I've recently got my hands on a brand new copy of Roberto Saviano's Gomorrah: Italy's Other Mafia, translated from the Italian by Virginia Jewiss. On page xx of the preface, one sentence struck me as being particularly strange:
My obstinacy frightens me, the obstinacy that makes you say, “If I'm making a mistake, but I do it knowingly.”
This quote is just a complete mess. It looks to be a zero conditional sentence, judging by the lack of will. Yet, the first clause is in present continuous rather than present simple, effectively throwing this assumption out of the window. Furthermore, what's but doing in here? I can completely understand adding a noun-modifying adverb into a conditional. In this case, however, it seems like the word has little to no meaning, and was seemingly included to serve absolutely no purpose other than throwing people off and be absolutely confusing.
I've consulted several native English speakers on this issue, and they unanimously agree that the quote is extremely awkward to read, and that this must've been some sort of mistake.
Well, things aren't exactly that simple. The book was published by Pan Macmillan - one of the UK's largest publishers. The probability of editors working for a large publishing company glossing over a mistake that severe and that early on in a international best-seller certainly seem quite slim. Additionally, the translation was provided by Virginia Jewiss, who received her Ph.D in Italian Literature at Yale and taught at Dartmouth before moving to Italy. If this were indeed an error, a person of her qualifications must've no doubt made an attempt to address the issue and not allow it to appear in the print version of the book, mustn't it?
As of now, hard evidence does not seem to support the assumption that this particular quote is erroneous. Luckily, after some detective work, I've found several pertinent information that might prop up our case. First is a review of the book by The New York Times. One section reads:
For such an important book, “Gomorrah” has some serious problems. Where the original Italian is forceful, if at times overheated, Virginia Jewiss’s translation is tentative and overly literal. She stumbles too often over colloquialisms and crucial words.
Ah ha, so Mrs. Virginia might not have been as impeccable as we thought!
Second is the original Italian version of this quote, which reads:
E l’ostinazione che mi spaventa, quell’ostinazione che ti fa dire “starò sbagliando, ma lo so facendo consapevolmente".
And the obstinacy that scares me, that obstinacy that makes you say "I'll be wrong, but I know by consciously doing it".
The if is not seen anywhere in neither the original nor the machine-translated version, but is somehow present in the officially translated version of the book. Quite strange indeed.
However, I'm still unsure if there is indeed any obscure meaning to Virginia's translation. After all, she did get a Ph.D in Italian Lit. at Yale. A highly-qualified person making a mistake in a best-selling book that somehow got overlooked by editors working for the fourth largest book-publishing company in the UK is simply much too unlikely to be true.
Here are my questions:
If I'm making a mistake, but I do it knowingly.