early Italian translator
Gian Mario Benzing
am very honoured and pleased to rescue from oblivion and to bring to your
knowledge the story of an Italian man of letters who devoted a large part
of his life to the spreading of modern English novels and especially to
the works of Joseph Conrad. I am grateful to Professor Mario Curreli who
allowed me to introduce to such an illustrious international assembly the
strange and sorrowful story of a Conradesque personality and fate.
humbly I would like to offer you a small biographical picture of Mario
Benzing, one among the first Italian translators of Joseph Conrad. Of
German origins, Mario Benzing was born on December 7th, 1896, in Como, in
northern Italy, where his family momentarily lived, before going back to
Stuttgart, the original seat of the motherly branch of his family. His
father died when he was only seven years old; his mother deserted him
putting him under the care of renowned boarding-schools and colleges.
After finishing his studies abroad, in Lausanne and in London, Mario
Benzing settled in Milan, in northern Italy. Just like Conrad, Mario
Benzing was grown up in a multilingual environment, speaking German as
mother-tongue, then English and French, but choosing afterwards Italian as
his adoptive language in his new adoptive fatherland.
the First World War, he enlisted as a volunteer in the "Arditi"
Corps in the Italian Army. This one was a very special Corps,
distinguished by its patriotic ardour, almost by its fury in fighting;
these soldiers were charged to face the most dangerous actions in the
front line, often with steel weapons. It is almost impossible to imagine a
German fighting under Italian flags against the Austrian Army! In summer
1918 during a bloody battle on the East–Italian Front he was wounded by
a stab and by chance he was taken to the same military hospital in Milan
where Ernest Hemingway too in the same period was a patient and he made
his acquaintance. He too bid his “Farewell to Arms” and he found love
in Milan. In
the war, he remained in Italy and he began his literary activity. He wrote
some novels in Italian (we know his detective story Il mago del Mottarone,
published in 1934, and La ridda del filo nero, unpublished), biographies
of historical figures (as Cleopatra, Messalina and the Queen Christina of
Sweden). Above all he worked as a literary translator from English, German
and French, writing for many publishing houses; often was he forced to
sign as Mario Benzi, because of the nationalistic laws of the Fascist
period, which imposed Italian names.
authors to whom he especially devoted his work were Jack London, Rudyard
Kipling, Arthur Schnitzler, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, Pelham
Grenville Wodehouse, Herbert George Wells and above all Joseph Conrad. So
here we have a German who translated English masterworks in Italian! From
1928 until 1947 we may list about 80 translations by Mario Benzing now
available in the Italian libraries. As far as Conrad is concerned, Mario
Lord Jim; The
(first Italian translation); Suspense
(under the title L’aquila ferita);
a cruel destiny was waiting for this passionate German who spent his life
in popularising English novels among the Italian public, in a very
difficult period, against the increasing nationalistic impositions of a
dictatorial regime, bearing the hardship and the sacrifices of the
war-time and the consequent crisis of the publishing market.
1943. Some friends inform Mario Benzing that a bombing air-raid on Milan
is imminent. In a great hurry Mario Benzing arranged for his wife and two
sons to be evacuated in the countryside, far from the town. In the night
of August 7th about 200 Lancaster of the Royal Air Force bombed
Milan with incendiary bombs. Large parts of the town were destroyed. Among
them, the historical Teatro alla Scala, the Royal Palace, 55,000 ancient
volumes in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana were destroyed by fire. Mario
Benzing, who lived in San Marco Road, next to the basilica which hosted
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, sheltered in the underground of the opposite
building, the seat of the most popular Italian newspaper, “Corriere
the bombing attack he went up again on the road. The whole town was on
fire. An incendiary bomb was fallen upon his house breaking it in two.
From the street Mario Benzing saw the fire which began to burn his large
library, the treasure of a whole life, his own works and many historical
editions, the heritage of his family, ancient illustrated books about
ships and sailing, which were his sources of sea-terms… In vain he
called for help. No fireman in such a tremendous night, among the
desperate shouts of the injured and cries of survivors was there to help
to rescue books instead of wounded. Book after book, the whole library and
then the whole house were burnt down. Mario Benzing, utterly powerless,
saw it being completely destroyed. He saved all what was left to him, his
typewriter, and left on foot for the countryside.
books and many libraries in Milan went lost that night, so that it is very
difficult to find now in Italy a book by Mario Benzing. Irony of a cruel
fate: British bombs destroyed the works of one among the most prolific
pioneers of the diffusion of modern English literature in Italy. Without
his library, without his books Mario Benzing wasn’t the same man any
more. He worked as translator of technical subjects for a big industry,
forever leaving English literature. Fond of ancient languages of the Near
East and of Chaldaic Oracles, he studied Aramaic. He was friend of many
scholars and artists, as composer Umberto Giordano. He played for his
pleasure the piano and a special six-chord banjo. He died in Milan on
November 30th, 1958.
Benzing, Il mago del Mottarone, Milano,
Benzing, La ridda del filo nero, unpublished
Benzi, Cleopatra,, Milano,
Benzi, La regina Cristina,, Milano,
Benzi, Messalina, Milano,
Baum, La via del palcoscenico, Milano, 1934
Arnold Bennett, Anna delle cinque città, Milano, 1929
Boothby, Il maleficio del serpente, Bologna, 1932
Rice Burroughs, L' infanzia di Tarzan,, Milano, 1935
Rice Burroughs, Tarzan genio della giungla, Milano, 1935
Carroll, Alice nel paese delle meraviglie, Milano, 1935
Conrad, L' agente segreto, Sesto San Giovanni, 1930
Conrad, La figlia del galeotto (Chance), Sesto San Giovanni, 1934
Conrad, La follia d'Almayer, Sesto San Giovanni, 1930
Conrad, La linea d'ombra, Milano, 1929
Conrad, L'aquila ferita (Suspense), Milano, 1929
Conrad, Lord Jim, Milano, 1929
Conrad, Nostromo, Sesto San Giovanni, 1931
Jean Francois Fain, Il crollo di un impero, Milano, 1935
Alexander Ferguson, Geraldine l'oscura, Milano, 1938
Forst De Battaglia, Poniatowski, l'ultimo re di Polonia, Milano,
Goodchild, Mister X, Milano, 1938
Katharine Green, Ho voluto uccidere,.in "Vizio nella città:
due romanzi in uno", Milano, 1960
Hansen, La vendetta, Milano, 1942
Herczeg, Il ribelle, Milano, 1940
Hill, Sotto il capestro, Milano, 1933
Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, Schiaccianoci e il Re dei topi, Milano,
Vilhelm Jensen, Il mostro, Milano, 1937
Hunt Jackson, Ramona, Milano, 1937
von Keyserling, Case crepuscolari, Milano,1932
von Keyserling, Il Padiglione cinese, Milano, 1933
Killian, Storia del cristallo, Milano, 1943
Kipling, Capitani coraggiosi, Sesto San Giovanni, 1930
Kipling, Il libro della giungla, Milano, 1933
Kipling, Il Naulahka, Sesto San Giovanni, 1932
Kipling, Il secondo libro della giungla (Il figlio dell'uomo),
Kipling, Kim, Milano, 1928
Kipling, La luce che si spense, Sesto San Giovanni, 1932
Kipling, Racconti da "Il libro della giungla" e "Il
secondo libro della giungla", Milano, 1962
Kipling, Stalky & C, Sesto San Giovanni, 1933
(alias Alfred Henschke), Borgia, Milano, 1930
Kraus, Il Goebe. Il Moewe. Il combattimento di Thaiti, Milano, 1935
Herbert Lawrence, L' arcobaleno, Milano, 1937
Le Queux, Il mistero delle labbra sigillate, Milano, 1933
London, Avventura. Racconti del Mare del Sud, Sesto San Giovanni,
London, Fumo Bellew, Milano, 1931
London, Il figlio del lupo. Il gioco. La fiducia degli uomini,
Sesto San Giovanni, 1937
London, Il lupo di mare, Sesto San Giovanni, 1929
London, La crociera della Saetta. La strada. Il dio dei suoi padri,
London, La figlia delle nevi, Sesto San Giovanni, 1929
London, Il morbo scarlatto, Milano, 1931
London, La rivolta dell'Elsinore, Milano, 1928
London, La valle della luna, Sesto San Giovanni, 1929
London, Martin Eden, Milano, 1936
London, Tre cuori in lizza, Milano, 1928
London, Un Figlio del Sole. Quando Dio ride. Storie di guardie del
pesce, Milano, 1931
Mackenzie, La strana vita di Sylvia Scarlett, Milano, 1947
March, Il tesoro degli otto, Milano, 1938
Meyrink, La faccia verde, Firenze, 1931
von Mucke, I superstiti dell'Emden. L'Ayesha, Milano, 1935
von Mucke, L' Emden, Milano, 1935
Allan Poe, Avventure di Gordon Pym, Milano, 1934
von Richthofen, L' asso rosso, Milano, 1935
Rohmer, Il fiore del silenzio, Milano, 1939
Schnitzler, La signorina Elsa, Milano, 1928
von Simpson, Il nipote, Milano, 1943
Spiegel von Peckelsheim, La tragedia del „Wiesbaden“, Milano,
Spiegel von Peckelsheim, Sottomarini all'agguato. La crociera
dell'U-202, Milano, 1935
Wallace, Il segreto della cassaforte. La melodia della morte,
Wallace, La casa segreta, Milano, 1933
Walpole, La tetra selva, Milano, 1933
Wassermann, La bocca mai baciata, Milano, 1933
Wassermann, Le maschere di Erwin Reiner, Milano, s.d.
Welk, Il grande ordine, Milano, 1940
George Wells, Gianna e Piero, Milano, s.d.
George Wells, Il mondo di Guglielmo Clissold, Sesto San Giovanni,
George Wells, La ricerca magnifica, Sesto San Giovanni, 1934
George Wells, La sirena, Milano, 1929
Norris e Alice Muriel Williamson, Le perle azzurre, Milano, 1938
Grenville Wodehouse, Denaro trovato, Milano, 1932
Grenville Wodehouse, I conquistatori di coppe, Milano, 1932
Grenville Wodehouse, Mike: storia di un collegio, Milano, 1932
Grenville Wodehouse, Quattrini a palate, Milano, 1936
Grenville Wodehouse, Una penna di coda, Milano, 1932
Books now available in the Italian libraries or in the Benzing family’s
collection as described in the website www.benzing.it.
THE UGO MURSIA MEMORIAL
16-18 September 2004
Dipartimento di Anglistica
Facoltà di Lingue e Letterature Straniere
Dottorato in Letterature Straniere Moderne
Università di Pisa
Session I: CONRAD AND THE CLASSICAL WORLD
In memoriam Edward Said and Ian Watt
Thursday, September 16th, 2004
Aula Magna Storica
Ground floor, Palazzo della Sapienza (entrance at back of monument)
Via Curtatone e Montanara (just off Lungarno Pacinotti)
Chair: Zdzisław Najder, University of Opole
10.00: Conference opens: Welcome addresses.
10.15: Inaugural lecture: Zdzisław Najder, University of Opole, Poland
"Joseph Conrad and the Classical World"
10.50: Andrzej Busza, University of British Columbia, Vancouver,
"The Rover: Conrad’s Nostos"
11.20: David Lucking, Università di Lecce
"Narcissus in the Underworld: Counterpointing Myths in The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ "
12.00: Yannick le Boulicaut, Université Catholique de l’Ouest, Angers
"Lost in the Maze of Hell"
13.00: Lunch (Osteria I Santi, 71-73, Via Santa Maria: voucher N° 1).
15.00-16.30: Guided tour of the Duomo (or St Mary’s Cathedral, begun 1063), Baptistery (begun 1153), and frescoes of the Campo Santo, begun in 1277 and considered by many "the crowning glory of Pisa" (the definition is Leigh Hunt’s).
Meeting point at the foot of the Leaning Tower: the climbing of the Campanile (or belltower) itself is not included in our cumulative ticket (courtesy of the Opera della Primaziale Pisana), but delegates may embark on its breathtaking ascent at their own (heart’s) risk.
16.30: Afternoon coach trip to Livorno, meeting point: Piazza Manin (outside the Duomo Square, just past the Baptistery). Guided tour of the Accademia Navale and its Historical Museum.
Leghorn was one of the steamship Europa’s ports of call, where young Korzeniowski, then an ordinary seaman, landed on December 28, 1879, as recorded by the Gazzetta Livornese of that day. Sailing the day after for Naples, the Europa passed in view of the Isle of Elba.
19.30: Dinner in Livorno at the "Mimbelli" Staff Officers Clubhouse.
22.30: Return to Pisa.
Session II, CENTENARY OF NOSTROMO
In memoriam Philip Conrad and Bruce Harkness
Friday, September 17th, 2004
Centro Culturale Agora
Lucca: Piazza dei Servi
Chair: Cedric Watts, University of Sussex
8.00: Departure for Lucca by coach. Meeting point: Piazza Carrara (Lungarno Pacinotti).
9.15: Sylvère Monod, Sorbonne Nouvelle, Emeritus
"L’Albergo d’Italia Una" as an "Inn of the Three Witches"
9.45: Laurence J. Davies, Dartmouth College
"Conrad, Ethel Voynich, and the Mutton-chop of History"
10.15: Jean Szczypien, SUNY/FIT
"An Unrecognised Polish Nobleman in Nostromo"
10.45: Myrtle Hooper,University of Zululand
"The Private Spaces of Nostromo"
11.15: Cedric Watts, University of Sussex
"Reflections on Giorgio Viola"
11.50: Mario Curreli, Università di Pisa
"Intertextuality and Myth in Nostromo"
13.00: Lunch in Lucca.
Early afternoon: Guided tour of Lucca(where Emily Gould’s aunt, the Marchesa, "led a still, whispering existence, nunlike in her black robes and a white band over the forehead, in a corner of the first floor of an ancient and ruinous palace"), followed by a coach trip to Seravezza to visit the Parco Apuane and the Versilian quarries where Michelangelo got the marble he used for the Medici tombs, mentioned by Conrad in one of his essays.
"The little town of Vezza stands at the confluence of two torrents that come down in two deep valleys from the Apuan mountains. Turbulently – for they still remember their mountain source – the united streams run through the town; silence in Vezza is the continuous sound of running waters." These two torrents mentioned by Huxley in the incipit of Those Barren Leaves are the Serra and the Vezza, hence, according to popular ethimology, the real town is called Seravezza. Here the Grandukes of Florence had one of their summer villas built: this Palazzo Mediceo now houses the "Museo del Lavoro e delle Tradizioni Popolari della Versilia Storica". The Museum documents the main manufacturing activities of this area, centered around its marble and silver-mining industries, which date back to the Etruscan and Roman periods and saw their heyday in the Renaissance. It was here that Charles Gould took Emily, since "the work resembled mining in so far that it also was the tearing of the raw material of treasure from the earth."
Session III: CONRAD AND ITALY
In memoriamFrederick R. Karl
Saturday, September 18th, 2004
Istituzione dei Cavalieri di Santo Stefano
1, Piazza dei Cavalieri, Ist floor
Chair: Don Rude, Texas Tech University, Editor of Conradiana
Please note new meeting place at N° 1, Piazza dei Cavalieri
9.00: Welcome by Dr Rodolfo Bernardini, President of the Order of the Knights of St Stephen.
9.10: Manuela Bertone, Ambasciata di Francia in Italia: Servizi culturali - Roma
"L’affreux pastis Gadda-Conrad"
9.35: Marilena Saracino, Università di Pescara
"Unreadable plots: Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent and Carlo Emilio Gadda’s Quer Pasticciaccio brutto de Via Merulana"
10.00: Mario Domenichelli, Università di Firenze
"Heart of Darkness and Flaiano’s Tempo di Uccidere"
10.25: Elena Paruolo, Università di Salerno
"Dacia Maraini’s translation of The Secret Sharer"
10.50: Roberta Ferrari, Università di Pisa
"Translating/Transforming: Dacia Maraini’s reading of The Secret Sharer"
11.15: Michel Arouimi, Université du Littoral
"Heart of Darkness and Cristo si è fermato a Eboli: Thematic and Structural Similarities"
11:40: Laura Giovannelli, Università di Pisa
"Conrad as Paradigm and Countervoice: Notes on Moravia, Pavese, and Berto"
12.10: Gian Mario Benzing: Corriere della Sera, Milano
"An early Italian translator of Conrad’s works: Mario Benzing"
12.30: Fausto Ciompi, Università di Pisa
"Under Italian Eyes"
13.30: Lunch: Ristorante Turiddo, 12, Piazza San Frediano (just off Piazza dei Cavalieri, towards Lungarno Pacinotti). Opened in 1904, this restaurant was patronised, among others, by Maria Curie and, in 1925, by George V and Queen Mary.
Session IV: CONRAD AND THE MEDITERRANEAN
In memoriam Hans van Marle
Saturday, September 18th, 2004
Istituzione dei Cavalieri di Santo Stefano (1, Piazza dei Cavalieri)
15.15: Gene M. Moore, Universiteit van Amsterdam
"How (Un)finished is Suspense?"
16.00: Anne Luyat, Université d’Avignon
"From Marseilles to Suspense: The Opacity of the Mediterranean Experience"
16.30: Philip Olleson, University of Nottingham
"From Novel to Opera: The Case of Richard Rodney Bennett’s Victory"
17.15: Carola M. Kaplan, CSU Pomona, President, JCS of America
"Italy as Alibi and Intimate Other in Conrad’s Criticism of England"
17.45 Sema Postacioglu-Banon,Università di Venezia
"Contentions of Wit in The Secret Agent"
18.15: Robert Hampson, Royal Holloway, University of London
"Conrad and the Rossettis: ‘a casual conversation about anarchists’ "
18.45: Discussion, followed by visit to the Ugo Mursia Library, housed in the JC Study Centre, Dept. of Anglistica, 67 Via Santa Maria.
20.30: Farewell buffet chez Mario & Vanna