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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Elizabeth Harris on Translating Chess in 'The Revenge of Capablanca'

Hello Everyone!

Fabio Stassi lives in Vietrbo and works as a librarian in Rome. He is the author of three novels and an encyclopedia of famous literary characters (forthcoming 2010 from minimum fax). His novel in Italian La rivincita di Capablanca (The revenge of Capablanca) has been translated by Elizabeth Harris.

In a special piece for Words Without Borders, Harris talks about how tough it was to translate the "chess part" at the end of the novel.

She writes:

"The chess itself, the large paragraph toward the end, was a real challenge, especially considering I don’t know how to play. My dad tried to teach me when I was little (probably right after he failed to teach me and my siblings bridge), and I have a vague memory of spreading my white pieces all over the living room and playing war with my brother.

To translate this paragraph, then, I did some research on chess language and various moves of the pieces involved. I also researched these chess moves in Italian, to understand if what I was reading was just to be translated as typical moves in English; I needed to understand how much the author was playing with language here. In the original, for instance, the queen is referred to as a “lady” at times, which I thought was interesting, theatrical word play, until I read that the queen can be called this in Italian; I thought it best not to draw too much attention by referring to the queen as "lady" in my translation, since it probably wouldn't draw the same attention in Italian."

You can read Harris' complete article here and a translated excerpt from the book here. And, of course, here is a Wikipedia link to the page on former World Champion Capablanca.

From Alexandra Kosteniuk's
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