The Night of the Moths
di: Riccardo Bruni / editore: Amazon Crossing, 2017
traduttore: Anne Milano Appel - Traduzione dall'italiano in inglese

Indice dell'articolo
pag. 1 The Night of the Moths, Nota del Traduttore, Anne Milano Appel
pag. 2 The Night of the Moths, Nota del Traduttore, articolo in italiano

The Night of the Moths, Nota del Traduttore, Anne Milano Appel

Riccardo Bruni’s La notte delle falene was nominated for the Premio Strega 2016, one of 27 titles on the long-list. The nomination was both unexpected and newsworthy because Bruni, a journalist, writer and blogger, is considered a pioneer of self publishing in Italy and his book was published by Amazon Publishing.

Bruni’s style is deceptively simple. To be sure, it takes a skillful hand to make such an intricate, well-contrived plot appear simple. As a reader, you read along, gripped by the story line, and you’re oblivious to the hand that orchestrated it all, its touch so light that the hand itself has become invisible. As a translator, my first sense was: this will be easy. The writing is clear, straightforward, there are no esoteric literary allusions, no hints of buried, paraphrased quotes, no guessing “what exactly did he mean by that?”. But wait… the book is so tightly-woven, the plot so complex, that I found myself having to make notes to keep track of the twists and turns as I went along.

Then there were the pet names. The most challenging one was the choice of name for the character who in the novel is called Il Marcio, something like “soft in the head.” Conferring with the author, I first suggested The Pervert, but Riccardo felt that it misrepresented the nature of the character.  He suggested a more literal term, like “rotten,” to denote something that doesn’t work properly. We went back and forth, discarding a series of unhappy (not to say potentially insensitive and politically incorrect) possibilities such as Booby, Donkey, Dim-wit, Half-wit, Retard, Imbecile, Simpleton, Dummy, Dork, even Quasimodo. In the end we went with Half-Wit, which seemed to best express the simplistic nature of the character.

Another problematic nickname was the one for the formidable grandmother, who is referred to as l’inossidabile Gloria. Clearly it could not be a literal rendition (inoxidizable or rust-proof). Again I consulted with Riccardo, to see if he had any preferences or suggestions.  Up to that point I had come up with indestructible, adamantine, relentless, indomitable, even steely. His response:  “Steely Gloria” is perfetto!”

Giulia, Enrico’s fiancée, posed a further problem for me by mischievously referring to her judgmental girlfriends as le Malefiche. I told Riccardo I wasn’t quite sure what tone to take with that. The Cunts seemed too strong in the context. The Bitches maybe? The Evil Sisters? Could I steal from the film and go with the Maleficents? Again Riccardo pronounced: The Evil Sisters seems perfect!!!

One issue that only came up after the translation had been completed and delivered, that is, during the editing stage, was the matter of permissions. There were quite a number of song titles and lyrics in the novel: everything from songs by Coldplay, the R.E.M or Sinatra (Fly Me to the Moon) to lines from Charles Bukowski’s poem Burning in Hell or Fabrizio De Andrè’s Ave Maria (Femmine un giorno e poi madri per sempre). As I went along I made a list of those and other quotations that I felt might require permissions and I submitted the list to the editor at the time of delivery. In some cases, to cite the source, I had added endnotes to the text itself, though I assumed the editor might choose to handle them differently during the editing process. Indeed there are no notes in the finished book.

As an aside, it’s interesting to note that each of the three novels I’ve written about in La Nota del Traduttore can be said to fall into a different category. I saw Andrea Canobbio’s Three Light-Years (Farrar Straus & Giroux, July 2014) as language driven: the kind of book where you linger over every word, relishing every nuance, often rereading a sentence to savor it. Paolo Giordano’s The Human Body (Pamela Dorman/Viking, October 2014), on the other hand, was character driven: one of those narratives where you encounter unforgettable individuals, haunting figures who linger in your head, and heart, long after you’ve finished reading the book. And Riccardo Bruni’s The Night of the Moths (AmazonCrossing, December, 2017) can first and foremost be viewed as plot driven: an engaging, coherent story that builds the reader’s suspense and keeps him reading to the end.

Anne Milano Appel
Anne Milano Appel was awarded the Italian Prose in Translation Award (2015), the John Florio Prize for Italian Translation (2013) and the Northern California Book Award for Translation-Fiction (2014, 2013). She has translated works by Claudio Magris, Primo Levi, Paolo Giordano, Andrea Canobbio, Giuseppe Catozzella, Roberto Saviano, and numerous others, and has worked with a variety of publishers and editors in the U.S. and U.K. Translating professionally since 1996, she is a former library administrator, and has a doctorate in Romance Languages. Her website:

Aiutati nella ricerca con i campi qui sotto, sarà molto più veloce.