Published on

Mogol e Bob Dylan

Mogol e Bob Dylan

I translated Dylan’s lyrics. I had a contract that stipulated that Dylan could accept my translations or not. He cared a lot about my work, and that’s why he read everything I proposed. I started with Blowin’ in the wind. He sent a telegram of acceptance to the publisher each time.

Then his lyrics became more nuanced, less comprehensible and I began to add something of my own to the translation: for a song where there were some incomprehensible words, I did a translation where I completely changed the text. I received a telegram that required me to redo the text, but I refused. The publisher then spoke to Dylan to pick a new translator, and Dylan replied that he wanted no one but me. I was then invited to London to have an interview with Dylan. The approach was very strange: he made me wait twenty minutes in a vestibule while he was playing in another room.

At some point I said that I was going back to Italy and to say goodbye for me, and he received me immediately: “I know how you write, I know who you are, and therefore I have always been very gratified by the fact that you translate my songs, but I am Dylan and you are Mogol, you have to say what I say.” And I replied that I fully agreed with him on the duties of a translator, but that an author could not write about things he did not believe in. As I considered myself an author, I could not put myself in the service of a different fashion. He then made a beautiful gesture, he got up, took the song that was a bit of a bone of contention between me and him, and tore it up before my eyes. “Let’s forget this, Giulio,” he said, “Forget it for Italy, let’s throw it away.” It was a polite way of expressing his desire to continue our collaboration. When I asked him what that controversial song meant, he replied that he had not known for some time what was the deepest meaning of his songs when he read them again: he was probably a bit stoned. From then onwards I no longer agreed to do translations.


Quoted from: Bernieri, Claudio, Non sparate sul cantautore, 2 voll., Milano, Mazzotta, 1978, vol.1, p. 64