The aim of the article is to outline the history of translation in Italy in the 1920-30s, drawing attention to certain main themes which emerge as focal points around which the debate on translation evolved. (i) The development of the Italian publishing industry and the contribution made by translations and the mass market for popular fiction that they helped to supply. (ii) The reaction of the Italian literary establishment to what was perceived as an invasion and a dangerous lowering of standards which was corrupting the tastes of the Italian public; the interesting use of statistics in this debate and their increasing political importance as significant data; and the debate that surrounded the undeniable fact that Italy translated more than any other nation. (iii) The campaigns that were carried out by the literary establishment, especially the Authors and Writers Union, against translations and their attempts to set up institutional barriers, exploiting the changing political climate in the wake of Ethiopia and Autarky. (iv) The contrast between official rhetoric and actual censorship policy; the tacit acknowledgement of the contribution that translated literature could make, despite official campaigns for autarky, racial and cultural purity, and the widely-held perception that to be a receptive culture was to be a weak culture. (v) The correlation between the adoption of racist policies and the introduction of specific censorship measures against translation. How a concern to protect the Italian “race” in its colonial enterprise against the risks of miscegenation spread into the literary field leading to increasing official hostility, the adoption of the first restrictive measures, a change in the rhetoric that was being used to describe translation from one of literary exchange to one of literary subjugation and pollution.
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