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In honour of one of the world's most prolific translators, who has recently passed away, we thought it would be apt to look into the life and works of William Weaver, a man who made reading some of Italy's most cherished novels possible for the English speaking audience.

 

Born 24th July 1923 and died 12th November 2013, William Weaver spent the majority of his childhood in Virginia, before going on to drive ambulances in Italy during World War II. Having been instilled with a love for the opera and the written word growing up, it wasn't long before Weaver began to translate; poems at first, which were often published in American magazines. It seemed the case that he was not doing this to climb the ladder of the profession, but more that he fell into doing so through a love for the country, its language and its culture which led to him teaching himself the language.

Before settling to live permanently in Rome, Weaver made some valuable friends in the novelist Alberto Moravia and his wife Elsa Morante. As well as other endeavours such as being guest commentator on radio broadcasts or Italian correspondent for poetry magazines, he was now translating on a regular basis and gaining a good deal of recognition in the mix; translating novels by  Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco are feats that do not go amiss. Not only did Weaver become friends with many of the authors whose work he was translating, he also eventually received a US National Book Award and PEN translation prizes. Another friend Weaver met along the way was Pier Paolo Pasolini, a film director and novelist whose work Weaver also translated. In translating his work and the work of others, he found different obstacles to overcome; with Pasolini, it was a case of harmonising varying dialects on the page, with Calvino it was more a case of governing the author's tendency to be a little obstinate about single words or phrases. It was his awareness of these obstacles and ability to tackle them and turn them into something valuable that made him so good at what he did.

 

Weaver went on, later down the road, to become a professor of literature at Bard College in New York.




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