The Aosta, Italy-based Faligi Editore is a perfect example of the Italian saying: "Se lo conosci, lo eviti!" ("Once you know what it is, you stay away from it.")
Though Faligi boasts of its "plurilingual" capabilities, the English version of its website is the usual non-native-speaker hack job:
We publicize new talents and human thoughts by breaking down the linguistic barriers! To read Faligi Edition books means ‘reading and knowing innovative books’.
While "breaking down the linguistic barriers," Faligi is also busily breaking down the profession of literary translation. What follows is a report by a translator who recently attended one of Faligi's "courses" (the post is available in Italian here).
For those who may not be familiar with Faligi Editore, I’m writing to bring them to your attention—with the hope that I can keep my fellow colleagues (or anyone interested in literary translation) from wasting their time.
Though it isn’t my specialty, literary translation has always fascinated me. As a result, and in order to get to know the field better, I participated recently in one of the “Creative Meetings” that Faligi organizes from time to time.
This meeting (they call it a “workshop,” but it only lasted three hours [Faligi charges 140 euros to attend this "meeting" ~ IlSdC]) was intended to introduce translators to the way literary publishing operates, give aspiring literary translators an inside look at that world, and provide Faligi with the opportunity to select a few hopefuls as translators for its books. In that context, let me mention some of the points I found most striking:
- Faligi publishes translations of books by Italian authors (they mentioned the example of Marco Polo1), in order to export Italian literature in various foreign languages and make it more widely known in the world.
- Asked why they assigned these translations to Italian-speaking translators, the response was (and here I quote the organizer of the meeting): “Because it’s very difficult to find native-speaking English, French, or German translators” (!?!) and because “it is high time we put an end to this mentality that translators should only translate into their native language. Our publishing company is located in the Valle d’Aosta, which is a bilingual area. In my case, I’m quite used to expressing myself in two languages and that’s the way it ought to be for everyone.” Notwithstanding various observations regarding this point, the woman who led the meeting was adamant.
- Faligi allows translators to use CAT tools (citing Trados as an example) to translate the books it publishes (!?!!!). I made a few comments about the practice, but the organizer pretended not to have heard me.
- Potential translators are required to complete a “brief” test: about 40 cartelle or just under 13,000 words (yes, you read that correctly) to be done at home and returned to Faligi. It goes without saying, obviously, that the test is unpaid.
- Faligi then selects the fortunate translators and assigns them one or two books to translate in the first year. Payment is made solely on the basis of royalties which, if there are any, are paid in the year following the translation.
- Faligi’s policy is not to pay on the basis of the cartella (typically a “page” of 2000 characters ~IlSdC) but, for our information, just in case they ever decide to do so, they supplied us with a breakdown of sample rates. The listed rate for Italian=>English, for example, ranges from between €6-12 per cartella (obviously before taxes!).2
Alongside the many other advantages of working with Faligi, the publisher offers translators an additional “opportunity”: to be listed in their Translators’ Forum, which Faligi describes as a genuine “display window” for the translator. (In fact, if you take a look at the portal, you’ll find one single name listed over and over—two in a few cases.3)
Once the “Creative Meeting” was concluded, I felt extremely lucky that I had decided to participate solely out of curiosity, that I already have a reliable source of income, and that it hadn’t cost me either much time or a long trip to attend the workshop. What made me sad, though, was to see all the young men and women who had come to Chivasso (near Turin) from all over Italy (Macerata, Rome, Puglia, even from Messina in Sicily) for a three-hour meeting whose content was what I’ve just described—in other words, for an encounter that had nothing whatsoever to do with the words “professionalism” or “opportunities.”
More than anything else, this message is intended for them: take my advice and save yourself three hours of thumb-twiddling.
1 As long as we’re talking about “Italian authors” and about an editor who purports to be knowledgeable in the field, it seems worth mentioning that Marco Polo did not write his own memoirs but, rather, recounted them to Rustichello da Pisa while they were both in prison. Rustichello then deployed liberal artistic license in creating his own versions of the tales. And he wrote in French. (~IlSdC.)
2 This dismal rate works out to roughly €0,018-0,036 per word ($0.022-$0.044/word). Outside of the third world, by way of comparison, a decent rate would be at least four times higher than Faligi’s lowest offer. (~IlSdC.)
3 Indeed, for the Italian=>English combination, Faligi lists only two translators, Paola Levante and Anna Giustozzi, both of whom, incidentally, also translate into French. Ms. Levante, however, is a true linguistic wunderkind and evidently translates to and from Italian, French, English, Spanish, Russian, and Latin. (~IlSdC.)