Friday, November 26, 2010

Problems with the Translation of Fr. Giussani's "Is It Possible To Live This Way?"

The translation of Fr. Luigi Giussani's "Si può vivere così?" into English ("Is It Possible to Live This Way?") seems to have some problems that make it unnecessarily hard to understand. For example:
Se c’è una ragione, non puoi dire: «ma è astratta» perché la ragione è ciò che risponde al bisogno del cuore
is translated as:
If there is a reason, you can't say: "but it is abstract," because reason is what responds to the need of the heart
Note that a word (which I have highlighted in red) is missing from the translation. It should say "because the reason is what responds to the need of the heart". Not "because reason is what responds to the need of the heart", which does not make sense: when has reason ever responded to the need of the heart? Instead, Giussani is speaking of "a reason" mentioned at the start of the sentence.

"Reason" sounds profound but it does not make sense here, and is not what Fr. Giussani is saying in his sentence. Thus the reader is confused. Fr. Giussani's original Italian is hard enough to understand as it is; it is unfortunate that the problematic English translation adds an additional barrier to understanding.


Blogger Fred said...

hi Jonathan. yes, language is always a challenge :) To be sure, Fr. Giussani has his linguistic quirks (and this book like many is based on notes), but above all the language of the Christian experience has become a bit confused. Like a poet, Fr. Giussani wants to recover the declarative value of language....

First of all a broadening of reason is needed (as Pope Benedict has reminded us several times). According to Giussani, Reason is openness to reality in its totality. It is unreasonable to deny the need of the heart (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2563 for a traditional and scriptural definition of heart). And if one runs into something that corresponds to the need implanted in the heart it would be unreasonable to deny that it exists. John and Andrew could never deny whom they had met without betraying their own reasonableness...

8:02 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Hi Fred,

My main quibble is with the accuracy of the translation. Here is another, similar example from p. 121 of Is It Possible To Live This Way, Volume 3:

evidence is the result of reason.

This is a translation of something on p. 434 of Si può vivere così?:

l'evidenza è l'esito di una ragione.

Note the word in bold which has been omitted from the translation. Giussani writes "a reason", but the translators instead speak of "reason", which is something quite different.

Why did the translators not translate "una"? Such obvious inaccuracies lead me to suspect the rest of this translation.

(The texts from these books can be found on

8:04 PM  

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