Translating Fascisms

‘If it makes even a few readers rethink how they use language, how internalised some totalitarian seeds have become, it might have been worth it’.

In the summer of 2019, I translated a short satirical book by Italian author Michela Murgia. The original title – Istruzioni per diventare fascisti, literallyInstructions to become fascist’ – is a little different in the English version. The didascalic application is the same, though: Follow these steps, reader, and you too can contribute to the creation of a totalitarian reactionary country.


The UK version of the book was published in January 2020. Two years after the original publication, we were facing a supposed shift in power and policies in the Italian government, the actual arrival of the Brexit process in the UK, the beginning of the supposed final year of the US Trump administration, and the Western spread of COVID-19.

I was asked, as part of the translation process, to localise the references and historical contexts that were specifically about Italy – about its precedents with historical, capital-F Fascism, with tyrannical rule, with mass propaganda and media manipulation. Some could easily be swapped with a similar equivalent; some, such as the side of the war the country had been on, and most of the book’s last section, had to undergo a complete overhaul.

Read the essay in full at PEN Transmissions!


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