I owe a debt to Stephen Sartarelli that I can never repay.
If I could go back in time to when my mind was still flexible enough to master a new language — say age 12 — and immerse myself in Italian, I might not owe him as much, and I could instead focus on what I owe Andrea Camilleri as a reader.
However, I found Camilleri only through publication of Sartarelli’s first translation (of The Shape of Water), when I was searching for more translations of Manuel Vazquez Montalbán’s books. My search revealed that Camilleri had named his detective as an homage to Montalbán, so I purchased the first Camilleri translation. I’ve since given The Shape of Water as a gift more than a dozen times.
Sartarelli’s excellent facility with language makes a gift of a new Camilleri translation every year—in addition to introducing me to other Italian fiction in translation. His translations consistently deliver the joy of language play. I can only image the creative work he puts into smooth delivery of English puns that originated in Italian. His end notes are intelligent and only as deep as needed, always assuming the reader’s intelligence.
When asked to cite my favorite authors (or “what have you read lately”), Camilleri is always on the list. No one ever asks, “Who’s your favorite translator?” Yet this morning I was struck that I owe Sartarelli a great deal—as much as I owe Robert Fagles or Alison Anderson for giving me access to literature I could never read in the original language.
Read more about Sartarelli’s background here:
(Cross posted on my Goodreads blogs)