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Tolkien sparks translation trauma in Italy

The Lord of the Rings

A new translation of JRR Tolkien’s classic book ‘The Lord of the Rings‘ has sparked an ideological war in Italy between the radical right and the radical left.

Although first published in England in the mid-fifties, the first Italian translation did not appear until 1967. By the mid-seventies, the Tolkien books, including ‘The Hobbit’ (first published in English in 1937) were wildly popular among sections of the radical right in Italy.

They even inspired summer camps during the late seventies organised by the Italian Social Movement, an Italian nationalist party which traced its roots back to the Italian Social Republic established in northern Italy in 1943 towards the end of the Second World War.

Camp Hobbit

Now a new translation planned by the Italian publisher has sparked a culture war between those who were inspired by the original translation ( completed by a teenage Princess Vittoria Alliata, now 69, who strongly objects to the plans) and those behind the new translation (a former editor of the Italian Communist party’s newspaper.) She claims her translation is the only one in the world to have been read and approved by Tokien before he died in 1973. “You can’t rewrite Dante or Virgil,” she said recently.

Camp Hobbit banner

An Italian senator who organised one of the Hobbit Camps in the seventies, Maurizio Gasparri, who now supports Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party has also objected to the planned far-left translation. He said: ” Tolkien for many of us seemed to be describing the eternal battle of good versus evil, the idea of community, inspired by the hobbits, the idea of courage and bravery.”

Camp Hobbit band

The senator said that the plans to alter the princess’s translation were part of an “Orwellian” plot “to change and modernise everything”. He continued: “There is no need for a cultural reform project. For me this is the only translation.”

The book still sells about 30,000 copies a year, but due to the controversy over the new far-left translation, the Italian publisher has decided to postpone the planned publication due to a “climate of tension and animosity” around the project.

Camp Hobbit inspired a new generation of nationalist activists in Italy