Translation scandal over M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!

Zong!: Philip, M. NourbeSe, Boateng, Setaey Adamu: 9780819571694: Books -  Amazon.ca

A reader who knows I’m a huge fan of Philip’s work, especially Zong!, which I think is a masterwork of enormous brilliance, turned me on to an ongoing battle the author is having with an Italian publisher and translator that has released an unauthorized Italian-language version of their work. It’s quite the saga, but in the end, I feel the author is obviously right, especially given the nature and subject of the book at hand, and that the work at hand should be pulped. Read the timeliine story from the author’s POV here on Philip’s site and if it moves you so, sign this petition to the publisher at Change.org. Got to say, I’m a little surprised none of the mainstream news outlets have picked this up, but even moreso that niche ones like Quill and CBC Books haven’t either.

1. In 2016 Renata Morresi, wrote to me stating that she was interested in translating Zong! into Italian.  Renata Morresi stated that she did not have a publisher. I advised Renata Morresi that she would have to get permission from the publishers, Wesleyan University Press (WUP).  At the time it appeared to be something of a passion project and assumed that she would be in touch with me once she had a publisher.  I heard nothing more from Renata Morresi until June 11, 2021 when I received congratulations from Benway Series Press on publication of a translation of Zong! by Renata Moressi. 

2. In 2020 WUP sold the translation rights to Benway Series Press for $150.  WUP did not inform me that the rights had been sold nor did they put me in touch with the translator Renata Morresi or Benway Series Press. 

3. At least five people, including representatives of the Canada Council which funded the translation in the amount of some $13,000, have been involved in this Italian translation of Zong!, all of whom are white, and yet no one thought it necessary to consult with me, the Black and African-descended author of  the  said work, which engages with the transatlantic slave trade and which, as plainly stated on the cover—as told to the author by Setaey Adamu Boateng—involved Ancestral voices. 

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