Despite the excellent contributions of a select number of comparative studies that have opened up Gadda to a broader readership (I would highlight Katrin Wehling-Giorgi’s recent study of Gadda and Beckett, or Di Martino’s comparative analysis of the Milanese author and James Joyce, for example), scholarship relating to Carlo Emilio Gadda remains largely the domain of specialist Italianists. Particularly when it comes to the question of translation, efforts to introduce the author’s name to an Anglophone readership have thus far been modest. Gadda Goes to War: Translational Provocations around an Emergency, edited by Federica Pedriali, goes a long way to rectifying this trend.
This book is intended to serve first and foremost as an introduction to, and an analysis of, Fabrizio Gifuni’s powerful stage adaptation of Gadda’s war writings, L’ingegner Gadda va alla guerra o della tragica istoria di Amleto Pirobutirro, which premiered with great acclaim in 2010. Based on a creative combination of excerpts from Gadda’s war journal, Il giornale di guerra e di prigionia, his retrospective anti-Mussolini tract, Eros e Priapo, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Gifuni’s theatrical monologue draws attention to a number of key questions engendered by Gadda’s war writings and highlights what is described in this book as the author’s marked potential for inter-semiotic adaptation. Together with the original script, which is conveniently presented with a facing-text translation by Christopher John Ferguson, the book comprises a collection of scholarly essays and an accompanying DVD of the stage performance, with English subtitles.
Much more than just an introduction to Gifuni’s play, however, this is an admirable attempt on the part of Federica Pedriali and her team of Gaddisti to increase appreciation and awareness of the “Gran Lombardo” in the English-speaking world. Describing the author alternately as “Italy’s best kept literary secret,” “our most exuberant modernist writer,” an author “packaged for emergency export” (1), Pedriali’s aim is clear: to break open the position of cultural isolation within which Gadda has thus far been entrenched. Inspired by what remains a relative dearth of Anglophone scholarship on Gadda and the critical lack of English translations of his works, Pedriali sets out to offer what is termed both a “translation plus” and a “complete Gadda starter-pack” (2). The cursory nature of the analysis and lack of detail with which the problematics surrounding the Gaddian corpus are presented are thus to be excused on the basis that this is not intended to provide the reader with a new theoretical take on Gadda studies, nor is it the editor’s goal to present any new scholarly material to a seasoned reader. Rather, the aim, which is successfully achieved, is to provide a much-needed general introduction to Gadda’s work—who has been described as “Italy’s greatest modernist”—for the uninitiated Anglophone reader.
Before reaching the heart of the text—the play itself—we are presented with a series of succinct scholarly essays. Structured around five key thematic areas—poetics, circulation, translation, staging, and resources—these brief analyses are intended to open up a series of different perspectives on Gifuni’s play. Particularly worthy of note here are the two sections that relate most closely to the broader aim of the project itself: namely, the section on circulation and Ferguson’s fascinating account of the unique difficulties involved in the process of translating Gadda into English. The former offers an instructive overview of the particular difficulties inherent in the process of circulation in the case of Gadda. Glossing over the underdeveloped state of foreign literature within the UK and U.S. more generally, Olivari and Pedriali explain how Gadda’s perceived untranslatability and “unconquerable Italianness” have led to a near standstill in English translations of his works since the efforts of William Weaver in the 1960s [End Page 205] (8). Tracing the history of Gadda’s circulation from the early success of Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana in postwar Italy to the...