Brian Robert Moore
Brian Robert Moore is a writer and literary translator originally from New York City. His published and forthcoming translations from the Italian include Meeting in Positano by Goliarda Sapienza, A Silence Shared by Lalla Romano, and two books by Michele Mari. He received the 2021 PEN Grant for the English Translation of Italian Literature and a 2022 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship to support the translation of Walter Siti’s Paradise Overload (Troppi paradisi). He worked for several years as a fiction editor in Italian book publishing, and his shorter translations and criticism have appeared in Asymptote, Brick, Guernica, The Nation, The Poetry Review, Reading in Translation, and elsewhere.
My few weeks at Santa Maddalena were an extremely fruitful period, during which I worked on various stages in the translating and editing of books by the Italian writers Lalla Romano, Walter Siti, and, in particular, Michele Mari. Translating is an immersive, even obsessive practice, by which one has to fully inhabit an author’s world, and I was fortunate at Santa Maddalena to be aided in this process by my surroundings. In several of Michele Mari’s stories, and especially in his novel Verdigris (Verderame), the setting is a large home in the Italian countryside, a house full of history, with secret corners and rooms, a rich garden, a dark cellar, an old tower, and, most importantly, a seemingly infinite library. Though I’ve found other places conducive to translating in the past, perhaps in this case I was encouraged by the novel’s protagonist to experience living in Santa Maddalena and “living” in the novel as essentially the same thing: “When roaming through the rooms and hallways, going up and down from one floor to the next, I truly had the impression that I was moving inside my own head.”
While Santa Maddalena offered me invaluable hours to focus on my translations, equally meaningful for me was the company. And not just the human company. My most consistent companion was the black cat Lady Gaga, or “Mimi” to me, an outdoor cat who—so I was told—began to spend more time in the house right after my arrival, and who even started to sit in my lap toward the end of my stay (apparently, a first for any guest!). I was translating a horror novel, not to mention a short story collection in which Edgar Allan Poe is granted a few lines of dialogue—could I see the special approval and affection of a black cat as anything less than a sign?
For all this I feel greatly indebted to Beatrice, whose dedication to the arts and to literature, and most of all to building communities of writers, artists, and translators, is an inspiration. I have to admit that the noteworthiness of the various communities that have come together at Santa Maddalena made the idea of staying there intimidating—but I soon realized that this was one of Beatrice’s principal talents, her ability to make any guest at Santa Maddalena immediately feel that they truly belong there.