William Weaver

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William Fense Weaver (24 July 1923 – 12 November 2013)[1] was an English language translator of modern Italian literature.[2]

Weaver was best known for his translations of the work of Umberto Eco, Primo Levi, and Italo Calvino,[3] but translated many other Italian authors over the course of a career that spanned more than fifty years. In addition to prose, he translated Italian poetry and opera libretti, and worked as a critic and commentator on the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts.


According to his nephew, Weaver was probably born in Washington, D.C., but spent a portion of the year in Virginia during his childhood.[3] Educated at Princeton University, he graduated with a B.A. summa cum laude in 1946, followed by postgraduate study at the University of Rome in 1949.[4] Weaver was an ambulance driver in Italy during World War II for the American Field Service, and lived primarily in Italy after the end of the war. Through his friendships with Elsa Morante, Alberto Moravia and others, Weaver met many of Italy's leading authors and intellectuals in Rome in the late 1940s and early 1950s; he paid tribute to them in his anthology Open City (1999).

Later in his life, Weaver was a professor of literature at Bard College in New York, and a Bard Center Fellow. He received honorary degrees from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom and Trinity College in Connecticut. According to translator Geoffrey Brock, Weaver was too ill to translate Umberto Eco's novel, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (La misteriosa fiamma della regina Loana 2004).

Weaver died in Rhinebeck, New York.[3]

Major translations[edit]

Italo Calvino[edit]

  • Cosmicomics (1965). (Le cosmicomiche, 1965.) Harvest/HBJ (ISBN 0-15-622600-6).
  • T zero (1969). (Ti con zero, 1967.) Harvest/HBJ (ISBN 0-15-692400-5).
  • The Watcher and Other Stories (1971). (La giornata d'uno scrutatore & La nuvola di smog trans. by W.W.; La formica Argentina trans. by Archibald Colquhoun.) Harcourt (ISBN 0-15-694952-0).
  • Invisible Cities (1974). (Le città invisibili, 1972.) Harvest/HBJ (ISBN 0-15-645380-0).
  • The Castle of Crossed Destinies (1977). (Il castello dei destini incrociati, 1973.) Harvest/HBJ (ISBN 0-15-615455-2).
  • If On a Winter's Night a Traveler (1981). (Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore, 1979.) Harvest/HBJ (ISBN 0-15-643961-1).
  • Marcovaldo, or, The Seasons in the City (1983). (Marcovaldo ovvero Le stagioni in città, 1963.) Harvest/HBJ (ISBN 0-15-657204-4).
  • Difficult Loves (1984). (Gli amori difficili, 1949/1958.) Harvest/HBJ (ISBN 0-15-626055-7). (W.W. was one of three translators of this collection.)
  • Mr. Palomar (1985). (Palomar, 1983.) Harvest/HBJ (ISBN 0-15-662780-9).
  • Prima che tu dica 'Pronto' (1985). (Prima che tu dica 'Pronto' , 1985.)
  • Under the Jaguar Sun (1988). (Sotto il sole giaguaro, 1986.) Harvest/HBJ (ISBN 0-15-692794-2).

Umberto Eco[edit]



Bassani, Giorgio

Bellonci, Maria

  • Private Renaissance: A Novel (1989). (Rinascimento privato, 1985). William Morrow (ISBN 0-688-08188-6).

Berto, Giuseppe

  • Incubus (1966). (Il male oscuro, 1964.) Knopf.
  • Antonio in Love (1968). (La cosa buffa, 1966.) Knopf.

Calasso, Roberto

  • The Ruin of Kasch (1994). (La rovina di Kasch, 1983.) Belknap Press (ISBN 0-674-78029-9).

Capriolo, Paola

Cassola, Carlo

  • An Arid Heart (1964). (Un cuore arido, 1961.) Pantheon.

De Carlo, Andrea

De Céspedes, Alba

  • Remorse (1967). (Il rimorso, 1963.) Doubleday.

Elkann, Alain

  • Piazza Carignano (1986). (Piazza Carignano, 1985.) Atlantic Monthly Press (ISBN 0-87113-109-9).
  • Misguided Lives: A Novel (1989). (Montagne russe, 1988). Atlantic Monthly Press (ISBN 0-87113-295-8).

Fallaci, Oriana

Festa Campanile, Pasquale

  • For Love, Only for Love (1989). (Per amore, solo per amore, 1983.) Ballantine (ISBN 0-345-36336-1).

Fruttero, Carlo & Lucentini, Franco

Gadda, Carlo Emilio

La Capria, Raffaele

  • A Day of Impatience (1954). (Un giorno d'impazienza, 1952.) Farrar, Straus, Young. (This was W.W.'s first full-length literary translation, per Healey's Bibliography.)

Lavagnino, Alessandra

Levi, Primo

  • The Monkey's Wrench (1986/1995). (La chiave a stella, 1978.) Penguin Classics (ISBN 0-14-018892-4).
  • If Not Now, When? (1995). (Se non ora, quando? 1982.) Penguin Classics (ISBN 0-14-018893-2).

Loy, Rosetta

  • The Dust Roads of Monferrato (1990). (Le strade di polvere, 1987.) Knopf (ISBN 0-394-58849-5).

Luciani, Albino

  • Illustrissimi: Letters from Pope John Paul I (1978) Little, Brown, & Co. (ISBN 0-316-53530-3).

Malerba, Luigi

  • The Serpent (1968). (Il serpente, 1965.) Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • What is this buzzing, do you hear it too? (1969). (Salto mortale, 1968.) Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Montale, Eugenio

  • Butterfly of Dinard (1966). (La farfalla di Dinard, 1956/1960.) In Art and Literature 9 (Summer 1966), pp. 54–60.
  • "Italo Svevo, on the centenary of his birth." In Art and Literature 12 (Spring 1967), pp. 9–31.

Morante, Elsa

Moravia, Alberto

  • 1934 : A Novel (1983). (1934, 1982). Farrar, Straus and Giroux (ISBN 0-374-52652-4).
  • Life of Moravia (2000). (Vita di Moravia, 1990.) Steerforth Italia (ISBN 1-883642-50-7).
  • "Two Germans" (2002). (Due tedeschi, 1945.) In Conjunctions:38, Rejoicing Revoicing. Bard College (ISBN 0-941964-54-X).
  • Boredom (2004). (Noia, 1960.) New York Review Books Classics (ISBN 1-59017-121-7). (Introduction by W.W.; trans. by Angus Davidson.)

Moretti, Ugo

  • Artists in Rome (1958). (Gente al Babuino, 1955.) Macmillan.

Parise, Goffredo

  • The Boss (1966). (Il padrone, 1965.) Knopf.

Pasolini, Pier Paolo

  • A Violent Life, (1968). (Una vita violenta, 1959.) Jonathan Cape (ISBN 1-85754-284-3).

Pirandello, Luigi

  • One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand (1990). (Uno, nessuno e centomila, 1926.) Marsilio (ISBN 0-941419-74-6).
  • The Late Mattia Pascal (1964). (Il fu Mattia Pascal, 1904.) New York Review Books Classics (ISBN 1-59017-115-2).

Rosso, Renzo

  • The Hard Thorn (1966). (La dura spina, 1963.) Alan Ross.

Sanguineti, Edoardo

  • Extract from Capriccio italiano. In Art and Literature 2 (Summer 1964), pp. 88–97.

Silone, Ignazio

Soldati, Mario

  • The Emerald: A Novel (1977). (Lo smeraldo, 1974.) Harcourt (ISBN 0-15-128530-6).
  • The American Bride (1979). (La sposa americana, 1977.) Hodder & Stoughton (ISBN 0-340-24148-9 ).

Svevo, Italo

  • Zeno's Conscience (2001). (La coscienza di Zeno, 1923.) Vintage (ISBN 0-375-72776-0).

Verdi, Giuseppe and Arrigo Boito

  • The Verdi-Boito Correspondence (1994). (Carteggio Verdi/Boito, 1978.) Marcello Conati and Mario Medici, eds. U. of Chicago Press (ISBN 0-226-85304-7). (With commentary by W.W.)

Zavattini, Cesare

  • Zavattini: Sequences from a Cinematic Life (1970). (Straparole, 1967.) Prentice-Hall (ISBN 0-13-983916-X).

As editor[edit]

  • Open City: Seven Writers in Postwar Rome: Ignazio Silone, Giorgio Bassani, Alberto Moravia, Elsa Morante, Natalia Ginzburg, Carlo Levi, Carlo Emilio Gadda (1999). Steerforth Italia (ISBN 1-883642-82-5).

Original works[edit]


  • A Tent In This World (1950/1999). McPherson & Company ISBN 0-929701-58-5. (A novella)
  • Duse: A biography (1984), London: Thames & Hudson ISBN 978-0-500-01341-0 OCLC 11063020 (Published in America by San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich ISBN 978-0-15-126690-6)
  • The Golden Century of Italian opera from Rossini to Puccini (1980). Thames and Hudson ISBN 0-500-01240-7.
  • Puccini: The Man and His Music (1977). E. P. Dutton, Metropolitan Opera Guild composer series.
  • The Puccini Companion : Essays on Puccini's Life and Music (1994). (with Simonetta Puccini). W.W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-32052-9
  • Seven Puccini Librettos in the Original Italian (1981). W.W. Norton ISBN 0-393-00930-0
  • Seven Verdi Librettos: With the Original Italian (1977). W.W. Norton ISBN 0-393-00852-5
  • The Verdi Companion (1979). W.W. Norton ISBN 0-393-30443-4
  • Verdi, a Documentary Study (1977). Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-01184-2

Articles and contributions[edit]

  • "Pendulum Diary" (1990), Southwest Review Vol. 75 #2, pp. 150–178 (an account of Weavers's experience translating Foucault's Pendulum)
  • Biguenet, John and Rainer Schulte (eds.), The Craft of Translation, essay in "The Process of Translation". Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1989. ISBN 0226048683
  • Eleanor Clark, Rome and a Villa (2000). Steerforth Italia ISBN 1-883642-51-5. (Weaver wrote an introduction for this travelogue/memoir by Clark, whom he knew in Rome in the late 1940s)




  • "Calvino was not a writer of hits; he was a writer of classics." — On the fact that Calvino's English translations have never been best-sellers, but have instead steady, consistent sales year after year. [2]
  • "Translating Calvino is an aural exercise as well as a verbal one. It is not a process of turning this Italian noun into that English one, but rather of pursuing a cadence, a rhythm—sometimes regular, sometimes wilfully jagged—and trying to catch it, while, like a Wagner villain, it may squirm and change shape in your hands." [3]
  • "Some of the hardest things to translate into English from Italian are not great big words, such as you find in Eco, but perfectly simple things, 'buon giorno' for instance. How to translate that? We don't say 'good day,' except in Australia. It has to be translated 'good morning' or 'good evening' or 'good afternoon' or 'hello.' You have to know not only the time of day the scene is taking place, but also in which part of Italy it's taking place, because in some places they start saying 'buona sera' ('good evening') at 1:00 P.M. The minute they get up from the luncheon table it's evening for them. So someone could say 'buona sera,' but you can't translate it as 'good evening' because the scene is taking place at 3:00 P.M. You need to know the language but, even more, the life of the country." — From the Paris Review interview, 2002.


  1. ^ "William Weaver, Acclaimed Translator, Dies at 90 - ABC News". ABC News. Archived from the original on 2013-11-19.
  2. ^ William Weaver at Annandale-on-Hudson by Elizabeth Kiem from The Morning News
  3. ^ a b c Bruce Weber "William Weaver, Influential Translator of Modern Italian Literature, Dies at 90", New York Times, 16 November 2013
  4. ^ Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2008
  5. ^ "National Book Awards – 1969". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-11.
    There was a "Translation" award from 1967 to 1983.
  6. ^ The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1985. New York: Newspaper Enterprise Association, Inc. 1984. p. 415. ISBN 0-911818-71-5.


  • Robin Healey's monumental Twentieth-Century Italian Literature in English Translation: An Annotated Bibliography (ISBN 0-8020-0800-3) was extremely helpful in the preparation of the bibliography portion of this entry.
  • Porto Ludovica from The Modern Word, supplied additional details on Eco translations.

External links[edit]