Back from my vacation, I had to find a new job. This was not a major problem in our mid 1960s, I answered a couple of help-wanted ads but I was no longer enthusiastic about the idea of a chemical job. Visiting the foreign-book department of Messaggerie Musicali book and music store, it occurred to me to explain my current situation to its manager, with whom I had become somewhat familiar as a regular customer, and to ask her if she could suggest some translation job to while away the time.
- "What type of translations do you have in mind?"
- "Well, I was thinking crime or sci-fi novels."
- "Difficult, a lot of competition for them and publishers pay low and late."
- "Pity, thank you all the same."
I was about to leave when I heard her add:
- "Listen, could technical translations interest you instead?"
- "Sure, I already have some experience there from my former job."
At ISS, 21 to 25 y.o.
I was given the phone number of the International Secretarial Service (ISS), an agency of translators/interpreters owned by Manolo Cattaneo (formerly assistant director to Luchino Visconti in 1943) initially located in via Manzoni 12, then moved to his 4-storey building in via S. Spirito 5, an area to become later Milan's fashion quarter.
I remained there for 5 years, soon becoming the right-hand man of an owner possessing a law degree and therefore no technical culture at all.
My pay per standard translated page (24 lines of 80 characters each) was:
- Initially (1964) = £ 1,000 out of 1,500 billed
- Subsequently (to 1968) = £ 1,000 out of 2,000 billed
That's how one may become proficient both in English and in typewriting!
Technical translations are the easisest and best paid - provided one has a technical background : an almost one-to-one correspondence exists between the technical terms of different languages. I could handle the most disparate subjects, if necessary looking them up in the Encyclopedia Britannica available in-house.
A quick break
After about a year there, the almost 60-y.o. owner hinted at the possibility of his retiring and giving me the agency for free in exchange for a 50% share of the profits.
However, his proposal was late in becoming a reality and since I was contemplating the creation of a family in the not-too-distant future, in 1967 I asked for more solid details but only received some vague replies.
Therefore, I resumed my scrunity of newspaper ads.
My fiancée in 1967