Translations of Swedish Literature in Italy in the 19th Century: An Outline*

Catia De Marco, Italian Institute for Germanic Studies

CSS Conference 2019, published in July 2020


*This article is part of the research project “SCAND-LIT: Scandinavian Literatures in Italy. Translation, Publishing, Reception”, managed by Istituto di Studi Germanici in Rome and funded by the Italian Ministry of Research. It is a partly rewritten and expanded version of an article published in Italian: “La letteratura svedese in Italia nell’Ottocento: una ricognizione preliminare”, in Studi Germanici, 2018:14, pp. 353-365.

In recent years several studies have been dedicated to the Italian reception of Nordic literature, in an interdisciplinary perspective that draws on translation studies, the socio-cultural approach of Pierre Bourdieu and Itamar Even-Zohar, and translation and publishing history.1 See for instance Lawrence Venuti, The Translator’s Invisibility, New York & London: Routledge 1995; Pierre Bourdieu, Les Règles de l’art. Gènese et structure du champ littéraire, Paris: Seuil, 1992; Itamar Even-Zohar, “Polisystem Studies”, in Poetics Today, 1990:1; Anthony Pym, Method in Translation History, New York & London: Routledge, 1998; Gabriele Turi & Maria Iolanda Palazzolo, Storia dell’editoria nell'Italia contemporanea, Firenze: Giunti, 1997. Translations, as “objects” imported from a literary system to another, are an integral component of the target culture as well as of their source one. They allow “to build not only linguistic and stylistic inventories, but also a corpus of writing models in the ‘national’ languages” (“di costruire non soltanto repertori linguistici e stilistici, ma anche un corpus di modelli di scrittura nelle lingue decretate ‘nazionali’”).2 Gisèle Sapiro, “Addomesticare lo straniero: le traduzioni letterarie in francese (dal XIX al XXI secolo)”, in Irene Fantappié & Michele Sisto (eds.), 1945-1970. Letteratura italiana e tedesca, Roma: Istituto Italiano di Studi Germanici, 2013, pp. 13-37, here p. 13. Translation mine. That’s why it is interesting to study the early interactions between two linguistic and literary areas such as Italy and Scandinavia, geographically and culturally far from each other and in a (semi)peripherical position in Heilbron’s core-periphery system.3 Johan Heilbron, “Towards a Sociology of Translation: Book Translation as a Cultural World-System”, in European Journal of Social Theory 1999: 4, pp. 429-444.

Most of the above mentioned studies were focused on single authors, such as Ibsen, Hamsun or Strindberg, or on the interwar period, which for a number of reasons4 The Thirties in Italy have been defined as “the decade of translations” by Italian intellectual, writer and translator Cesare Pavese (Cesare Pavese, Saggi letterari, Torino: Einaudi, 1951, p. 223); in addition, when Fascism’s alliance policies made more and more difficult, when not impossible, to translate books by British or American writers, publishers turned to other markets, Nordic countries included, to look for substitutes. See Anna Wegener, “Mondadori as a Publisher of Scandinavian Literature, 1932-1945”, in Bruno Berni & Anna Wegener (eds.), Translating Scandinavia: Scandinavian literature in Italian and German Translation 1918-1945, Roma: Edizioni Quasar, 2018, pp. 29-58; Christopher Rundle, Publishing Translations in Fascist Italy, Bern: Peter Lang, 2010. is particularly interesting for this subject.5 On single authors, see for instance Massimo Ciaravolo, “Utgivningen av Strindbergs verk i Italien”, in Strindbergiana 2013:28, pp. 16-29; Sara Culeddu, “Hamsun in Italia 1899-1923. La molteplicità di voci e le traiettorie di un precoce tentativo di ricezione: una ricognizione attraverso i paratesti”, in Studi Germanici, 2016: 9, pp. 261-283; Giuliano D’Amico, “Editore-traditore? Knut Hamsun lest, oversatt og publisert av italienske neofascister”, in Edda 2014:1, pp. 33-51; Giuliano D’Amico, Domesticating Ibsen for Italy, Bari: Edizioni di Pagina, 2010; Franco Perrelli, Strindberg l’italiano. 130 anni di storia scenica, Bari: Edizioni di Pagina, 2015; on the interwar period, see Berni & Wegener, Translating Scandinavia, 2018. This article will instead concentrate on translations of Swedish literature produced in Italy in the 19th century. I have chosen this period in order to go back to when it all started: the first Italian translations from Swedish are two poems which appeared in Museo Scientifico, Letterario ed Artistico, an encyclopedic magazine published in Turin from 1839 to 1850: Stagnelius’ Flytt-Fåglarne and Tegnér’s Skaldens morgonpsalm