Those Wiley Translators!

Consider the following:

"e quale i Padovan lungo la Brenta" -- Dante, The Divine Comedy, Canto XV

Now here is the translation by Stanley Applebaum:

"and as the Paduans erect levees along the river Brenta"

OK, my Italian is not that good, but look as I might, I cannot see anything in Dante that translates as "erect," "levees," or even "river." I can even grant Applebaum "river," maybe. What happened is that in the previous three-line bit, Dante mentions that the Flemings put up screens (schermo) against floods, and now he is saying, well, the same for the Paduans along the Brenta. But Applebaum has decided that he is a better writer than Dante! Dante was evidently mistaken not to have repeated what these folks were up to, and Applebaum has corrected him. And it's not just this passage: he does this all the time, which is particularly annoying since he is producing a dual-language book, which is supposed to be helping students learn Italian, but which will leave them sorely puzzled as to what the Italian word for levee is. Applebaum is not translating Dante; he is writing his own version of The Divine Comedy!

The worst case of this of which I know is the alteration of Proust's Sodome et Gomorrhe into the English title The Cities of the Plain!


  1. This happens all the time. The Penguin "translation" of Livy, for instance, is hardly even a paraphrase.

    I've been meaning to finish a lengthy post on this. Maybe I'll get around to it eventually.

  2. Would you like me to translate your post into Italian for you? :-)


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