In defence of Vittoria Alliata di Villafranca

Did they live happily ever after?

Beyond doubt, The Princess and the Professor fairy-story is one of the most beautiful fairy-stories related to our Italy. It is a true and real fairy-story, and it has still not ended. It has in itself infinite beauty, great protagonists and terrifying monsters, as well as real or supposed menaces, theoretic elaborations and ethical errands: ethical, yes, because reality is taken seriously.

All fairy-stories talk about us, even when they are real stories. And in a fairy-story, in particular when it’s so beautiful, we are always requested to choose a part, to line up with one party or the other. But now the princess itself asks not to line up, because there is not right or left, but only one party to choose: Tolkien’s.
For a long time we have hidden ourselves behind the left and right party, not only in politics, but in the Italian Tolkien studies and fanbase as well, and at the end no one has struggled to do what had to be done, maybe since 1970.

The Fellowship of the Ring as seen by Hildebrandt bros.

But, recalling the princess’ words on Sicilia Terra di Mezzo, today we cannot answer with blocks: the Berlin wall has fallen—even though for our minds it is hard to accept it—and maybe it is still standing in the collective subconscious of all Italians (I use this Jungian word just as a metaphor, to put it simply).

This is the day we must tear it down: this is the day we have to open our eyes, to free ourselves from that black shadow of modernity and follow what, according to the princess, is Tolkien’s invitation: rediscover ourselves and our inner reality after a long time being deprived of it by politics’ Big Eye of left and right parties .

It is therefore time to answer the question, ‘did they live happily ever after?’, to write the end of  The Princess and the Professor fairy-story. It is up to us, we will decide the end. Certainly not simply shouting out, just like Manzoni’s bravoes, ‘this translation is not to be done, neither to-morrow, nor at any other time’, but rather saying with a calm strength that Tolkien and his will must be respected; that the work of other prominent public entities—such as the newspaper Repubblica or Turin’s International Book Fair—cannot be criticized in such an unjustified, groundless and unfair way. In the end, a translation project must be carried on, not in order to give the text a new dress, nor to modernise it, but to let it be known by people even more in the respect and value of what has already been done in the past, without trampling on anyone, but with humility that neither Wu Ming 4, nor AIST, nor O. Fatica, nor Bompiani themselves have ever shown, while the work of Harper Collins Brazil is a clear example of that.

In conclusion, I think that, maybe more respect towards princess Alliata is necessary and that maybe it is time the publisher works together with her and the editors she’ll choose to improve the existing translation. Moreover, and I want to be clear about this point, I do not think we can carelessly oppose a new translation: in this case as well it would be better to be more humble and respectful of the previous translator and of the author’s choices and to ask for hi heir’s opinion. Let’s just try to imagine how much more and more beautiful things we could have built in Italy, regarding Tolkien, if we had only acted this way, with harmony, and not forever divided in opposing parties.

Had people been humble since the times of Rusconi and Principe, all left or right speech would have never arisen in Tolkien matters; ideological readings and party divisions would have remained where they belong: the past. Maybe it is time to follow the example and invitation our princess Alliata made to Sicily: let’s look forward and let’s endorse that typically Italian social centrality and cultural beauty.

It may not seem so, but we deserve it; to quote Thorin, there is more in us of good than we know.

Giuseppe Scattolini

Translated into English by Greta Bertani – Proofread by Skyler Neberman