesthetics of the fragment have become a hermeneutic strategy. Ceronetti translates from seven languages, seeking in each the moment when a certain vision of the world becomes poetic inspiration. The moment when the poet is visited, and therefore will eternally visit the readers. Thus, when preparing to render the Song of Songs in Italian, Ceronetti makes it an example of archaic symbiosis between mind and nature. With the collapse of the language, the two lovers, for whom the Song represents the wedding-hymn, communicate by means of things, and the sensations that the wedding gifts, scenes, and parts of the loved body, convey through them. However, it is by eluding the ‘time’ dimension that Ceronetti manages to make this love seem like an anatomy session: to such an extent that physiology constructs a totem of the loved object in the unconscious.

The ‘time’ variable that Ceronetti has excluded from his vision of the Song prevails in Come un talismano: a collection of ‘translations’ by Ceronetti and whose texts speak of the impossibility of controlling the passing of time. Here, the translator seems like a castaway whose contact with civilization - and with history - continues only through the scattered pages of a sunken library, that the ebb-tides bring to him one by one. And the castaway-translator employs a Platonic measure against the capriciousness of chance: one can learn what one already knows. Every translation is an expression of the interior world the translator inhabits, and by which he is inhabited.
Come un talismano effectively sheds light on our entire discourse: in fact, it is a manual on those force fields which, projecting their directional light on the interpreter’s awareness, unfailingly guide his choices; though more in perceptive terms than linguistically. How those perceptive choices become visions of the world through the language is the mystery that makes Literature the biggest challenge to the unknown made by man through the centuries and languages.