Scerbanenco, new translation welcome

Barbara Pezzotti   ACIS

I was very pleased to know that a new translation into English of Giorgio Scerbanenco’s “Traditori di tutti” (1966) has finally appeared this year. Published under the title of “Betrayal” by Hersilia Press, this new translation by Howard Curtis finally does justice to Scerbanenco’s distinctive style and (after more than forty years) re-introduces  a masterpiece of Italian crime fiction to an English-speaking audience. When they first appeared in the 1960s, the adventures of Duca Lamberti, a former doctor struck off the register and imprisoned for practising euthanasia, captured first the attention and then the devotion of a large number of crime fiction readers in Italy.

After many years of American and British predominance in the Italian readership market, the cynical and melancholic Duca became “the hero that Italian crime fiction had been waiting for” (Oliva 2003, 180). In his crime novels Scerbanenco gives a vivid account of the consequences of the Economic Boom on Italy’s territory and its social fabric. He tackles important issues such as urbanization and pollution, consumerism, the rise of brutal organized crime in Milan and Europe, and political opportunism. Moreover his distinctive style that reproduces a colloquial Italian and his continuous reference to objects and symbols of everyday life makes him a precursor of the “Gioventu’ cannibale” literary movement (Ricci 2001,19). “Traditori di tutti”, probably the most famous novel of the Duca Lamberti series, was translated in 1970 under the ugly title of “Duca and the Milan Murders”. Full of mistakes, this translation also spoiled Scerbanenco’s prose. A new, more effective, translation has been long overdue. After translating for the first time into English the first book of the series, “Venere Privata” as “Private Venus” last year, Hersilia Press has now published a new English version of “Traditori”. Even though the new English title is not completely satisfactory (but we concede that translating the original title is an extremely difficult endeavour) the new version of the novel manages to preserve Scerbanenco’s style and pathos.  Bravo, Hersilia Press. We are now looking forward to the translation of the remaining books of the series.

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