ISBN Edizioni/Massimo Coppola – The web is blowing up over Italian publishers that don’t pay

A 14 May 2015 article (below) from the Italian magazine, L’Espresso, is just one of the scores of articles, blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, and other mentions over the last week of the secret everyone knows: Italian publishers tend to pay their translators badly and late — if they pay them at all. (See below for additional coverage.)

London-based writer Hari Kunzru (Gods Without Men, Transmission, and My Revolutions, among others) got the ball rolling with a series of daily Tweets to ISBN Edizioni’s Editorial Director, Massimo Coppola (who recently landed a sweet post and a regular salary as Editor-in-Chief of the Italian version of Rolling Stone).

Frustrated by the total radio silence of Coppola and ISBN (the publisher’s strategy at this point is apparently to ignore calls, emails, and faxes from all translators, writers, and agents), Kunzru let loose with an intemperate word, for which he quickly apologized.

Coppola, however, grasping at the only straw he could find, immediately shot back the kind of “I’m the real victim here” Tweet that we’ve come to expect from people and organizations who have no actual defense for their behavior — and then once more lapsed into silence.

Since Kunzru’s initial Tweet, at least nine other writers and translators have come forward on Twitter and Facebook to say that ISBN hasn’t paid them either — for years in some cases — though the press continues to publish books.

It’s unclear how the specific case of ISBN will be resolved. If the publisher declares bankruptcy, writers and translators will be last in line to get paid.

As the headline of Crinò’s article puts it: “Culture is free, but someone’s making money.”

But even if that happens, this small revolt, this wave rolling across Twitter and other social media, is amost unheard of in Italy: writers and (especially) translators coming forward to say publicly that publishers have treated them unfairly and taken advantage of their labor. In many cases they are, as one group of protestors recently put it, “involuntary volunteers.”

“Oh, everybody already knows that,” commenters are already saying, putting on their complacent, so-what-else-is-new faces.

The difference is that, this time, everybody really does know.


See also:

  • Wired.it: “Autori e traduttori contro Isbn Edizioni, il caso su Twitter”  ~ http://www.wired.it/play/libri/2015/05/14/isbn-autori-traduttori-twitter
  • BookBlister.com: “Editoria canaglia?” ~ http://bookblister.com/2015/05/13/editoria-canaglia
  • Linkiesta.it: “Hari Kunzru contro Isbn, Twitter e la realtà dei fatti” ~ http://www.linkiesta.it/hari-kunzru-isbn-traduttori-debiti
  • StradeOnline.it: “I Traduttori nel Mercato del Lavoro Intellettuale che Non C’è” ~ http://stradeonline.it/terza-pagina/1148-i-traduttori-nel-mercato-del-lavoro-intellettuale-che-non-c-e
  • Il Sole 24Ore, Marco Passarello: “#OccupayISBN: la mia esperienza” (http://marcopassarello.nova100.ilsole24ore.com/2015/05/19/la-buona-fede-di-isbn-edizioni) – “Now, I understand that the publishing industry is in crisis. I’m well aware, when a crisis takes place, that it is possible for a [business owner] who is operating in good faith to find himself, despite everything, unable to pay his creditors, no matter how much he wants to. What I would point out to Mr. Coppola, who considers himself the victim of an “unfair and uninformed” attack, and to those who praise him, is that ISBN commissioned a new project from translators who had never worked for him before [i.e., the author and his wife, who were not paid for their work. Tr. note] at a point
    • at time when, by his own admission, he had already begun laying off staff and was having difficulty paying existing debts. That fact, I believe, speaks for itself.”
    • minima&moralia: “I lavoratori di #OccupayIsbn rispondono a Massimo Coppola.” ~ http://www.minimaetmoralia.it/wp/i-lavoratori-di-occupayisbn-rispondono-a-massimo-coppola – “We’d like to move away from the specific case [of ISBN] in order to reflect on the question of cultural work in general. Too often in this country, such work is seen as a hobby, a personal mission, a favor that has been conceded, an opportunity to increase personal fame or social prestige. Everything, in short, except an actual job. Yes, we enjoy writing, translating, and working with books; at times we’re proud of what we do. But it is work, work that we are able to do thanks to years of study and to the wealth of experience and skill that we’ve gained over time. It is a job. It is work which, like all other work, deserves to be paid fairly and punctually. In money. Not in visibility or in one more line that we can add to our résumés.
    • STradE: “Vogliamo Tutti La Stessa Cosa: Strade, Gli Editori Che Non Pagano, e Gli Editori Che Pagano” ~ http://www.traduttoristrade.it/2015/vogliamo-tutti/#more-4074

Scintille di Lara Crinò
14 mag 2015

Scrittori e traduttori: ‘L’editore non paga’. La cultura si fa a gratis, ma c’è chi ci guadagna

Schermata 2015-05-14 alle 12.41.12

Sta circolando nelle ultime ore sui social network, da Twitter a Facebook, e fa parecchio parlare il botta e risposta tra lo scrittore britannico Hari Kunzru e Massimo Coppola, fondatore ed ex presidente di Isbn, poi direttore di Rolling Stone dopo essere stato volto televisivo in quanto ‘coach’ del talent letterario Masterpiece. In un tweet, Kunzru ha denunciato che Coppola non ha mai versato a una sua autrice, amica di Kunzru, l’anticipo che gli spettava.

Gli ha dato dell’asshole, che non è propriamente un complimento e questo ha innescato uno scambio tra i due con risposta sdegnata di Coppola (“se la domanda contiene la parola ‘asshole‘ non merita riposta”) a quale si sono aggiunte nel frattempo altre voci (basta fare un giro in rete per capire di cosa sto parlando).

 

Il caso è stato ripreso dalla Stampa.

 

Poco tempo fa, sul suo profilo Facebook, una giornalista e traduttrice si è lamentata che in Italia viene regolarmente pagata in ritardo e che, per lavorare davvero su qualcosa senza ansia, bisogna andare all’estero. Che l’esistenza di chi vuole campare di cultura sia dura è un refrain dai tempi di Luciano Bianciardi, che non per niente chiamò il suo libro autobiografico sulla vita da traduttore a Milano La vita agra. In tempi di crisi, quando tutto costa e i compensi si dimezzano, si azzerano, scompaiono, lo è ancora di più.

Quel che mi pare di notare è che in questo settore, come in altri, sono quasi sempre e solo i ‘proletari’ (mi si scusi il termine, ma è evidente che il proletariato non è mica scomparso, e quello culturale parla soltanto un italiano migliore) a pagare: i giornalisti dell’Unità, gli autori di saggi e romanzi e i traduttori che hanno il gravoso compito di far sapere a un popolo che mastica male le lingue dove va il resto del mondo, e scusate se è poco. Spesso chi sta al vertice sembra surfare sulla superficie delle difficoltà altrui. E magari riesce pure ad ottenere incarichi di prestigio per il suo eclettico ed istrionico ‘genio’ e continua a vivere in begli appartamenti borghesi. A spese di chi continua a costruire, a gratis o quasi, l’ossatura culturale di questo paese.

Appunto.

About No Peanuts! for Translators

No Peanuts! supports professional translators & interpreters in demanding & receiving fair pay for their work.
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