Call me Ismail

Thomas Jones

  • Altai by Wu Ming, translated by Shaun Whiteside
    Verso, 263 pp, £16.99, May 2013, ISBN 978 1 78168 076 6

Between 1975 and 1983, Luther Blissett made 246 appearances as a striker for Watford FC and scored 95 goals. When he joined the club they were in the Fourth Division. When he signed for AC Milan for £1 million in 1983 he was the First Division’s top scorer, with 27 goals in the 1982-83 season. He didn’t do so well at Milan, scoring only five goals in 30 games; after a year they sold him back to Watford for £550,000. In his international debut, a 9-0 demolition of Luxembourg at Wembley in 1982, he netted three goals, the first black player to score a hat-trick for England. He retired from league football in 1994, and his name, ‘for reasons that remain unknown’, was

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[2] Liz Heron’s translation, The Unseen, was reissued by Verso in 2011, with a foreword by Antonio Negri.

[4] Einaudi, 608 pp., €20, April, 978 88 06 21075 5.

[5] All the novels have been translated into English by Shaun Whiteside, an honorary sixth member of the Wu Ming collective, and his versions are for the most part a fine, fluid rendering of the Italian. And not just Italian: there are smatterings of Latin, Venetian and Pugliese dialect, Ladino, Spanish, Hebrew, Turkish and Arabic to contend with, too. The dialect he sensibly translates into standard English, rather than going for an ‘equivalent’ variant; the rest he tends to leave in the original and translate afterwards where helpful.