Interview With My Italian Translator

La Saggezza

I’m very excited that my new series The Warrior Trilogy  just got purchased by an Italian publisher and will be published in that country next year. Last year I did an interview with the Italian translator of my book The Wisdom of the Shire (called La Saggezza della Contea in Italian). The new paperback of The Wisdom of the Shire hits bookstores  October 29th from St. Martin’s Griffin in the US. Here is my interview with author, translator and Tolkien scholar Giovanni Agnoloni.

Hi Giovanni. I was really excited when I found out that my book, The Wisdom of the Shire, was sold to an Italian publishing house. But I had no idea that a Tolkien scholar like you would be doing the translation (called La Saggezza della Contea in Italian). How did you first discover J.R.R. Tolkien?

Hi, Noble! First of all, let me thank you for hosting me on your website, which makes me incredibly happy. I was so glad to be offered the opportunity of translating your brilliant essay into Italian. This proved to be a way for me to recover awareness of the very mind-and-soul processes I had gone through, by now 15 years ago, when I’d first encountered J.R.R. Tolkien and started reading The Lord of the Rings. As a previous “roleplayer” (of Dungeons & Dragons, most of all), as a teenager, I already was somehow involved in this fantasy-world “halo”, but the approach to Tolkien’s masterwork was so stunning to me that I couldn’t help beginning to write my first essay even before completing the reading of the book (which anyway happened shortly afterwards, since I “devoured” it J ). The Hobbit and The Silmarillion followed.

Which Tolkien character do you relate to the most?

There are several, indeed. Mostly Aragorn, for the example of humility that he shows in patiently waiting for his due-to-happen (but never obvious) “return” to the throne of Gondor, and for the model of faithfulness to love he constantly shows for Arwen. And then Treebeard, for his philosophic synthesis of insight and simplicity. And Frodo, because he doesn’t step back when he has to face the Shadow.

Could you please talk a little about your essay “Tolkien as a Benchmark of Comparative Literature – Middle-earth in Our World”?

This was a contribution to the 2005 international convention held in Birmingham, UK, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of “The Lord of the Rings”, therefore now it appears in the book on the Conference’s Proceedings edited by Sarah Wells for the Tolkien Society ( It briefly goes through the main contents of my first Tolkien-focussed essay, Letteratura del fantastico (“Fantasic Literature”, Spazio Tre, Milan, Rome 2004) and through some of those of my (at that time still in process) second book Nuova letteratura fantasy (“New Fantasy Literature”) (Eumeswil, 2010). The basic point is the liberating concept of fantasy as emerging from Tolkien’s essay On Fairy-Stories, precisely because it is a key-factor to a reappraisal of the beauty of the real world, and a means to recover awareness of who we are, what we intimately desire and how to make it real, albeit respecting the others’ rights and legitimate aspirations. This premise reverberates onto a most rich range of psychological archetypes and universal themes, such as love, friendship, courage, respect and contemplation of Nature and so on, that are equally emphasized by Tolkien and, although through slightly different emotional vibrations, by other master of universal literature, like Homer, Sappho, Virgil, Dante Alighieri, Ludovico Ariosto, Hermann Hesse and Gabriel García Márquez. By so reflecting, we may gain access to a new vision of Comparative Literature, which is not so much based on philological derivations and assonances, but on a common heritage of emotions and  archetypal experiences and visions. Literature can thus prove to be a way to regain possession of the “magic of reality”, I mean, of that subtle, energetic/spiritual dimension that is the “Middle-earth of our world”, as I like to call it.

What were some of the challenges of translating my book into Italian?

Well, I have to say (and not just to sound kind) that it was mostly a pleasure to do this work. Some “trouble” I met in finding the most up-to-date names of places and characters, according to the most recent Italian editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and the exact quotations from such works. While translating non-fiction, I normally try to focus on the accuracy of the words used (being it, as a rule, a rather “technical” and “literal” sort of translation), but in this case I ended up feeling like I was playing an instrument, or executing a musical theme (which is what often happens to me when I’m translating fiction, although I always combine such “artistic” vein – which is probably due to the fact I’m also a writer – with a great respect for the author’s original intentions).

How long did it take you to do the translation?

About two months.

Did you have a favorite chapter of my book?

Although I loved many of them, I found the chapter “Your Own Personal Gollum” especially charming, not only because I consider Gollum one of the most tragic and beautiful figures of universal Literature, but because I completely agreed with what you say there about human relationships and the fact that sometimes it is much better to detach from companies that are not a true help to our (and also to their own) personal growth (and the memory of your “problematic” dog, that nevertheless you loved profoundly, touched me inside, since I adore dogs). More in general, I appreciated the way you always relate Tolkien’s characters and stories to personal experiences of yours and real-life situations that I also felt really involved in while reading (like when you mentioned your terrible minutes stuck underwater as a scuba diver, or the simple beauty of your wedding, or the unexpected meeting with that beggar in New York, after you’d signed your first contract as an author). I believe all these are true epiphanies.

You are from the city of Florence, one of the most amazing cities I’ve ever visited. What’s the best part about living in such an ancient place—a city with so much history?

Well, you said that… It’s beauty, a dimension that encompasses centuries and makes me feel constantly involved in an energetic halo of culture and humanism that, despite the various inconsistencies of the present, still nurtures me. I only regret that, living in the outskirts and working all day, I don’t go to the centre so often (except for my Polish lessons at the University of Florence or for some Hobbit-like beer evenings with friends, once in a while J). But every time I see the Campanile di Giotto, or Piazza della Signoria, or the Ponte Vecchio at sunset, or every time I take in the view from Piazzale Michelangelo, I say to myself that, although I love travelling so much, I will probably never find any other place so beautiful.

You’re an author too. You’ve written a work of speculative fiction (a genre I love) called Sentieri di notte (Paths of Night). What’s the book about?

It is a sci-fi nuanced thriller set in a European night of the year 2025, between Berlin (where a multinational company running all IT flows and energetic provisions has thrown the continent into the darkness of an extended black-out) and Krakow (that is being gradually absorbed by an enigmatic white cloud advancing from the suburbs). It is multifaceted story, a patchwork of places, countries and cultures in which technology offers the pretext and the background to a vicissitude aiming at the return to the Source and at a fusion with the roots of Being. The Chakra of Krakow Castle, obscure threats coming from clerical environments and the surfacing of an intimate vocation focused on Desire and consonant with the original text of an old Aramaic prayer that can win all mind’s resistances. This novel definitely is speculative fiction, as you correctly say, and is also an expression of the Italian literary (and originally sci-fi) movement called Connettivismo (Connectivism) (see and in fact, it is the first novel inspired from the poetics of this movement that tries to penetrate into the territories of spirituality and into the realm of mainstream literature.

I’m writing a series set in ancient Greece (The Warrior Trilogy). You write Sci-fi. How come the two of us aren’t writing fantasy like our hero Tolkien? : )

This is really interesting, now that you make me think about it. J It is probably due to the fact that we’ve caught what Tolkien considered the most important point in true fantasy literature: after the Escape into the “otherworld” of fantasy, where are bound to return here and now, to recover the awareness of the world we live in, and hopefully contribute to improving it. Within this context, both your interest in ancient Greece (that I absolutely share) and my investigations into a (likely) near future are coherent consequences of that premise. History is the real world as it used to be, and the next future is how it may become starting from now. Knowing the former is essential to get ready for the latter.

When does The Hobbit come out in Italy, and what are you most looking forward to seeing in the films?

It comes out in December, and I’m definitely looking forward to this! I don’t know, I’m kind of worried that this time they may have changed too many things from the original plot of Tolkien’s novel, but what I really want to see is the Forest of Mirkwood (although I will very probably have to wait for the next episodes for this…).

What are you working on next?

As a translator, I am working on a couple of American and English thrillers and on the first book of a series of “black” novels set in Cuba by the international award winning writer (and an extraordinary friend) Amir Valle (, who lives exiled in Berlin and fights for the freedom of his Cuban fellow citizens. It is him who showed me some most interesting spots of Berlin which then proved to be fundamental for my inspiration and became part of my novel “Sentieri di notte”. I am also translating this book of mine into Spanish and English, with an eye to very much hoped-for international editions (the Spanish one is almost certain). And very soon I want to start working on its screenplay version.

As a writer, I am writing the sequel of “Sentieri di notte”, that will be partly set in Florence, and have recently finished a thriller (still set in Florence, although in this case without sci-fi nuances) that will hopefully be released next year.

As a blogger, I keep collaborating regularly with and, two relevant Italian blogs focused on cultural issues, apart from updating my personal blog and my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ profiles.

Thanks, Giovanni!

Thank you so much, Noble!

Giovanni Agnoloni ( is an Italian, Florence-born (1976) fiction and non-fiction writer, a translator and a blogger. As a non-fiction writer, he has published Letteratura del fantastico (“Fantasic Literature”, Spazio Tre, Milan, Rome 2004), focussed on The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (compared with the Greek, Latin and Italian classics) and the English article Tolkien as a Benchmark of Comparative Literature – Middle-earth in Our World, that appears in the publication The Ring Goes Ever On: Proceedings of the Tolkien 2005 Conference (The Tolkien Society, 2008; a cura di Sarah Wells). These works of his were presented throughout Italy and in various European and American universities and institutions. He then published Nuova letteratura fantasy (“New Fantasy Literature”) (Eumeswil, 2010), where he compared Tolkien to several 20th century authors such as Hermann Hesse, José Saramago and Gabriel García Márquez. His latest Tolkien studies are Tolkien e Bach. Dalla Terra di Mezzo all’energia dei fiori (Galaad, 2011) (“Tolkien and Bach. From Middle-earth to the Energy of Flowers” – a true novelty on the world scene, because, for the first time, it compares he symbolic values of the characters, places and objects of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s Legendarium to the psychological-archetypal models of the “Bach Flowers”, discovered by Dr. Edward Bach) and Tolkien. La Luce e l’Ombra (Senzapatria, 2011) (“Tolkien. The Light and the Shadow”) (’Ombra), of which he is the editor, the translator and a co-author, with contributions from several internationally renowned Tolkien scholars.

As a fiction writer, his debut has just occurred (October 2012) with Sentieri di notte, a novel that is an expression of the Poetics of the literary movement of Connettivismo, published by Galaad Edizioni within the fiction collection “Larix”, edited by Davide Sapienza. It is a sci-fi nuanced thriller set in a night of Europe between Berlin and Krakow.


  1. Thank you very much indeed, Noble!



  1. […] tradotto La saggezza della Contea (Sperling & Kupfer) per aver pubblicato sul suo blog un’intervista che mi ha gentilmente fatto sulla mia traduzione del suo saggio sulla filosofia Hobbit e sul mio […]

  2. […] wish to thank the American writer Noble Smith for publishing on his blog the interview that he did to me about my Italian translation of his essay The Wisdom of the […]

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