Marta Maria Casetti

Aug 01, 2018

The State of the Artist

I’m cleaning up the mess of this website after more than a year. It was a hectic year. Long story short: I ended up translating comics and one breast lighter.

The lack of a right breast is easily explained: I had cancer. People, check yourself. (And, people, stop saying “ladies, check yourself”: men get breast cancer too.) I was diagnosed in April, had surgery in late May, spent two months without typing or cooking, and here I am, minus a breast and plus a scare.

Always a good role model

How I got to translate comics is a longer story.

I had just realised that people might give me money to write words when I was asked if I wanted to translate a short story. I had never realised that people might give me money to play in the space between the two laguages that have become both my identity and my lack of roots. Bonus: it was a short feminist sci-fi story. Be still, my geek feminist heart. It was originally published in the anthology Sisters of the Revolution, and you can buy the translated version here - the beautiful Italian title is Le Visionarie. It felt like the best job in the world: immersing myself in a text, swinging between two worlds of words, trying to make people feel in two places at once (the latter is very sci-fi in itself, I suppose).

Apparently, I did a decent job - so I managed to get a much tougher one: a whole book. And not just a book: Femme Magnifique, a comics anthology about 50 kick-ass women by more than 50 kick-ass writers and artists put together by a totally kick-ass editor. Be still, my geek feminist comic-book-loving heart. It felt like the best of the best jobs in the world: all the joy of the translation within a visual medium (my dark past as film critic turned out to be useful), plus the game of fitting words within a balloon. The Italian edition is already out; the American edition will be in your favourite comic book shop on the 4th September.

Kate Bush as seen by Gail Simone and Marguerite Sauvage

The next translation was nothing less than Spinning by Tillie Walden. It just won an Eisner, and if you haven’t read it you should do it now. Where Femme Magnifique was a myriad of voices and the challenge of a continuous change of style, Spinning was a totally immersive experience, the beauty of Walden’s purposeful grace and my oh fuck if I get one line wrong I will destroy 400 pages of carefully crafted rhythm. The Italian edition will be out later this year but, as I said, you should read it now (too) (if you buy the Italian translation I will be very grateful).

I learned a lot about ice skating too, because mine is the best job in the world

Then I had a nervous breakdown. It happens. It’s a story for another time, or maybe never, or maybe just not in writing. I’m not sure I ca put the emptiness of depression into the boundaries of definite words.

I had just recovered and started working on a Very Cool New Translation, when the cancer news struck. It was my third cancer, but every time I forget how much work it is. First you have to arrange every practical detail, knowing full well that you’ll forget something. Then you’re stoned for two weeks. Then you start wondering why you’re so tired, after all you’re no longer in pain 24/7, and you have to fight denial. Then all of a sudden you realise that so much time has passed, and you don’t know where it went, and you have a blog to revamp, and so much to write, and a legendary geekfest and an amazing comic con to attend, and you’ve probably been one missed checkup away from being dead, and now it’s time for the proverbial rest of your life.

See you soon.