The profile of a translator – Serena Vitale

Despite their hard work, translators do not have a lot of credit for their job. They work in the shadows, and even though the majority of people reading a book do not know the name of the translator, they shape the culture of a country. That’s why we decided, every once in a while, to talk about some famous, or not so famous, translator.

serena vitale

Serena Vitale is an Italian translator, and writer. She was born in Brindisi (in the south of Italy) in 1945, she majored in Russian and Czech, but most of her work is related to the Russian culture.

During her career, she translated a lot of works from different Russian authors, Russian literature was not so well known in Italy, since a lot of works didn’t have a translation, it is thanks to her if today in Italy is possible to read many poems by Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandel’štam and many others.

She spent her childhood in Brindisi, and then moved with her mother in Rome at the age of 10. She studied with Angelo Marina Ripellino, one of the most important Italian Slavists, in 1967 she went in Russia for the first time, at the time it was not easy for her, but then her love for Russian culture won over all of the fears she might have. She had the chance to meet some important figures of the Silver age of Russian literature, like Lilya Brik, Mayakovsky’s muse. She focused mostly on poetry, in particular on Marina Tsvetaeva. She translated almost all of her works.

She didn’t only translate Russian literature, but wrote about it, she won different Italian prizes for some of her books. Among them she wrote a novel about Majakovskij’s last days, and many other short stories related to Russia and Russian culture.

She is very well know by all of those whose studies are related to Russian in Italy, but considering that she was able to translate some of the best works from Russian literature, she should have more credit.


Here you can read a small bit of one of the poems she translated:

Рас-стояние: версты, мили…                                    Distanze: verste, miglia…

Нас рас-ставили, рас-садили,                                   Ci hanno divisi, disperse, costretti

Чтобы тихо себя вели                                                a vivere dimessi, muti, buoni,

По двум разным концам земли.                              ai confini opposti della terra.

[The poem is: Ras-stojanie: versty, mili… by Marina Tsvetaeva]


by Roberta Mingo


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