Wu Ming, Stephen King: It isn’t just a rhyme

It is now official: Wu Ming 1 will translate the next Stephen King book into Italian. It is a collection of four novellas entitled Full Dark, No Stars.

Wu Ming 1 is one of the Constant Readers, a long-time Stephen King fan. For years, he’s been reviewing King’s books and writing about his work on newspapers and magazines.

A few days ago, WM1 wrote an open letter to the Italian King fandom, announcing the news and explaining a few things about his method. Here’s a translated excerpt:

I’m fully aware that, like a salmon, I’ll have to swim against a stream of mistrust (if not hostility), which is perfectly understandable. For many years, the Italian “voice” of King was that of Tullio Dobner. Dobner is a skilled translator and his undertakings are nothing short of epic, as he toiled and lost blood on King’s enormous tomes. He is also a generous person who often confronted the fan community in “no holds barred” discussions. It is normal that this new “experiment” raises eyebrows. In fact, I see talk of protests, petitions etc.

Here’s what I have to say: judge me by the result.

I want to translate these stories trying to respect the continuity with the whole King’s “multiverse” and its various levels of reality. I will keep at hand all the previous books (many of which I have in two versions, English and “Dobnerese”), as well as my copy of The Complete Stephen King Universe, and I will also keep the Wikipedia Stephen King portal always open in my browser.
I also intend to work with the greatest possible transparency. I’d like to publish on our blog (always trying to avoid spoilers) some “Translator’s Notes”, discussing some trivia, problems and tricks that the text demands me to perform.

It is obvious that my choices will be different from Dobner’s, because every translator is different. However, you can be sure that, whatever happens, I will work with great respect for Uncle Stevie’s voice. Or rather, Uncle Stevie’s voices, because King’s tongue (especially in the latest books) is dynamic, polyphonic, full of effects and reversals that are almost carnivalesque. And I will also respect the work previously done by Dobner, trying to “harmonize” references from past translations.

Wu Ming 1 is the Italian translator of four Elmore Leonard novels: Cat Chaser, Freaky Deaky, Tishomingo Blues and Mr. Paradise. He also wrote articles and essays on how to translate Leonard’s prose into Italian.

The funny thing is that neither King nor Leonard seem to care much about translations of their works. To the best of our knowledge, neither of them ever raised this issue in interviews, articles or public appearances, or showed the slightest curiosity about it.

WM1 also translated Patrick Symmes‘ travelogue Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend.

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One Comments Post a Comment
  1. Dahlia says:

    I, for one, would of course LOVE to read your Translator’s Notes :-)
    To translate King is a gigantic task.
    Good luck.

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We are the Wu Ming Foundation, a collective of writers based in Italy. We are the authors of several novels and non-fiction books written with literary techniques (which we prefer to describe as UNOs, Unidentified Narrative Objects). As of February 2014, four of our novels are available in English: Q, 54, Manituana and Altai. This is our blog in English. Ugly and rarely updated, in bad need of a restructuring, but it's better than nothing. Our livelier, regularly updated blog is in Italian and it's called Giap.