Enzo Mari. To translate is to betray (oneself)

The most poignant eulogy dedicated to the progressive disappearance of the European novel, with the departure of the 20th-century’s great talents, is by Milan Kundera, with his Testaments Betrayed of 1993.

The exile from Prague attempts an impossible synthesis: what is the novel, or rather what would it have been if Max Brod had respected Kafka’s last wishes and left only a few of his works to posterity? And if the translators of novels were truly faithful to the original? These are questions for maniacs of the written word, thus questions that Enzo Mari – a maniac of the visual form of text in particular – will have asked himself countless times, making and rethinking his work as an artist and designer. Also in the latest of many fine exhibitions showing in Turin (“The Art of Design”), Mari is rightly celebrated as the initiator of the Italian trend for translating art into design. Yet Mari himself has for many years sought to disguise himself as a designer, while knowing quite well that he is fundamentally an artist, albeit a 20thcentury artist. This time, however, he can’t fool us, not even with the registry of births and deaths as his ally, which has left him free to foray into another century, one with which perhaps he bears no relation. To translate is to betray (oneself, in Mari’s case), as our lamented mutual friend Renato Pedio recalled. One cannot help being moved, seeing once again in this exhibition and in his description of many projects’ evolution, a touch of the definitive analysis of Pedio, an extraordinary translator of great texts and great utopias, including Mari’s. Stefano Casciani

Latest on Design

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram