I’m now almost finished with the second volume of Ferrante (see this post; my wife has almost finished the third), and I’ve come across a passage that might have been written for Languagehat, so without further ado, here it is. The speaker has been studying in Pisa and has returned to Naples:
Language itself, in fact, had become a mark of alienation. I expressed myself in a way that was too complex for her, although I made an effort to speak in dialect, and when I realized that and simplified the sentences, the simplification made them unnatural and therefore confusing. Besides, the effort I had made to get rid of my Neapolitan accent hadn’t convinced the Pisans but was convincing to her, my father, my siblings, the whole neighborhood. On the street, in the stores, on the landing of our building, people treated me with a mixture of respect and mockery. Behind my back they began to call me the Pisan.
La lingua stessa, infatti, era diventata un segno di estraneità. Mi esprimevo in modo troppo complesso per lei, anche se mi sforzavo di parlare in dialetto, e quando me ne accorgevo e semplificavo le frasi, la semplificazione le rendeva innaturali e perciò confuse. Per di più lo sforzo che avevo fatto per cancellarmi dalla voce l’accento napoletano non aveva convinto i pisani ma stava convincendo lei, mio padre, i miei fratelli, tutto il rione. Per strada, nei negozi, sul pianerottolo di casa, la gente mi trattava con un misto di rispetto e sfottò. Cominciarono a chiamarmi alle spalle la pisana.
I have to say, by the way, that while Ann Goldstein, the translator, seems to do a good job, she has a tic that annoys me: she can’t seem to resist translating invece as “instead.” Obviously she knows as well as I do that it’s used more widely than the English word and that sometimes it’s better to use “but” or “on the other hand” or just not translate it, but habit gets the better of us all. It’s not a big deal, but I have a blog so I’m venting about it. Or, as Canine Cicero would have said: blogeo, ergo ventilo.