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Arturo's Island Reviews

Arturo's Island by Elsa Morante, Ann Goldstein

Arturo's Island

Elsa Morante, Ann Goldstein

Score pending

1 review

Imprint: Pushkin Press
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Publication date: 2 May 2019
ISBN: 9781782274957
2 stars out of 5
11 Aug 2019

"this fine novel is yet to be captured in English"

The characters in Elsa Morante’s masterpiece, Arturo’s Island, are bewitched and bewitching, in thrall to someone, or to some idea, and, simultaneously, enthralling to someone else. In describing all this, Morante flagrantly, joyously, looks for the same kind of relationship with the reader: her lush, generous style, rich in spoken idiom, yet far from standard usage, wills us to succumb to its strange and gorgeous pessimism. A translator is thus asked first to be enchanted as a reader, then to reproduce that enchantment for new readers in another language; captured, then capturing. It’s a tall order... At first glance then, Goldstein’s version seems more reliable, though there is a price to pay for shadowing the Italian, such as clumsy repetitions: ‘he, it seems to me, was the first to inform me.’ The Italian here is more emphatic, but also more fluent... In short, translator and writer were not matched by elective affinity. Goldstein found the novel ‘astonishing and difficult’. ‘Morante’s sentences are very complicated and full of words – there are so many words!’ Indeed. Putting her version down, one’s feeling is that many of them eluded her, and that this fine novel is yet to be captured in English.

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