Dangerous frontiers: adaptation

  • Sandro Volpe University of Palermo
Keywords: Adaptation, Translation, Interpretation,


Discourses on adaptation revolve incessantly around a succession of deep-rooted clichés: at opposite ends the imaginary illusions of disappointed readers and the programmatic indifference of hardened film lovers. Theory should tenaciously oppose itself to common sense, but it's been bogged down in jargon and self-references: experts read each other's works, they position and reposition themselves, modify and revise their taxonomical grids, almost always triadic, engaged in endlessly redefining the continuum that goes from fidelity to originality. They simply ask that each adaptation fit into related compartments. With the only purpose of finding their bearings. But their terminology almost always reflects the same concern: an obsession with translatability. Doggedly formalizing a concept based on a wrong premise: because an adaptation is not a translation, it's an interpretation. Or, better, it isn't only an interpretation but certainly implies one. Of all the misunderstandings this is the most dangerous one because it doesn't have the alibi of ingenuousness. The whole exhausting debate on fidelity, even in its most recent declensions, falls through when the erroneousness of the premise is uncovered. If it's legitimate to judge a translation based on the principle of fidelity, this becomes entirely devoid of relevance when one considers an adaptation as something new, a re-writing of a text, its continuation, its variation. While a translation seeks refuge in the comfortable territories of similarity, an adaptation – a good adaptation – must push further, dare in diversity. Departing from a text means setting off, travelling, crossing a frontier to land elsewhere. And sometimes, as Truffaut wished, doing «something different, and better».


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Author Biography

Sandro Volpe, University of Palermo
Sandro Volpe is Associate Professor of Theory of Literature at the University of Palermo. Among his publications: L´occhio del narratore, Palermo, Quaderni del Circolo Semiologico Siciliano n.20, 1984; Il tornio di Binet. Flaubert, James e il punto di vista, Roma, Bulzoni, 1991; Controcampi. Conversazioni su letteratura e cinema, Palermo, Guida, 1995; La forma intermedia. Truffaut legge Roché, Palermo, L´epos, 1996; Centofilm 2002-2004, Pisa, Ets, 2004; Adattamento. Sette film per sette romanzi, Venezia, Marsilio, 2007. He has also published a novel, All´incrocio delle righe, Ancona, Pequod, 2004 and, together with Alberto Voltolini, Mai ali che volano alto, Palermo, :duepunti edizioni, 2011.


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Truffaut, François, “L’adaptation littéraire au cinéma”, La Revue des Lettres Modernes, 1958 (ora in François Truffaut, Le plaisir des yeux, Paris, Cahiers du Cinéma, 1987).

Volpe, Sandro, Adattamento. Sette film per sette romanzi, Venezia, Marsilio, 2007.

How to Cite
Volpe, S. (2012). Dangerous frontiers: adaptation. Between, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/602
Writing and Visions: Threshold Crossings