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Let the cork out

John Bayley, 26 October 1989

Foucault’s Pendulum 
by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 641 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 436 14096 9
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The Open Work 
by Umberto Eco, translated by Anna Cancogni.
Radius, 285 pp., £9.95, October 1989, 0 09 175896 3
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... One sees what he means, but the book does not read like that somehow. The admirable translation by William Weaver conveys a wonderfully Ariostan easiness of style, a genuine gaiety far removed from the kind of modish fiction of today which suits Burgess’s clinical and depressive prognosis on the modern novel. Bad modern novels do indeed sound and read ...
The Name of the Rose 
by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 502 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 436 14089 6
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... been a disciple of Roger Bacon, and therefore believed in machines and science, and a friend of William of Ockham, and was therefore opposed to the multiplication of beings (and signs), sceptical of universals, a sort of proto-semiotician but also a common-sense Englishman, suspicious of Continental flimflam. He is called ...

Calvino

Salman Rushdie, 17 September 1981

If on a winter’s night a traveller 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 260 pp., £6.95, July 1981, 0 436 08271 3
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The Path to the Nest of Spiders 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Archibald Colquhoun.
Ecco, 145 pp., $4.95, May 1976, 0 912946 31 8
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Our Ancestors 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Archibald Colquhoun.
Picador, 382 pp., £2.95, September 1980, 0 330 26156 8
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Cosmicomics 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 153 pp., $2.95, April 1976, 0 15 622600 6
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Invisible Cities The Castle of Crossed Destinies 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Picador, 126 pp., £1.25, May 1979, 0 330 25731 5
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... At the beginning of Italo Calvino’s first book for six years, an entirely fictional personage named You, the Reader, buys and settles down with a novel which he firmly believes to be the new Calvino. You prepare to recognise the unmistakable tone of the author. No. You don’t recognise it at all. But now that you think about it, who ever said this author had an unmistakable tone? On the contrary, he is known as an author who changes greatly from one book to the next ...

Che pasticcio!

Tim Parks: Carlo Emilio Gadda, 20 September 2007

That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana 
by Carlo Emilio Gadda, translated by William Weaver.
NYRB, 388 pp., £8.99, February 2007, 978 1 59017 222 3
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... between the pleasures of language and the grossness of the world it is obliged to describe. William Weaver has written convincingly of the problems of translating Gadda, but his 1965 version, reprinted in this new edition, never begins to solve them. It’s full of false or inappropriate cognates (e.g. the unhappy use of ‘infamous’ and ...

Ecolalia

Nicholas Penny, 4 September 1986

Faith in Fakes 
by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 307 pp., £15, August 1986, 0 436 14088 8
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Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages 
by Umberto Eco, translated by Hugh Bredin.
Yale, 131 pp., £6.95, September 1986, 0 300 03676 0
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... The first of these books, Faith in Fakes, is a collection of essays – many of them newspaper pieces – by a ‘distinguished professor at the University of Bologna, with an international reputation as philosopher, historian and literary critic’. His subjects are novelties, many of which are now nearly forgotten. I cannot recommend anyone to reread McLuhan in order to appreciate Eco’s reservations about his theories, eminently judicious though these reservations are when compared with the enthusiasm of George Steiner or Raymond Williams ...

Mixed Feelings

James Wood: Italo Svevo’s Last Cigarette, 3 January 2002

Zeno's Conscience 
by Italo Svevo, edited by William Weaver.
Everyman, 437 pp., £12.99, November 2001, 1 85715 249 2
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Memoir of Italo Svevo 
by Livia Veneziani Svevo, translated by Isabel Quigly.
Northwestern, 178 pp., $15.95, June 2001, 0 8101 6084 6
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Emilio's Carnival 
by Italo Svevo, translated by Beth Archer Brombert.
Yale, 233 pp., £22.50, October 2001, 0 300 09049 8
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... and has, rather mysteriously, been the only standard version until now, as the American translator William Weaver arrives with an excellent new rendering. Weaver’s is not merely a modern repointing of De Zoete, but a fresh imagining, which differs in important respects from its predecessor, and in almost every one ...

Calvinoism

Jonathan Coe, 26 March 1992

Six Memos for the Next Millennium 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Patrick Creagh.
Cape, 124 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 224 03311 5
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Under the Jaguar Sun 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Cape, 86 pp., £10.99, February 1992, 0 224 03310 7
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The Fountains of Neptune 
by Rikki Ducornet.
Dalkey Archive, 220 pp., $19.95, February 1992, 0 916583 96 1
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Small Times 
by Russell Celyn Jones.
Viking, 212 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 670 84307 5
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... What tends to emerge from the great novels of the 20th century is the idea of an open encyclopedia,’ wrote Calvino in 1985, the year of his death. Tracing the lineage of the encyclopedic novel through Perec, Mann, Proust and Flaubert, he homes in on the figures of Carlo Emilio Gadda and Robert Musil, two ‘engineer-writers’ who have one quality in common: ‘their inability to find an ending ...

It’s the Poor …

Malcolm Bull, 26 January 1995

The Ruin of Kasch 
by Roberto Calasso, translated by William Weaver and Stephen Sartarelli.
Carcanet, 385 pp., £19.95, November 1994, 0 85635 713 8
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... Roberto Calasso is an Italian publisher who writes erudite works of non-fiction so elegantly self-indulgent they can be marketed as novels. He is working on a trilogy, or perhaps tetralogy, of which The Ruin of Kasch is the first part, and The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (which preceded it in English translation) the second. According to the author, the former deals with history, the latter with myth ...

Theory with a Wife

Michael Wood, 3 October 1985

Mr Palomar 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 118 pp., £8.50, September 1985, 0 436 08275 6
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Parrot’s Perch 
by Michel Rio, translated by Leigh Hafrey.
Dent, 88 pp., £7.95, September 1985, 0 460 04669 1
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Light Years 
by Maggie Gee.
Faber, 350 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 571 13604 4
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... suggests an additional triumph, or reminds us of an old one: a triumph of tone. I can’t judge William Weaver’s translation, but unless he has improved on Calvino, it must give a fair measure of the style: precise, wry, lucid, analytic, subtly lyrical. What is delicately mocked, in this impeccably straight-faced prose, is writing itself: the ...

Catching the Prester John Bug

John Mullan: Umberto Eco, 8 May 2003

Baudolino 
by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 522 pp., £18, October 2002, 0 436 27603 8
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... original characters. In among the sentences are the curses and commands of invading Teutons. In William Weaver’s translation there is a hint of Molesworth – the young cynic is just getting by in Latin culture, his canniness a substitute for learning. Yet in that greeting to the pygmies Eco has encoded a knowing little allusion. No doubt there were ...

A World of Waste

Philip Horne, 1 September 1983

The Proprietor 
by Ann Schlee.
Macmillan, 300 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 333 35111 8
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Slouching towards Kalamazoo 
by Peter De Vries.
Gollancz, 241 pp., £7.95, August 1983, 0 575 03306 1
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Marcovaldo 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 121 pp., £7.95, August 1983, 0 436 08272 1
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The Loser 
by George Konard, translated by Ivan Sanders.
Allen Lane, 315 pp., £8.95, August 1983, 0 7139 1599 4
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... Perhaps because of its concentration on people’s circumstances and constraints, the novel is often concerned with freedoms under threat and forms of liberation. The generality ‘freedom’ is much bandied about in the world at large, of course, mostly with a bland or fierce prejudice in its favour: misapplied, it can lead to terrible blunders. An aspect of the value of the novel is therefore its power to examine the conditions of freedom in particular cases, to refresh our sense of what this tortured word can mean ...

Images of Displeasure

Nicholas Spice, 22 May 1986

If not now, when? 
by Primo Levi, translated by William Weaver.
Joseph, 331 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 7181 2668 8
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The Afternoon Sun 
by David Pryce-Jones.
Weidenfeld, 214 pp., £8.95, March 1986, 0 297 78822 1
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August in July 
by Carlo Gebler.
Hamish Hamilton, 188 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 241 11787 9
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... Norman Tebbit, Conservative Party Chairman, was displeased by television coverage of the American attack on Libya. British public opinion had swung so decisively against the raid, he said, because of the pictures people had seen on their television sets. Not pictures of bombed-out military installations, which would have been all right, but pictures of dead and wounded civilians ...

Matrioshki

Craig Raine, 13 June 1991

Constance Garnett: A Heroic Life 
by Richard Garnett.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 402 pp., £20, March 1991, 1 85619 033 1
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... the original. The Garnett version, however, is so utterly unobtrusive as to deserve the plaudit of William Weaver, our senior living translator, who prefaces his translation of Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveller with this note: ‘In Chapter Eight the passage from Crime and Punishment is quoted in the beloved translation of Constance ...

The Politics of Translation

Marina Warner: Translate this!, 11 October 2018

This Little Art 
by Kate Briggs.
Fitzcarraldo, 365 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 910695 45 6
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Translation as Transhumance 
by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz.
Les Fugitives, 150 pp., £10, November 2017, 978 0 9930093 3 4
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Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto 
by Mark Polizzotti.
MIT, 168 pp., £17.99, May 2018, 978 0 262 03799 0
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The 100 Best Novels in Translation 
by Boyd Tonkin.
Galileo, 304 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 903385 67 8
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The Work of Literary Translation 
by Clive Scott.
Cambridge, 285 pp., £75, June 2018, 978 1 108 42682 4
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... points out that in his version of Calvino’s short story collection Cosmicomics, William Weaver translates tagliatelle as ‘noodles’, which would hardly be felt necessary today). Julian Barnes, in a tough and very thorough review of Lydia Davis’s translation of Flaubert, summed up the issue: ‘If you want the book in ...

Counter-Factuals

Linda Colley, 1 November 1984

The Origins of Anglo-American Radicalism 
edited by Margaret Jacob and James Jacob.
Allen and Unwin, 333 pp., £18.50, February 1984, 0 04 909015 1
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Insurrection: The British Experience 1795-1803 
by Roger Wells.
Alan Sutton, 312 pp., £16, May 1983, 9780862990190
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Radicalism and Freethought in 19th-Century Britain 
by Joel Wiener.
Greenwood, 285 pp., $29.95, March 1983, 0 313 23532 5
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For King, Constitution and Country: The English Loyalists and the French Revolution 
by Robert Dozier.
Kentucky, 213 pp., £20.90, February 1984, 9780813114903
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... has so heroically assembled is often more ambivalent than his own thesis. The diary of the Oldham weaver, William Rowbottom, does not suggest that ‘every Briton decided one way or the other’ on the validity of Britain’s war against France and its revolution. It shows that Rowbottom hated the rich and wanted peace, but ...

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