Translators Samanta K. Milton Knowles and Laura Cangemi receive a price at the Bologna Book Fair. Photo: Susanne Bergström LarssonTranslators Samanta K. Milton Knowles and Laura Cangemi receive a price at the Bologna Book Fair. Photo: Susanne Bergström LarssonTranslators Samanta K. Milton Knowles and Laura Cangemi receive a price at the Bologna Book Fair. Photo: Susanne Bergström Larsson

Translators Samanta K. Milton Knowles and Laura Cangemi receive a price at the Bologna Book Fair. Photo: Susanne Bergström Larsson

The Bologna Book Fair: Katitzi in Italian was awarded

With support from the Swedish Arts Council, renowned translators Laura Cangemi, Katia di Marco and Maria Cristina Lombardi have for several years arranged seminars and workshops for emerging translators from Swedish into Italian. During the Bologna Book Fair in April this year, we arranged a get together for the participants in these workshops.

The workshop activities have been going on in different forms between 2013 and 2016. The first one focused on children’s book, due to Sweden being the Guest of Honour in Bologna 2013, as an effort to increase the number of translators of Swedish children’s literature. Since then, there have been different groups with different focus and levels.

Here, Samanta K. Milton Knowles, translator of literature for children from Swedish to Italian, will tell about her experiences.

What did your participating in the seminars mean to you?

It has meant a lot! When the first seminar began in 2013, I had not translated anything, and now, six years later, I earn a living from translation and have translated twenty books. The seminar was a perfect fit for me, since it is focused on literature for children and young people, what I want to concentrate on. I was born in Sweden but have lived in Italy since I was 4 years old. After finishing school, I studied languages at the university of Florence, e.g. Swedish, Danish, the Nordic languages, and Chinese. During my education I wrote essays about how some of Astrid Lindgren's books was translated from Swedish to Italian, and during the first translator seminar we were to translate selected texts from Astrid Lindgren's books. The collection of texts was later published by the Iperborea publishing house, so it felt like the seminar was tailored for me!

Together with the translator Laura Cangemi you received an award in Bologna. Tell us about it!

The Katitzi book received the independent bookshops for children’s award for the ages 6–10 years. Of course, it was really nice! Laura and I have worked closely together, and she has been my mentor during the translator seminar. It worked like this: I translated, and Laura gave me feedback, and it has really been a treasure to have access to her knowledge!

The other day, Katitzi actually received another award – from students in Rome who appointed the book they had liked best during the year. Then the Iperborea series of books for children – where the Katitzi books are included – received the Andersen award in May. It is the most important award for books for children in Italy, and of course it feels fantastic!

In what way do you think that Swedish literature for children is needed in Italy?

It is really needed since Swedish literature for children often bring up difficult issues in a good way. In my opinion, in Italian books for children it is either taboo to portray difficult things, for example suicide, or it is carried out in a moralising and redundant manner. Storytelling is always from the adult’s perspective and I believe this is wrong! If the adult always is the strong one, teaching and comforting the child, children will find the story boring. In Swedish literature for children you can talk about anything, even that which is difficult, without it becoming a big deal. It can be a beautiful book, but in the background, there might be a parent who died or committed suicide. The point is that it is a good story, focusing on the main characters and the rest just follows.