William Weaver, Renowned Translator, 1923 – 2013

I found out that translator William Weaver passed away a few days ago, at the age of 90. It’s an odd thing, but Weaver had a significant influence on me, as it was his translations of Italo Calvino that I read (and loved).

I’m not sure who first turned me on to Calvino, but I’m pretty sure it happened while in college. It may have been Justin, but it may very well have been Alex (given the Italian connection).

However I found Calvino, it wasn’t until many years later that I realized how strong Weaver’s influence was for me. I had read a ton by Calvino… and after 4 or 5 books, I picked up a copy of The Baron in the Trees. Unlike all the prior books I had read by Calvino, this one felt off to me. I didn’t like it, and it just felt like a drastic shift in his writing style.

I realized, on closer inspection, that the translator was different. All the Calvino books I had read were translated by Weaver, and this one was not. So strong was Weaver’s skill that any other translator felt foreign to me. It blew me away how much I identified with Weaver’s translations… so much so that a favorite author in another translator’s hands became someone completely different to me.

Weaver had a very rich life. In terms of killer lines in an obituary, check this out:

In 1981 Weaver finished a draft version of [Umberto] Eco’s 500-page novel The Name of the Rose, then prepared a long list of queries. In the course of wine-fueled restaurant lunches, he and Eco spread pages of draft manuscripts over the table and worked on translations until dusk. Eventually Weaver was able to render the polyglot braggadocio of Eco’s prose into impeccable and nuanced English.

In terms of literary rockstar bad-assery… it’s hard to get much better than this.

Thank you, Mr. Weaver, for your translations of Italo Calvino. Your words helped me hear his words, and for that I am immensely grateful.

[via Ian]

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I’ve read a lot of Calvino (as well as some Eco) in the original Italian, and I’ve always found Weaver’s translations spot on. I’ve never been so fluent in Italian that reading a novel didn’t feel like an effort, so going back to Weaver’s translations always feels nice and cozy.

    Alex Reply

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