Gianni Rodari's grammar of food: translating Italian food language into English in children's literature in the UK and the US

Claudia Alborghetti*

*Corresponding author

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Translating the language of the Italian writer and journalist Gianni Rodari (1920-1980) into English is not an easy task. The translator has to consider the author’s voice on the one hand and the mixed target readership on the other, as his books are aimed at both adults and children. One of the most salient features of Rodari’s narrative voice is the playful language, which delves into the roots of Italian culture, in particular through food traditions. The aim of the present study is to identify the foreignising or domesticating strategies adopted by different translators in dealing with food in selected works by Rodari, where the translator can choose either to retain the “foreign” flavour of the original, and make the reader aware of the Italian background of the text, or to eliminate any foreignising trait and rewrite the text so that it is perceived as part of the receptive culture. Within the framework of a prospective descriptive comparison of the original Italian with its English translation, the present paper provides examples from four books by Gianni Rodari translated into English for the UK and the US markets along a time span of over 45 years. The findings in Favole al telefono (1962, tr. 1965) and La torta in cielo (1966, tr. 1971), translated by Patrick Creagh for the British public, show the ability of the translator to convey the playful grammar of food proposed by Gianni Rodari creatively, even without retaining references to Italian food in his prevalently domesticating translation.Creagh’s rewrites Rodari’s works using puns and alliterations to create a memorable text, and mediates Rodari’s voice for the English readership. Further investigations on Rodari’s language of food in a story selected from Novelle fatte a macchina (1973, tr. 1976), and in C’era due volte il Barone Lamberto (1978, tr. 2011) compared with the translations into English by Sue Newson-Smith and Antony Shugaar respectively, points to contrasting strategies. Newson-Smith translates for a British readership, and her translation shows varying degrees of domestication especially in food language with the use of amplifications and reductions. Shugaar translates Rodari’s rich vocabulary of recipes into American English, retaining French and Italian influences in naming gourmet recipes, possibly inviting readers to perceive food as a repository of different traditions. The analyses of these four translations in the UK and the US from 1965 to 2011 show how Rodari’s grammar of food inspired different strategies according to the target audience: domesticating translations for children, foreignising translations for adults. In the three British translations the translators rewrote food language to make the text acceptable mainly to young target culture readers. The rewriting strategy seems less evident in the American translation, where Rodari’s original food language seeps into the target text with the use of foreign names for recipes, suggesting that it was written primarily for adults.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Gianni Rodari
  • children's literature
  • cibo
  • food
  • letteratura per l'infanzia
  • traduzione
  • translation


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