Thursday, October 06, 2011

Leave the gun, take the cannolo: Camilleri, Sartarelli, and good grammar

I’ve found several reasons to like The Potter’s Field, thirteenth of Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano novels translated into English and newly out in the U.S. from Penguin.

For one, no one is better than Camilleri at saying things funny rather than just saying funny things. That is, Camilleri won’t just put a funny line in a character’s mouth, but his entire syntax, his way of building a sentence, is a delicious wink to the reader that something is up. One smiles well before one gets to the punch line.

But mainly I like the book because when Montalbano bursts into the pathologist Pasquano’s office and finds the doctor out and a box of cream-filled pastries left behind, “Having finished the first cannolo, he took another.”

That’s cannolo, singular, not cannoli, plural, and the translation gets it right. I seethe when a waiter or waitress at an Italian restaurant offers me bruSHetta, and when some fast-food place urges me to “Have a panini!” I curse the saints; panini, like cannoli, is plural.

So, thanks to Camilleri’s ever-excellent translator, Stephen Sartarelli, for respecting the rules of good grammar and for keeping my blood pressure down.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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47 Comments:

Blogger Simona said...

One of the reasons why I started my blog was to provide accurate pronunciation of Italian words. Do you know that the Webster site has a recording of the word bruschetta pronounced "brusheta"? It sounds terrible. OK, I shouldn't start on this path.

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And here’s a link to your blog, so readers can experience for themselves your appetizing recipes and impeccable pronunciation.

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yes, I knew that food was not the only impetus behind your blog.

Last night I was having a glass of wine at the Pen & Pencil Club, and an Italian friend was playing cards at the bar with the owner of a nearby pizza parlor.

My friend flings down a card, and the pizza guy says, "Minchia!" Thanks to Camilleri, I understood him. And yes, the pizza guy is Sicialian.

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Even if I can't spell Sicilian correctly.

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Solea said...

While bruSHetta is bad, listening to the many ways people pronounce "gnocchi" is particularly painful.

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

At least English speakers have the excuse that the gno- sound is difficult to pronounce. I try to keep in practice by ordering gnocchi from time to time.

October 06, 2011  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Ah, but if you watch this:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHzh0PvMWTI

you'll see that Clemenza clearly says "leave the gun take the Cannolis" so you can forgive people for thinking that cannoli is the singular.

In fact I'd go further. Because this is one of the most quoted lines in cinema history, I'll bet you that almost no one in America uses the word cannolo and that beacuse of usage in American English cannoli as a singular is perfectly acceptable.

October 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Minchia! I knew someone would say that. The translator’s job here is to render Sicilian and Italian into American English. Or is it? I’d say that his job is rather to render into American English the illusion of Sicilian and Italian. He made the right choice.

Language change happens, but it’s dynamic force of thousands, even millions, of actions, reactions, and counter-reactions. One need not acquiesce in any given instances of it, however. But even if cannolis (sic) is acceptable, there’s no excuse for bruSHetta. In practical terms, I’d probably avoid the issue. When ordering panini here, I’ll generally point and ask for “One of your panini, please.”

October 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, listen to that clip again, this time with headphones. There's no chance he says, "cannoliS." The character's probably Sicilian. He said it right.

October 07, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I havent read the script but I'll bet money that Puzo and Copolla wrote Cannoli because they know what they're talking about, however when I listen to Clemenza in the clip I hear cannolis...He definitely says the s. Could be a Jersey/NY Italian thing.

Does anybody say graffito in regular conversation?

October 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The matter becomes more interesting by the minute. I listen repeatedly, and watch Clemenza’s lips, and I hear and see “cannoli.” YouTube clips are not of the highest quality, and I suppose it’s possible that a final s could have been chopped off. Each of us hears what he wants to hear, and I have not even the slightest suspicion that your judgment was clouded by Thursday’s baseball results. (You were right. How the hell do you spend that much money and wind up with a starting rotation that weak?)

As for its being a (South) Jersey thing, I could ask my neighbors. One can still hear a bit of Sicilian spoken in the streets.

No one uses graffito in conversation, but in the Sartarelli/Montalbano case, cannolo occurs not in conversation, but in formal writing, and not in dialogue, either. In any case, I understand why Italian plurals become English singulars, but I happen to know a bit of Italian, so the change does not sit well with me.

October 07, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Fussy!

I'm reading the book now. Camilleri is a particular favorite of mine for many of the reasons stated. Alas, nobody else can ever again have a character like Catarella who murders the language and causes confusion. How did they decide to assign him to answering the telephone? As for the cannoli Montalbano helps himself to without an invitation: Note how in a Camilleri book this does not develop into an ugly or confrontational scene, but rather in shared appreciation of good food between two like-minded men.

October 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yes, the crotchety, sharp-tongued Pasquano is a worthy foil for Montalbano. And they do share the remaining cannoli in good fellowship when Pasquano returns to his office.

Sartarelli, that prince among translators, is the fussy one here. I merely complicated him on his fussiness.

I think one of the earlier books reveals that Catarella was assigned telephone duty because he could do the least damage there.

October 07, 2011  
Anonymous solo said...

Speaking of pronunciation, I only discovered recently (such ignorance) that Sicily is really Sicilia. I feel like a cissy for calling it Sicily.

The cause of my enlightenment was In Nome Della Legge (1948) (In The Name of the Law), an early film about the mafia, directed by the underrated Pietro Germi, with a great score by Carlo Rustichelli. The film has wonderfull location work in Sicilia and it's available on YouTube in a magnificent looking print, but one that comes without subtitles. The story tells itself so the subtitles aren't a great loss.

I'm on a diet so I've given up reading Camilleri books for the time being.

October 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Camilleri's Salvo Montalbano eats lots of fish, and not all of it fried, so you probably could do worse in the diet department.

Many Impressionist painters travelled and worked in Italy. Do you suppose Alfred Sisley went to Sicily?

October 07, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

And Germany is, of course, Germania,land of the germanic people, or Deutschland, land of the teutonic people, or Allemande, land of the Allamanni. And then there were still the Franks (Frankfurt?) and the Goths (influential in architecture) to be accounted for. I could go on.

October 07, 2011  
Anonymous solo said...

A Sisley bio that I read said:

In later years his work was shown in the United States, London, and Paris, but it failed to pick up good prices. After a one-man exhibition organized for him in Paris by Durand-Ruel, he moved even further out of town, to Saint-Mammes. In 1899, sending for Monet, who hurried to his side, he died in Moret-sur-Loing of cancer of the throat. Within a year his canvases were fetching high prices.

Ah, death. The ultimate good career move. I'm glad the humble blogkeeper proprietor of DBB doesn't have to resort to such extreme measures to get ahead in the world.

October 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

We are all ghostly presences in the Internet machine, solo. But I am happy to report that I am still alive.

October 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., don't forget the Finns, who call Germany Saksa (land of the Saxons) and the Italians, who will tell you that the Germans speak la lingua tedesca.

October 07, 2011  
Anonymous solo said...

I'm glad the reports of your continuing existence were not greatly exaggerated.

I wasn't able to follow much of the Italian in In Nome Della Legge but the phrase 'un maledetto imbecille' came through loud and clear. I don't think I'd mind being called a damned fool in Italian. The italian version is so delightfully musical, I wouldn't be bothered by the insult.

October 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I just listened to the clip on my computer at work, with a bigger screen and better sound and headphones. I think Clemeza does say cannolis. But he was speaking English, presumably, in America. Camilleri's characters are speaking Italian or Sicilian in Italy. Sartarelli's choice reminds us of this.

October 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, one wonders it Italian newcomers to the English-speaking world find our tongue as beguiling as we find theirs. I had a Brazilian girlfriend who was particularly taken with the expressions "no longer" and "You wish!"

October 07, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

The amazing thing about the NYY is not the rotation but the fact that we are stuck with A Rod at 25 million a year for the next six years. If they kick Epstein out of Boston then the NYY would do well to snap him up and fire Cashman who has made so many bonehead plays it's like an anti Moneyball.

October 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

So A-Rod should have stayed lost when it looked like the Yankees lost him a few years ago? The team would have been roasted by the NY press if it had let him go.

I think the rotation is the amazing thing, that thay had a minor-league guy starting a game that could (and did) end their season.

October 07, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

That was extraordinary. Dont forget either that Cashman traded away Ian Kennedy just over a year ago! Ian Kennedy who costs nothing and is an outside candidate for the NL Cy Young.

I think if Cashman had offered A Rod a five year contract at the same price and he had turned it down the NY media would have said good riddance.

October 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, the Phillies come up with Vance Worley, the Tigers pick up a Seattle loser who goes 8-1 for them, and the Yankees get who they get.

I'm not sure the NY media would have been that sanguine. Is my memory playing tricks, or was he about to go to the Red Sox? I'm not sure that would have gone over well.

October 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

In any case, I don't think Brian Cashman will win any executive-of-the-year awards this season.

October 07, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Cashman is no genius. Neither is Girardi come to that.

Gut Yontiff

October 07, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thay have sins to atone for, you're telling me?

Thanks!

October 07, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

That should have been "Allemagne" for the country.

I wonder what provoked your girlfriend's "You wish!"

October 08, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"I wonder what provoked your girlfriend's `You wish!'"

I just bet you do.

Yes, allemande is French for a female German and, I have just found out, for a dance, a musical form, and a sauce, as well.

October 08, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Stephen Sartarelli rules!

He is not only a superb translator -- especially of Montalbano's wit -- but he writes the best endnotes, which are informative and quite humorous.

I have read that he laughs a lot while translating Montalbano's humor. But I bet he has a ball with Catarella's word jumbles. He must enjoy that.

October 10, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I, too, have read that Sartarelli laughs when translating the Montalbano novels. We should all find such joy in our work!

October 10, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I guess copy editors can't sneak in a bit of humor into the articles they are editing.

Now that would be fun! Even a slip of the keystroke could turn one letter of a word into something witty.

October 10, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A copy editor would risk dismissal with a deliberate slip such as you suggest. Copy editors get no notice, of course, but I'm not sure that's the kind of notice we want. There are other, subtler ways of taking advantage of the opportunities our work offers us, however.

October 10, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Great!

Some volunteer editing and proofreading I do has been changed to Google Apps/Docs.

I just discovered that documents can be translated in that system, so I have dreams of translating articles into Bulgarian, Catalan or Chinese.

I just threatened the editor with this, but if I translated into German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or French, he could deal with it. No one else could.

Now this would be fun!

The problem with this new system is that while it has Word Count -- important -- it does not have grammar and punctuation check as Word documents have. But Google will have to update with that as Word has an advantage here.

There is a way to download to Word easily, but it would be better if Google added in this feature.

October 10, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think translation programs are best for individual words, especially if one already has some idea of what they mean. I'd be way of translating texts for any other purpose that acquiring a rough understanding of them.

October 10, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Cannoli or cannolo... or cannolu (Sicilian).

I'm reminded of an amusing encounter between my father and the proprietor of the Gelateria Mirto across from Monreale Cathedral... in Sicily/Sicilia.

Like Salvo, Pop has a sweet tooth. He wanted one cannolo but asked for "uno cannoli" whereupon the proprietor, in a friendly, gentle way gave Pop a little Italian lesson, complete with hand gestures: "UNO cannolo, DUE cannoli."

I.J., re As for the cannoli Montalbano helps himself to without an invitation: Note how in a Camilleri book this does not develop into an ugly or confrontational scene, but rather in shared appreciation of good food between two like-minded men. This scene is delightfully enacted by Marcello Perracchio (Dott. Pasquano) and Luca Zingaretti (Montalbano) in the TV episode of Il campo del vasaio. They savor every mouthful, exclaim over the ingredients, etc. Hope they didn't have to do too many takes for the sake of the actors' waistlines! Pasquano is already pretty chubby!

I love how the Italians (and Viennese and others) package pastries. None of that throwing it in a bag but carefully packing it in a box, with a tissue with the name of the shop on it, colored ribbon, etc.

October 10, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, the latest batch of Montalbano episodes available on DVD for the North American region includes Il Campo del Vasaio as well as some based on books not yet translated into English.

And I addressed Gianrico Carofiglio as dottore in St. Louis. He is a former magistrato, after all.

October 10, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Yes. These are the 4 episodes that aired on Italian TV a year ago. We bought the Australian DVDs (should be waiting for me when I get home) as I was a bit concerned about MHz's "may have been edited for content" note. We watched The Potter's Field on MHz on TV last night at my parents' house. Mom and Pop are big fans of the show and Pop has read all the novels.

Cannoli vs cannolo... In the episode, Pasquano tells Montalbano to help himself to a "cannolo"... which the translator(s) for the subtitles then rendered as "a cannoli." AACK!

In Italy, anybody with a college degree is a dottore or dottoressa (including Montalbano and Augello). I enjoyed this appellation at the Giornate.

October 10, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wonder what a warning like that would refer to. The Snack Thief, which I watched on an MHz Networks DVD, showed parts of Livia that I would be surprised to see on American television.

Where does one get the Australian DVDs? If I got them, I presume I'd have to play with computer or player to overcome the regional coding differences.

And I knew that Italians bestow that title on anyone with a degree. But that was the first chance I'd had to use the title.

October 10, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Well, perhaps the MHz DVDs are "intact" when purchased and edited only for TV...?

The Australian Montabano DVDs are available here.

Yes, you have to tinker a bit with making them "region free" but instructions for doing so are easy and readily available online via a simple search.

October 10, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. I'll probably just go ahead and order the American ones and hope that I don't miss too much.

October 10, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Montalbano needs a foil in Catarella. He also adds a comical element in every book.

If he didn't answer the phone, he wouldn't be giving Salvo the mixed-up messages. Thus, less humor.

All one has to do is mention Catarella'a name to a Montalbano fan, and that person will laugh.

October 12, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, I smile when I hear Catarella's name. This latest book contians some interesting variations on his habit of smashing the door in when he enters Salvo's office.

October 12, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

When ordering panini here, I’ll generally point and ask for "One of your panini, please."

"Cappuccino," said the fat man, "and a panino with ham, cheese and tomato. No mustard."--The Taint of Midas, by Anne Zouroudi, p. 101. [smiley face]

October 13, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I knew I was right to like her,

October 13, 2011  

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