Let the drums roll out, and let the trumpets call. Again. After long, slow months, yours truly is in your favourite Italian bookshops with two new books by Strade Blu Mondadori. I have already talked about Nic Pizzolatto‘s Galveston. Two weeks later, another one of my translations made the bookshelves, Ogni cosa è importante! (Everything Matters!) by Ron Currie, Jr.
It’s an unmissable little masterpiece. Currie’s debut, God is Dead – which I am currently translating – was a brilliant novel-in-stories. Then the author moved to take on the novel proper, and he did it in style. Maybe it’s just me, but it might just be the latest Great American Novel.
Junior Thibodeau has known, since he was in the womb, exactly how and when the world was going to end: by direct impact with a comet on June 15, 2010, at 3:44 p.m. – roughly thirty-six years after Junior’s birth. Junior has voices in his head that tell him as much, along with other prophetic tidbits of information, much more than any child can or should have to handle. But, despite knowing that he’ll never see his thirty-seventh birthday, Junior goes through life, coping as best he can with his cocaine-addict-turned-pro-ballplayer brother, his overprotective and alcoholic mother, his distant and ill father, and Amy, his childhood sweetheart and the love of his life. Junior is unique, but for all of his skills and knowledge, can he possibly prevent the inevitable? And if he can’t, what difference do any of his other choices make, anyway?
There’s something of Donnie Darko in the premise. There’s something of Kurt Vonnegut in Currie’s way of mixing satire, black comedy and sci-fi. But above all there’s Ron Currie Jr. himself, an acute observer of the last thirty years of American history, a writer with an extraordinary sensitivity and a courage that allows him to rip narrative conventions to shreds in order to give us a very enjoyable and meaningful novel. One which will make you jump on your chair more than once, with an incredulous smile on your face. Trust me.
Translating this book was a wonderful journey. The main challenge, and greatest pleasure, was the fact that Currie uses multiple voices and points of view to narrate the story. The main character, Junior, with his extraordinary intelligence and the cynical nihilism which follows the terrible awareness of the impeding end of all things. His brother Rodney, first a rebellious kid, then a baseball icon. Their father, John Sr., a moving portrait of that kind of man who doesn’t talk much but works two jobs to support his family, without ever complaining. Possibly the most touching character of the book. The mother, Debbie, a sort of ghost-housewife burdened by a difficult past. Amy, the love of Junior’s life, fascinating and disarming, pretty much the quintessential alternative girl of the Nineties. And finally the voice that really stands out in this book, the one that Junior has been hearing since his conception, guiding him through life with its sarcastic way of describing the dynamics of human life with ruthless lucidity. Capturing the spirit of every narrator and reproducing it in Italian was a fantastic challenge, of course, and I hope I succeeded.
Another little translation challenge was that of a Spanish-speaking flight attendant, whose accent was rendered graphically with some unorthodox spelling (see here).
Enjoy reading the translation, if you’re the odd Italian reading the English version of this post. Otherwise, go and check out the original now, you won’t be able to put it down.