Sherry Simon


“Svevo, Weiss, Saba, Nathan, Fini and the Others: Translating Psychoanalysis in Trieste”

The mythically polyglot and creative city of Trieste played a crucial role in the commerce of ideas between Italy and Mitteleuropa and specifically, in the early years of the 20th century,  in the introduction of psychoanalysis to Italy.  Psychoanalysis and the influence of Freud were pervasive in Trieste in the 1920s and 1930s, much before it had penetrated other regions of Italy. Giorgio Voghera’s engaging memoirs of those years are called The Years of Psychoanalysis,  and they evoke the literary circles where the likes of Roberto Bazlen, Umberto Saba and Italo Svevo would meet in their favourite cafés to debate Freudian concepts. As a city with a large, cultivated middle class, educated in German and immersed in Italian culture, Trieste was a welcoming space for psychoanalysis. This episode of cultural mediation, lasting from about 1910 to 1925, gives the broadest dimensions to the activity of translation—the textual dimensions of transfer embedded within a rich environment of enabling factors  and resistances.  These include a historically bilingual milieu, a creative community of intellectuals and artists, the emergence of psychoanalysis as an international movement and its struggles for institutional recognition, the influence exerted by Freud himself in vetting his lieutenants and ambassadors, the strategic position of Trieste between Vienna and Rome, and the presence of important mediating figures like Italo Svevo and Edoardo Weiss– both originators in their different ways of the Italian ‘unconscious’. Both were mediators writing at the intersection of languages, opening new spaces of cultural expression. The focus of this presentation will be the psychoanalyst and translator Edoardo Weiss, but attention to  Italo Svevo and to the artistic milieu of Trieste—including painters Arturo Nathan and Leonor Fini–will provide a broader context for the work of Weiss as the first Italian translator of Freud.


Sherry Simon is a Professor in the Department of French Studies at Concordia University. She has also held the position of Canada Research Chair in Translation and Cultural History (York University, 2005) and served as Director of Concordia’s interdisciplinary PhD in Humanities Program. An internationally renowned scholar, Professor Simon has published extensively on subjects related to Translation Studies, literary translation, and gender in translation, among others. She has authored, edited, and co-edited several important volumes. Her current research, exemplified in publications such as Translating Montreal: Episodes in the Life of a Divided City (2006) and Cities in Translation (2012), explores intersections of language, translation and memory in urban contexts.