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New Tre n d s in Tr a n s l ati on St ud i e s N ew Trends in T ra ns lat io n St udies

Vol. 21

The present study examines the interrelation between literary texts, their
successive retranslations and the corresponding historical, social and cultural

Cadera and Walsh (eds) • Literary Retranslation in Context

backgrounds that inform these versions. In the case of each text, the authors
analyse both the external factors (sociohistorical circumstances, publishing
context, authors, translators, etc.) and the internal ones (text analysis, translation
procedures or strategies) that influence this interrelation. The book also
considers how the decision to retranslate a literary work may be due not only
to the commercial criteria established by publishers, but also to external
developments in the historical, cultural or social environment of the target
culture, or to an evolution in the poetic and aesthetic considerations of the
translations themselves, since translational activities and approaches change
and evolve over time. Consequently, the procedures inherent in translation may
influence the reception and perception of the original text in the target culture.
Finally, the book explores how the retranslations of a work of literature may
even change the image of an author and the perception of his or her work
that has been established by previous translations.

Susanne M. Cadera is Professor of German Language, Culture, Literature

Literary Retranslation
and Comparative Translation Studies in the Department of Translation and
Interpreting at Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid. She has collaborated in Context
on various international projects and currently leads the research group INTRA
and the project ‘Studies on Textual and Cultural Interaction: Retranslations’
(RETRADES) at Comillas Pontifical University. Her recent publications focus on
features and translations of fictive orality in narrative texts and on contextual
translation studies. Susanne M. Cadera and
Andrew Samuel Walsh is Lecturer in English, Translation and Communication
Studies in the Department of Translation and Interpreting at Comillas Pontifical
Andrew Samuel Walsh (eds)
University in Madrid. He has also taught at the University of Granada and the
Autonomous University of Madrid. His research interests lie in the fields of
literary translation and comparative literature.

ISBN 978-3-0343-1996-6
Peter Lang

New T r e n d s in T r a n s l at i on St ud i e s N ew Trends in T ra ns lat io n St udies
Vol. 21

The present study examines the interrelation between literary texts, their
successive retranslations and the corresponding historical, social and cultural

Cadera and Walsh (eds) • Literary Retranslation in Context

backgrounds that inform these versions. In the case of each text, the authors
analyse both the external factors (sociohistorical circumstances, publishing
context, authors, translators, etc.) and the internal ones (text analysis, translation
procedures or strategies) that influence this interrelation. The book also
considers how the decision to retranslate a literary work may be due not only
to the commercial criteria established by publishers, but also to external
developments in the historical, cultural or social environment of the target
culture, or to an evolution in the poetic and aesthetic considerations of the
translations themselves, since translational activities and approaches change
and evolve over time. Consequently, the procedures inherent in translation may
influence the reception and perception of the original text in the target culture.
Finally, the book explores how the retranslations of a work of literature may
even change the image of an author and the perception of his or her work
that has been established by previous translations.

Susanne M. Cadera is Professor of German Language, Culture, Literature

Literary Retranslation
and Comparative Translation Studies in the Department of Translation and
Interpreting at Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid. She has collaborated in Context
on various international projects and currently leads the research group INTRA
and the project ‘Studies on Textual and Cultural Interaction: Retranslations’
(RETRADES) at Comillas Pontifical University. Her recent publications focus on
features and translations of fictive orality in narrative texts and on contextual
translation studies. Susanne M. Cadera and
Andrew Samuel Walsh is Lecturer in English, Translation and Communication
Studies in the Department of Translation and Interpreting at Comillas Pontifical
Andrew Samuel Walsh (eds)
University in Madrid. He has also taught at the University of Granada and the
Autonomous University of Madrid. His research interests lie in the fields of
literary translation and comparative literature.

Peter Lang

Literary Retranslation
in Context
New Trends in Translation Studies
V ol ume 21

Series Editor: 
Professor Jorge Díaz Cintas

Advis or y Bo ard:
Profes s or S u san B assn et t
Dr Lynne Bowker
Profes s or Frede r ic C hau me
Profes s or A lin e Re mael

Oxford • Bern • Berlin • Bruxelles • Frankfurt am Main • New York • Wien
Literary Retranslation
in Context

Susanne M. Cadera and

Andrew Samuel Walsh (eds)

Oxford • Bern • Berlin • Bruxelles • Frankfurt am Main • New York • Wien
Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek.
Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche National-
bibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Cadera, Susanne M., editor. | Walsh, Andrew Samuel, editor.

Title: Literary retranslation in context / Susanne M. Cadera and Andrew
Samuel Walsh (eds).
Description: Oxford ; New York : Peter Lang, 2016. | Series: New trends in
translation studies ; 21 | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016044365 | ISBN 9783034319966 (alk. paper)
Subjects: LCSH: Literature--Translations--History and criticism. |
Translating and interpreting.
Classification: LCC PN241 .L564 2016 | DDC 418/.04--dc23 LC record avail-
able at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016044365

ISSN 1664-249X
ISBN 978-3-0343-1996-6 (print) • ISBN 978-1-78707-221-3 (ePDF)
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susanne m. cadera and andrew samuel walsh


Susanne M. Cadera
Literary Retranslation in Context: A Historical, Social and
Cultural Perspective 5

part i Retranslation and Ideology 19

Andrew Samuel Walsh

1 Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 21

Ana María Roca Urgorri

2 Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological Change: The
History of Spanish Versions of Gay American Twentieth-
Century Novels 53

part ii Retranslation and Censorship 83

Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín Matas

3 Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish: The Case
of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart85

José Luis Aja Sánchez

4 Zeno Cosini Comes to Spain: The Response to Italo Svevo
and the First Censored Edition of La coscienza di Zeno (1956) 115

José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez

5 The Six Lives of Celestine: Octave Mirbeau and the
Spanish Translations of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre
(Chapters I and II) 139

part iii Retranslation and Reception 167

Susanne M. Cadera
6 Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and its Thirty-One Spanish

Andrea Schäpers
7 Georg Büchner’s Fiction in Spain: Translations of Lenz195

Arturo Peral Santamaría

8 Ossian and Werther in Spain 221

Notes on Contributors 239

Susanne M. Cadera and Andrew Samuel Walsh


The present text is the product of the research conducted by the RETRADES
(Studies on Cultural and Textual Interaction: Retranslation) research
project, which began in 2012 and was led by Prof. Susanne M. Cadera at
the Department of Translation and Interpreting of Comillas Pontifical
University in Madrid. The fundamental aim of this project was to answer
the following question: What is the interrelation between literary texts
and their translations with the socio-historical characteristics of the period
in which they were produced? The central thesis to be explored was that
each new translation must represent a socio-historical change and that,
although the decision to retranslate a work may undoubtedly be due to a
commercial decision on the part of the publisher, it must also be linked to
external changes in the historical, cultural and social context of the target
culture or to changes in the poetic and aesthetic considerations of the trans-
lations themselves. As tends to occur in any other discipline, translational
activity and awareness change over time and the procedures inherent to a
translation may influence the reception of the text and the perception of
its author in the target culture. Consequently, the retranslation of a work
may even change the image of an author and the understanding of his or
her work that had been established by previous translations.
The conclusion reached by the research conducted during the first
three years of this project was in fact contrary to the initial hypothesis
proposed, as we discovered that there is not always a clearly identifiable
relation between the importance of authors in their original culture and
the retranslation of their work. Indeed, in the case of peninsular Spanish,
there are many instances of established authors from the canon of world
literature whose work has not been retranslated at all. This curious ques-
tion in itself as to who has not been retranslated and why not would be
worthy of a profound and systematic study which unfortunately escaped
2 Susanne M. Cadera and Andrew Samuel Walsh

the confines of this first period of our research project. In other cases, the
phenomenon detected was the precise opposite; that is, some authors such
as Kafka have been retranslated so many times that it is difficult to carry out
a detailed study of the differences between all of the retranslations. As in
the case of the lack of retranslations, a more detailed study of the reasons
for the abundance of retranslations of certain authors would be of interest
as a topic for future research.
In several chapters in the book, special consideration was also given to
the retranslations published during Franco’s dictatorship due to the possible
manipulation that these texts may have endured because of the censorship
system in place at the time as well as the possibility of self-censorship that
was widely practiced to avoid problems with the regime.
The book begins with a meta-theoretical chapter which offers an over-
view of the critical controversy surrounding the phenomenon of literary
retranslation and the various theoretical approaches and hypotheses that
have been proposed and used in the field. In particular, this chapter marks
a critical distance with the well-known Retranslation Hypothesis which was
refuted by the findings of our collective research into this question. The
volume is then divided in three thematic areas: The first one is devoted to
the question of Retranslation and Ideology and includes a chapter that analy-
ses the historical vicissitudes experienced by the various English language
translations of Federico García Lorca’s Poet in New York, translations char-
acterized by changes that reflected the radical transformation in English-
speaking sensibilities in terms of the language used to refer to racial origin
and homosexuality. This last question is then further explored in a chapter
which analyses the history of Spanish versions of Gay American twentieth-
century novels and examines the Spanish retranslations of authors such
Truman Capote and James Baldwin in the light of the burgeoning gay
liberation movement that was born during the transition towards post-
Francoist, democratic Spain. The second part of the book focuses on issues
related to Retranslation and Censorship and begins with a chapter devoted
to postcolonial literature retranslated into Spanish, specifically the case
of China Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. The issue of censorship in Francoist
and pre-democratic Spain is further explored in chapters that study the
first censored edition of Italo Svevo’s La coscienza di Zeno and the Spanish
Introduction 3

translations of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre by Octave Mirbeau. The

third section of the book is entitled Retranslation and Reception and it
examines in greater depth three cases of the aforementioned phenomenon
of abundant retranslation that have significantly conditioned the reception
of the respective authors into the Spanish culture system. The first chapter
in this part of the book examines the thirty-one translations into peninsular
Spanish (the addition of the Latin American versions would have multiplied
this figure considerably) of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis and the textual
controversy surrounding the initial but mistaken attribution of one these
translations to Jorge Luis Borges. The theme of reception through regular
and plentiful retranslation continues with an analysis of the translations of
Georg Büchner’s Lenz in Spain and the text concludes with a wide-ranging
historical analysis of the reception of both James Macpherson’s Ossian and
Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther in Spain and the part played in this
literary phenomenon by retranslation.
Finally, the editors would like to thank all those who helped in the
process of writing and revising the present text, in particular those members
of the Department of Translation and Interpreting at Comillas Pontifical
University in Madrid who took the time to read the manuscript and were
generous enough to offer their pertinent and thoroughly helpful correc-
tions and suggestions and, last but not least, they would also like to express
their gratitude to the group’s interns, Danel Ocio, Marina Rodríguez and
Alba Chico Rizaldos for their help in the development of a database and
the preparation of the final text.
Susanne M. Cadera

Literary Retranslation in Context: A Historical,

Social and Cultural Perspective

This chapter aims to introduce the theoretical frame of this volume based on the approach
to research into retranslations of canonical literary works carried out at the Comillas
Pontifical University in Madrid. The chapter begins with a summary of the evolution of
retranslation studies during the last decades in order to define the background. After this
short introduction, I propose a new perspective in retranslation studies focused on a con-
textual and systemic methodology of analysis. Starting from the thesis that translations are
bound to their historical, social and cultural context, comparative analysis of retranslations
can help to reveal both the influence of the socio-historical context on different transla-
tions and the influence of these translations on the reception of the work.

Retranslation: Definition and background

It is commonly known that many canonical works are translated several

times into the same language and within the same target culture from
the moment of their first publication. In Translation Studies, the term
retranslation has been generally accepted when the text is translated more
than one time into the same language and culture (Gambier, 1994; Pym,
1998; Venuti, 2004; Zaro Vera and Ruiz Noguera, 2007). However, there
have also been some different definitions of the term. Gambier (1994:
413) mentions the ambiguous use of the term retranslation when it is
defined as a translation that has been translated from other translations
in languages different from the original one. These types of translations
are also called indirect translations or in German Übersetzung aus zweiter
6 Susanne M. Cadera

Hand [second-hand translation] (Kittel and Frank, 1991: 3). In Toury

(1995), the term intermediate translation is also used for the same concept.
Gambier (1994: 413, my translation) makes a further distinction between
the term retranslation and others with which it could be confused such
as backtranslation, adaptation and revision, adopting the following defini-
tion: ‘Retranslation is a new translation into the same language, from a
text already translated completely or in part’. Studies on this topic based
on different translations of the same text prove that this definition has
gained general acceptance.
There has been particular interest in this phenomenon since the edi-
tion of the monographic volume of Palimpsestes (1990) in which Berman
(1990: 1–7) and Bensimon (1990: IX) proposed a hypothesis that has
later been defined by Chesterman (2000) as the Retranslation Hypothesis
(RH). According to this Retranslation Hypothesis, the first translation of
a literary text is more target language oriented whereas retranslations are
nearer to the source text and language. The hypothesis is based on the
presumption that the more time that passes between the original and
the translated text the more accurate it is likely to be (Berman, 1990:
1–2; Gambier, 1994: 414–415), although there are a number of ‘great
translations’ that do not become obsolete at all, in spite of the existence
of later retranslations (Berman, 1990: 3–4). Another supposition is that
retranslations place more emphasis on the source text language and culture
because, over the course of time, these elements can become much better
known and understood by readers. The function of the first translation
is to introduce the work into the target culture and, thus, it has to be
comprehensible for a reader who is not familiar with the culture of the
source text (Bensimon, 1990: IX).
Nevertheless, more recent studies have shown the need for empirical
studies to prove, amplify or debate the Retranslation Hypothesis arguing
that a linear evolution from domesticating towards foreignizing translations
does not reflect the real complexity of the retranslation process (O’Driscoll,
2011, Paloposki and Koskinenen, 2004). One can find both studies which
confirm the Retranslation Hypothesis (Dastjerdi and Mohammadi, 2013)
and those which reject it (Paloposki and Koskinen, 2004, 2010; O’Driscoll,
Literary Retranslation in Context 7

2011; Desmith, 2009). The question is whether or not it is possible to gen-

eralize about the characteristics of retranslations in order to make them
universally valid (Desmith, 2009) for all of the language and culture com-
binations that take part in translation processes. Descriptive case studies
on the differences between the original and subsequent translations of the
same text demonstrate that texts can be retranslated for multiple reasons
(Venuti, 2004; Brownlie, 2006; Palopski and Koskinen, 2010; O’Driscoll,
2011) and, therefore, their characteristics cannot be categorized in a simple
way. This poses a problem for any theoretical research on the topic and
perhaps this is the reason why there has been no significant evolution in
Translation Studies on this question since Gambier (1994: 413) argued
that the phenomenon had not been properly studied. Researchers have
drawn attention to the fact that there is a proportional imbalance between
the frequency of retranslations and the poor theoretical advances on the
topic (Deane, 2011; Enríquez Aranda, 2007; Desmith, 2009; Pintilei,
2010). Apart from studies that either confirm or reject the Retranslation
Hypothesis, Susam-Sarajeva (2003: 2) argues that ‘retranslations often serve
as case studies illuminating other aspects of translational research rather
than drawing attention onto themselves as topic in itself ’. The difficulty
of identifying and classifying retranslations and the need to analyse large
volumes of texts are other reasons mentioned by Paloposki and Koskinen
(2010: 36) to explain why basic research on retranslation has not increased.
Apart from methodological difficulties, scholars have also emphasized the
need for corpus or data based studies on retranslation (Gambier, 1994: 416)
in order to obtain comparable synchronic and diachronic data (Brissnet,
2004: 63) combined with historical and descriptive translation studies and
research (Desmith, 2009: 679).
However, new recurrent studies on the topic show that there is still
interest in exploring this phenomenon in more depth. Deane-Cox (2014)
published a volume on retranslation, and the journal Target edited a mono-
graphic volume on Voice and Retranslation in 2015. Both show that the
study of different translations of the same work can reveal new aspects
concerning literary translation strategies and translators’ working meth-
odology. This is the case, for example, when the voice of the first translator
8 Susanne M. Cadera

influences further translations (Koskinen and Paloposki, 2015: 25–37) or,

on the contrary, when works are reinterpreted in the effort to produce a
different translation (Deane-Cox, 2014: 12–18).

Limiting the research subject

As Paloposki and Koskinen (2010: 36) state, an ‘all-inclusive list for any
one target language is nearly impossible’. The complexity of the retransla-
tion phenomenon and the laboriousness of research in this field make it
necessary to limit in some way the corpus and the area of study. Paloposki
and Koskinen (2010) describe how they had to change the focus of their
research project on retranslation. They began with the aim of testing the
Retranslation Hypothesis, but it soon became apparent that this approach
was not enough to cover the complex field of retranslation (ibid.: 34).
Therefore, the next step consisted of limiting the area, the context and
the period:

We have addressed three main areas: the extent and proportion of retranslation in
Finland; the motives for and reception of retranslations (publishers, critics); and
finally, what happens to a text when it is either retranslated or revised (textual analy-
sis). For this purpose, we have compiled three different sets of data from the Finnish
context. These sets consist of synchronic data (retranslations and their reviews from
the year 2000), diachronic data (charting the retranslation history of classics short-
listed in 1999 and 1887) and case studies. (ibid.: 30)

This kind of procedure shows that limiting the context, as in the aforemen-
tioned Finnish case, might be the way to solve the methodological problem
of the complexity of retranslation studies. Moreover, it also indicates that
focusing on a specific socio-cultural and historical context can reveal inter-
esting data about reception, translation policies, or considerations about
the importance of foreign literary works in this specific culture. Obviously,
these data are not valid in other cultures, or at least most of them are
not, although they could be compared with surveys in other contexts.
Literary Retranslation in Context 9

However, what would really seem to justify a contextual approach is the

need for a sustained methodology in studies about retranslation.

A socio-historical and cultural perspective

According to Venuti (2004: 34), translations are ‘profoundly linked to their

historical moment’. If we are studying various retranslations of the same
work into the same language and culture, the date of the translations and
the historical context at the specific moment they were produced should be
taken into account. Historical events are generally linked to social changes,
but they are also related to ideology and values. Societies are in constant
evolution and this must have an influence on how translations are made in
a specific historical moment and social context. Differences between trans-
lations of the same source text cannot be seen as purely linguistic ones. It is
also true that languages are in constant evolution, and this is why one of the
main reasons for retranslation has been defined as the linguistic ageing of
the earlier translation (Berman, 1990: 1; Hurtado Albir, 2001: 599; Venuti,
2004: 26). Apart from the particular lexical choices and preferences of
translators and/or publishers, literary or narrative styles change over the
course of time, and through advances in Translation Studies, translation
norms and aesthetics also develop:
The retranslations are narrative versions which are elicited and constrained by specific
conditions. It is those conditions which can explain the similarities and differences
between the different translations. The conditions comprise broad social forces:
changing ideologies and changing linguistic, literary and translational norms; as
well as more specific situational conditions: the particular context of production
and the translator’s preferences, idiosyncrasies, and choices. (Brownlie, 2006: 167)

Starting from the point of view that retranslations exist because of multiple
and variable causes, the reasons for specific retranslations have to be analysed
in each historical, cultural and social context. Nevertheless, a much wider
and systemic approach is more interesting for the field of retranslation:
‘[t]here are so many factors involved in translation that causation is more
likely to be diffuse and multiple than focused and unitary’ (Pym, 1998:
10 Susanne M. Cadera

144). This is perhaps the reason why approaches that search for universal
causes for the retranslation phenomenon do not lead to valid conclusions.
Translations provide a tool for cultural interaction that shows certain
synchronous aspects of the target culture at a given time (Bassnett and
Lefevere, 1990). This idea is related to the concept of polysystems associated
with the School of Manipulation, which states that in translation, the liter-
ary text is manipulated according to the target culture (ibid.: 12). In this
process, translators play a very important role because they stand between
two cultures, two languages and two literary systems, and have the power
to build the image of a source culture, as it is received by readers of another
cultural system (Sales, 2003). In the preface to Translation, Rewriting and
the Manipulation of the Literary Fame, Bassnett and Lefevere (1992: vii)
argue that translation has to be considered the rewriting of an original text
and as such, it always implies the manipulation of this text which is deter-
mined by the target cultural system. Indeed, Lefevere (1992: 9) considers
translations to be the most influential type of rewriting since they project
the image of an author and his or her work(s) in another culture. However:

rewriting can also repress innovation, distort and contain, and in an age of ever
increasing manipulation of all kinds, the study of manipulation processes of literature
as exemplified by translation can help us towards a greater awareness of the world in
which we live. (Bassnet and Lefevere, 1992: vii)

Lefevere (1992) identifies four main factors of the target culture that influ-
ence translators: ideology, poetics, the universe of discourse and language.
Interestingly, he considers ideology and poetics to be the most important
ones, and Lefevere’s concept of ideology has been applied by several schol-
ars. Pegenaute (1996), for example, applies it to the study of the influence
of Spanish censorship in translations. Censorship affects the choice of texts
translated, the process by which they are created and their reception, yet
power structures, individuals or institutions can decide the fate of a liter-
ary work (ibid.: 178).
In the case of poetics, manipulation by the translator can occur when
literary devices are adapted to the expectations of the target system or the
function that corresponds to literature in society is changed (Lefevere,
1992). In this sense, Even-Zohar (1990) argues that translated literature is
Literary Retranslation in Context 11

part of the receiving culture and participates in shaping the literary poly-
system. Translated literature is, therefore, a system itself within the literary
polysystem and forms part of the receiving culture. The importance of con-
textualization in Translation Studies is also emphasized by Toury (1995),
who argues that translation is part of a historical setting, in which culture,
ideology, power, politics and the literary values of each moment are present.

context and system

Coming back to retranslation, a new translation of the same literary work

can indicate historical, social and cultural changes in the target culture that
lead to the need for a new version. Venuti (2004: 36) argues that transla-
tion can also produce the opposite impact on the target culture system;
they can produce changes in literary conceptions:

Retranslations reflect changes in the values and institutions of the translating cul-
ture, but they can also produce such changes by inspiring new ways of reading and
appreciating foreign texts. To study retranslations is to realize that translating can’t
be viewed as a simple act of communication because it creates values in social forma-
tions at specific historical moments, and these values redefine the foreign text and
culture from moment to moment.

Due to this fact, I would argue that the relationship between the original
source text and its different translations into a specific language through
time is a reciprocal, almost circular and truly complex one. Between these
texts there is an interrelation that cannot be considered to be straight,
linear or one-directional. More precisely, there is a circular relationship
between the original and translated text, where multiple actors, situations
and contexts are involved. This fact leads to a systemic approach towards
the phenomenon of retranslation, just as writers, translators and publish-
ers are part of a complex system and the decisions made concerning the
translation process, and the final translation itself can be related to different
aspects, whether they be individual or contextual ones.
‘Systems’, as defined initially by Bertalanffy (1969: 33, 38) in his General
System Theory (GST), are ‘complexes [or sets] of elements standing in
interaction’. He understands science as:
12 Susanne M. Cadera

the investigation of organized wholes of many variables [that] requires new categories
of interaction, transaction, organization, teleology, and so forth, with many prob-
lems arising for epistemology, mathematical models and techniques. (Bertalanffy,
1972: 432)

This approach is opposed to analytical research in the classical sense whose

methodology is based on breaking things down into components and
discovering one-way or linear causality (ibid.: 423). He also argues that
science should not be subdivided (e.g. natural, social or human science),
since all fields are somehow in interaction with each other. This is actually
a mostly contemporary claim whereby interdisciplinary research is seen
to be more and more necessary. Bertalanffy applied his system theory
to organismic systems of biology in order to compare it with classical
closed systems of conventional physics (Ryan, 2008: 6), but he also saw its
application to other areas of science, especially social science in a broader
sense including sociology, economics, politic science, psychology, cul-
tural studies, linguistics, history and humanities etc. (Bertalanffy, 1969).
System Theory supposes a ‘re-orientation of thought and world view’, ‘a
new scientific paradigm (in contrast to the analytic, mechanistic, linear-
causal paradigm of classical science’ (Bertalanffy, 1972: 421). According
to the scholar:

It seems, therefore, that a general theory of systems would be a useful tool providing,
on the one hand, models that can be used in, and transferred to, different fields, and
safeguarding, on the other hand, from vague analogies which often have marred the
progress in these fields. (Bertalanffy, 1969: 34)

Another important point in Bertalanffy’s system theory is the conception

of open systems amplifying his basic definition as ‘sets of elements standing
in interaction’ (1969: 38) to ‘a system in exchange of matter with its envi-
ronment presenting import and export, building-up and breaking-down
of its material components’ (ibid.: 141). Thus, a system is:

more than just a set of components and their relationships – it is a complex whole
that affects and is affected by its environment. Further, a system has a boundary that
prevents it from becoming mixed with its environment. The implication of the envi-
ronment is that a system must always be understood in context. (Ryan, 2008: 6–7)
Literary Retranslation in Context 13

Systemic approaches are by no means new in Translation Studies. In addi-

tion to the aforementioned polysystem theory, authors such as Hermans
(1999) or Poltermann (1995) base their reflections on Luhmann’s (1984)
Social System Theory and consider that literary translation is a differen-
tiated system within a complex social system with various subsystems.
According to Luhmann (ibid.: 240), social systems consist of communi-
cation, understanding communication as a synthesis of mainly three parts
resulting from human selection: information, message and understanding.
Communication is only complete when understanding exists (ibid.: 203).
Sociology cannot be understood without communication, its methodol-
ogy is based on it, yet it does not analyse chemical, neurophysiological
or mental processes; it analyses communication (ibid.: 226). This point
of Luhmann’s theory has been used as a connecting point to Translation
Studies. Hermanns (1999: 142) applies Luhmann’s view of social systems
regarding translations as ‘constituting a functional system’ whereby its
primary function consists of ‘producing representations of anterior dis-
courses across semiotic boundaries, and typically that representations can
be taken as re-enacting anterior discourses’. Considering translation as a
differentiated system within the literary target system, it is based on com-
munication on various levels: between source and target culture, between
author and translator, between translator and reader, between the two
languages in contact, etc.
This is indeed a possible aspect that can be applied in Translation
Studies, but I would like to go further following Bertalanffy’s system con-
cept in order to understand the retranslation phenomenon. Translators
have often been considered to be solely responsible for their translations.
This means that translations are the intellectual result of a translator’s deci-
sions, individual style and rewriting mechanisms. This is indeed true as the
translation process is usually an intimate situation where the translator is
working alone and his/her personal interpretation of the source text is
transmitted through the target text. On the other hand, translators are not
solitary human beings without any contact with their environment. They
are living in a specific time where social events, current politics, aesthetic
and literary movements or preferences dominate individual taste and pub-
lishing policies. Applying Bertalanffy’s system theory, the translator and
14 Susanne M. Cadera

the translated text itself should not be considered merely a system within
a greater literary system, but rather a whole in exchange with its environ-
ment, including all possible boundaries with its immediate and historical
context. Studying retranslations in different periods makes it possible to
discover how aesthetic questions and translation strategies change over time
in keeping with evolutions in the ‘environment’. Moreover, comparison
of retranslations of the same work can reveal different types of manipula-
tion due to the social and historical context. As they are ‘like any system
in exchange of matter with its environment presenting import and export’
(Bertalanffy, 1969: 141), new translations can be motivated by commercial
decisions made by publishers (anniversaries, literary awards, new considera-
tions of a particular author etc.), but also by social, cultural, historical and
even political changes in the target culture. Writers, translators and editors
are within ‘a complex whole that affects and is affected by its environment’
(Ryan, 2008: 6), so that decisions made concerning the translation process
and the final translation can be related to multiple aspects. Looking at
translation from the systemic point of view demonstrates that translation
can have enormous power over the reception, appreciation and the image
of authors, their work and even their culture. In the different chapters of
the present volume, the authors will offer concrete examples of the crucial
role played by translation in literary reception by analysing the various
retranslations from a contextual and systemic perspective.

A contextual and systemic approach

The aim of the ongoing RETRADES (Studies on Cultural and Textual

Interaction: Retranslation) research project is to apply a methodology based
on the theoretical considerations explained above. Not considering the
Retranslation Hypothesis as a starting point for our research because of the
aforementioned reasons, the approach of the project is primarily a contex-
tual one. The aim of the project is to focus on the specific time periods where
the different translations of one source text appear in order to establish the
Literary Retranslation in Context 15

interrelation between the translations and the socio-historical and cultural

background. The systemic approach leads us to the thesis that the influence
of the target texts on the target culture can be reciprocal, working in both
directions. The target culture, within its specific socio-historical moment,
can influence the translation process through all its elements (translator as
individual and as mediator, editor, publishing policies or decisions, censor,
cultural politics, relation between source and target culture, etc.). At the
same time, translations can also influence the target culture (adoption of
aesthetics, literary devices, genre, literary conventions or styles, images,
myths, conceptions or philosophical thinking or adopting norms) that
can find its expression in the target literature. I agree with Deane-Cox
(2014: 24) that the absence of sufficient background information about
the translators, such as social status, education and professional history,
frustrates any attempt to conduct a more complex investigation into the
individual influence of the translator on the final text. Nevertheless, the
studies included in this project aim to take into account as much contex-
tual information as possible in order to establish the systemic relationship
between source and target text.
The project seeks to focus on literary works, which have been retrans-
lated at different intervals over a period of years. In order to obtain a sys-
temic and contextual vision about the phenomenon of retranslation, the
following objectives are therefore envisaged, relating the retranslations to
their socio-historical and political context in order to identify the influ-
ence of this question:

a) on the translation and publishing process and the final target text;
b) on the appearance of further retranslations, considering possible publish-
ing policies, political and socio-historical changes, changes of interest
in a specific writer or the target culture’s need for a different version;
c) on translation strategies or on the literary and translational canon.

As a methodological starting point, the different translations of canoni-

cal literary works have been located and included in a database which
comprises information about publishers, translators, publication dates,
page numbers, re-editions of published translations and any comment
16 Susanne M. Cadera

that could be of interest (e.g. presence of an introduction, preface, trans-

lator’s notes, etc.).1
Further on, the different translations of the same literary work have
been classified according to the following criteria:

– relation between the publication dates and important socio-historical

events in the target culture (political repression, war, post-war period,
political changes, political transitions to democracy, increased social
tolerance etc.);
– relation between the publication dates and the cultural or political
contact between the source and target culture;
– relationship between the publication dates and possible changes in the
literary and/or translational canon.

Depending on the publication date, the socio-historical context in the

target culture is defined, described and related to each translation. After
following our selection criteria for retranslations, the different texts are
compared with the source text and between each other. More in-depth
socio-historical research is also conducted in order to draw conclusions
about translation practice, publishing practice and policies or text manipu-
lation. These analyses ultimately lead us to our conclusions about how all
these aspects affect the reception of the work and the author in each period.
Analysing the retranslation database and relating it to the different
criteria, certain rather surprising facts arise such as, for example, the exist-
ence of thirty-one different translations of Die Verwandlung from Franz
Kafka, the time span of thirty years between the first and second Spanish
translation of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, or the fact that Lorca’s
Poet in New York has only ever been fully translated into American English,
despite the widespread translations of his other work into British English.

1 The process of locating the different translations is a very complicated and labour-
intensive one in which different sources must be consulted. The Index Translationum
database is a very valuable resource, but it does not always include all translations
published. Therefore, other databases such as National Libraries, University Libraries,
publishing houses, historical archives, etc. have to be consulted.
Literary Retranslation in Context 17


Alvstad, C., and A. Assis Rosa (eds) (2015). ‘Voice in retranslation: An overview and
some trends’, Target, 27(1), 3–24.
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Pinter Publishers.
Bassnett, S., and A. Lefevere (1992). ‘General editor’s preface’. In A. Lefevere (ed.)
Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literary Fame, vii–viii. London:
Bensimon, P. (1990). ‘Présentation’, Palimpsestes, 13(4), 9–13.
Berman, A. (1990). ‘La retraduction comme espace de la traduction’, Palimpsestes,
13(4), 1–7.
Bertalanffy, L. (1969). General System Theory: Foundations, Developments, Applica-
tions. New York: Georg Braziller.
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ricité de la traduction’, Palimpseste 14, 39–67.
Brownlie, S. (2006). ‘Narrative theory and retranslation theory’, Across Languages
and Cultures, 7(2), 145–170.
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Intercultural Faultlines: Research Models in Translation Studies I: Textual and
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British Literary System. PhD thesis. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.
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London: Bloomsbury.
Desmidt, I. (2009). ‘(Re)translation revisited’, Meta, 54(4), 669–683.
Even-Zohar, I. (1979). ‘Polysystem theory’, Poetics Today, 1(2), 287–310.
Even-Zohar, I. (1990). ‘The position of translated literature within the literary poly-
system’, Poetics Today, 11(1), 45–51.
Gambier, Y. (1994). ‘La retraduction, retour et détour’, Meta, 39(3), 413–417.
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Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
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world-system’, European Journal of Social Theory, 2(4), 429–444.
Hermans, T. (ed.) (1985). The Manipulation of Literature. Studies in Literary Transla-
tion. London: Croom Helm.
Hermans, T. (1999). Translation in Systems. Descriptive and System-oriented Approaches
Explained. Manchester: St Jerome.
18 Susanne M. Cadera

Hermans, T. (2007). ‘Literary translation’. In P. Kuhiwczak and K. Littau (eds).

A Companion to Translation Studies, 77–91. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Hurtado Albir, A. (2001). Traducción y traductología. Madrid: Cátedra.
Kittel, H. (1991). ‘Vicissitudes of mediation: The case of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiog-
raphy’. In H. Kittel, and A. Frank (eds) (1991). Interculturality and the Historical
Study of Literary Translations, 25–38. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag. 
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ary Translations. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag. 
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(eds), Handbook of Translation Studies, 1, 294–298. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
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London: Routledge.
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Luhmann, N. (1995). Social Systems. Translated from the German original (1984) by
John Bednarz. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
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Peter Lang.
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and Challenges, 27–38. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
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Systems, Literary Translation, 5–31. Berlin: Erich Schmitt.
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part i
Retranslation and Ideology
Andrew Samuel Walsh

1 Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic


The present chapter seeks to analyse the socio-historic evolution of the English language
translations of Federico García Lorca’s Poet in New York. Therefore, we propose a dia-
chronic analysis of the five complete English language translations that have currently
been published of Lorca’s text which range from the first bilingual edition of 1940 to the
most recent retranslation which was published in 2008. These English versions of such
a totemic text have exerted a considerable influence on the poetic vision of the city of
New York itself to the extent that it is possible to speak of a genuinely ‘American’ poet
called Lorca due to the extraordinarily fertile reception of this poetry in the English-
speaking world. Through an analysis of the English language versions of these poems
published in five different translations during a period ranging from the book’s very first
edition in bilingual format in 1940 to the latest complete version which dates from 2008,
we will analyse how social and cultural evolution in language has informed the changing
nature of the translation of these poems during this elapse of time. Essentially, this chap-
ter will provide an overview of the salient characteristics of the retranslations of Poet in
New York in terms of racially and sexually sensitive language and an analysis of the solu-
tions proposed by the translators analysed.


The textual history of Federico García Lorca’s Poet in New York began with
a translation. In 1940, the first edition of the book appeared in bilingual
format translated and edited by Rolfe Humphries and published by the
Norton Press in New York, a few weeks before the publication in Mexico
City of the first monolingual Spanish version edited by Jose Bergamín. In
22 Andrew Samuel Walsh

this chapter, I will offer a diachronic analysis of the five complete English
language translations that have currently been published of Lorca’s semi-
nal text, a collection of poems that were based on his visions of the great
American metropolis during his sojourn in New York from 1929 to 1930.
Specifically, the translations studied are those made by Humphries in the
aforementioned first edition of 1940, Ben Belitt’s extraordinarily influential
and somewhat controversial version published in 1955, Stephen Fredman’s
relatively unknown text dating from 1975, the well-known standard version
produced by Greg Simon and Steven F. White in 1988 (and revised and
republished in 2013)1 and, finally, the most recent retranslation made by
Pablo Medina and Mark Statman in 2008. These English versions of such
a totemic text have exerted a considerable influence on the poetic vision
of the city of New York itself to the extent that it is possible to speak of a
genuinely ‘American’ poet called Lorca due to the extraordinarily fertile
reception of this poetry in the English-speaking world.
Through an analysis of the English versions of these poems published
in five different translations during a period ranging from the very first
edition of the book in bilingual format in 1940 to the latest complete ver-
sion which dates from 2008, I will try to analyse how social and cultural
evolution in language has informed the changing nature of the translation
of these poems during this elapse of time. Over the course of the successive
retranslations of the book, certain problematic thematic and lexical ele-
ments have been subject to some notable modifications by Lorca’s succes-
sive translators in line with changing linguistic sensibilities in terms of race
and sexual orientation. In this sense, I consider that Lorca’s text represents
a paradigmatic case of the need for ‘generational retranslation’ (Gambier,
1994) and, therefore, this chapter will attempt to provide an overview of
the salient characteristics of the retranslations of Poet in New York in terms
of racially and sexually sensitive language and an analysis of the solutions
proposed by the translators studied. This is an aspect of both Lorca’s work

1 A new and completely revised edition was published in 2013 with additional letters
and photos and some very minor modifications in the text.
Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 23

and its successive retranslation that has received scant critical attention2
and this chapter seeks to redress the balance in relation to this question.

Previous translations

Poet in New York was not the first work by Lorca to be translated into
English. In 1937, A. L. Lloyd had published a translation of ‘Llanto por
Ignacio Sánchez Mejías’ and a selection of other poems entitled Lament
for the Death of a Bullfighter and Other Poems. Two years later, Stephen
Spender and Joan Gili published a joint translation of his verses which
included three of the compositions that would subsequently form part of
the canonical text of Poet in New York: ‘Oda a Walt Whitman’ [Ode to
Walt Whitman], ‘El Rey de Harlem’ [The King of Harlem] and ‘La aurora’
[The Dawn]. Indeed, the translations of Poet in New York occupy a very
special place in the context of the abundant translation of the Andalusian
poet’s work into the English language and, as early as 1955, the editors of
a collection of English language translations of Lorca’s poetry, his brother
Francisco García Lorca and Donald M. Allen, could categorically state on
the back cover of The Selected Poems of Federico García Lorca:
No other poet of the twentieth century has attracted more English-speaking transla-
tors than Lorca, whose clarity and lyricism particularly recommend themselves to
poets working in the Anglo-American vernacular.

2 The only reference I have found to this issue is the conference entitled ‘Lorca, Jews
and African-Americans. From Romance to Racism or Simple Misunderstanding?’,
presented in July 2013 by Sharonah Frederick at the New York Public Library as
part of the exhibition Back Tomorrow: Federico García Lorca/Poet in New York. The
text of the conference has not been published, although a summary can be found
at the following website: <http://www.nypl.org/events/programs/2013/07/09/
24 Andrew Samuel Walsh

Significantly, with the exception of the aforementioned partial transla-

tion by Spender and Gili which was published in London in 1939, all of
the book’s translators have been Americans, which suggests that the book
has held a much greater fascination for the collective imagination of the
US literary world. Indeed, according to Belitt (1955: xl), ‘Poet in New York
remains an indispensable book for readers of two Americas’. Since 1955, the
volume of translations of Lorca’s poetry and drama has increased exponen-
tially in line with the unswerving interest in his life and work, although
this interest has perhaps tended to dwell excessively on the more superficial
aspects of his biography, his status as a gay martyr and a certain politicized
necrophilia surrounding the details of his tragic death.

The role of translation in Poet in New York

Regarding the powerful influence that translation would exert on the very
creation of Poet in New York, it is important to remember that during the
period of composition of the poems Lorca read with considerable enthusi-
asm his friend Ángel Flores’s 1930 translation3 of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land 4
and Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, translated by another New York-based
friend and poet, León Felipe. Furthermore, the Spanish translations of

3 In his Introduction to Belitt’s translation, del Río (1955: xxxi) referred specifically to
Lorca’s acquaintance with The Waste Land by Eliot ‘which he undoubtedly read in
the Spanish translation, Tierra Baldía, of Ángel Flores’ and, referring to the startling
parallels between the two works, stated that ‘there is not only a similarity in mood
and in the main theme of death, destruction and the end in nothingness of modern
civilization, but also, what is more important, a striking coincidence in vocabulary
and imagery’.
4 In his conference recital on Poet in New York, Lorca (in Maurer, 2013: 187) would
state: ‘No one can imagine just what a New York crowd is like, except perhaps Walt
Whitman, who searched it for solitudes, and T. S. Eliot, who squeezes the crowd
like a lemon in his poem, extracting wounds, poets, wet hats and river shades.’ For
a detailed study of the intertextual relationship between Poet in New York and The
Waste Land see Young (1992).
Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 25

the John Dos Passos novel, Manhattan Transfer and Eric Remarque’s All
Quiet on the Western Front would also accompany him in New York and
exert a notable influence on his vision of the city and the poems that he
composed there (Del Río, 1955: xxx–xxxi). It seems clear, therefore, that
these translated texts stimulated and influenced the poetic creation of Poet
in New York, occasionally in a very direct textual manner as in the case of
the eponymous homage which is his celebrated ‘Ode to Walt Whitman’.5
Indeed, in one of his letters home from New York dated 22 January 1930,
Lorca, who according to Christopher Maurer was a ‘stubbornly monolin-
gual poet’ (Maurer, 1992: 16, my translation), clearly expressed his wish to
see an English translation of his New York poems and even suggested that
a search was already under way for a poet who could translate these poems,
although he was uncertain about whether anybody would be capable of
translating such a densely allusive text:

I think that the poetry that I’m writing in New York with graphics, words and
drawings is something incredibly intense, so intense that they won’t understand it
and it will definitely provoke some arguments and scandal. But I’m sure that it’s my
best poetry and, of course, my intelligent American friends are looking a poet to
translate it, although I think that’s going to be very difficult. (García Lorca, 1997:
677, my translation)

Although Lorca believed that it would be ‘very difficult’ for his ‘intelligent
American friends’ to find a translator for his New York poems,6 fortunately
this has not proved to be the case and, aside from the numerous partial

5 In his Preface to the 2010 re-edition of the Norton edition, the Spanish novelist and
New York resident Antonio Muñoz Molina stated with reference to Lorca’s reading
of these Anglo-American poets during his stay in Manhattan: ‘The fact that he read
Walt Whitman and Eliot translated into Spanish is as important as the fact that he
read them here and not anywhere else.’ (My translation. From now on, all of the
translations of quotes are mine unless stated otherwise.)
6 Lorca was, however, involved in the subsequent translation and production of his
play Bodas de sangre [Blood Weddings] which was translated into English by José
Weissberger as Bitter Oleander and performed to decidedly mixed reviews in 1935 at
the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. Such was the extent of Lorca’s interest
in the project that he even rewrote some passages of the play to facilitate the task of
the translator (Maurer, 1992: 16).
26 Andrew Samuel Walsh

translations of assorted poems from the book that have appeared over the
years, there have been five complete English translations of the text which
I will now proceed to analyse in chronological order.

Rolfe Humphries (1940)

At the very heart of the textual controversy surrounding the text is the
bilingual edition published in New York by the Norton Press in 1940 and
whose English translation was made by Rolfe Humphries (1894–1969),
who had the theoretical advantage of working with a copy of the original
manuscript before it disappeared for almost seventy years. Humphries was
a university Classics professor by profession, as well as a poet and transla-
tor of authors such as Virgil, Ovid and Juvenal. Consequently, it must be
recognized that he was not a professional Hispanist and his knowledge of
Spanish was decidedly limited, although he did undoubtedly have some
extraordinarily privileged access to consultation with those who had first-
hand knowledge of Lorca and his work.7 Humphries was also a notable sym-
pathizer with the Spanish Republican cause, having edited in 1937 a volume
of translations of Spanish poetry in defence of the Republic entitled … and
Spain sings, and, notwithstanding his deficient command of the Spanish
language, this was evidently one of his principal motivations to translate
Lorca’s work. Therefore, Humphries’s 1940 text has to be fully understood
within its own very specific historical context of the immediate aftermath
of Lorca’s murder at the hands of Fascists in Granada at the outbreak of the

7 In his Foreword, Humphries thanks Fernando de los Ríos, León Felipe, José Moreno
Villa, Juan Larrea, José María Quiroga Pla, Rafael Alberti and José Bergamín for
their ‘correspondence or conversation’ which had helped him with the translation.
Thanks are also given to Dr Ignacio Millán ‘whose labors were virtually those of a
collaborator. His letter-by-letter patience saved me numerous errors in matters of
meaning, allusion and syntax’ (Humphries, 1955: 18). Although his Spanish was
evidently limited, he was clearly by no means without privileged bilingual assistance.
Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 27

Spanish Civil War in 1936. In 1940, the Civil War had just ended and Lorca
was widely regarded as the quintessential poetic and ideological martyr of
the conflict. The circumstances of his death were still unclear (although
the 1940 Introduction states unambiguously that he was ‘assassinated in
Granada’) and his status as the symbolic victim of Fascism was uppermost
in the translation and reading of his work.8 This highly charged political
reception of his work is made powerfully clear in Bergamín’s (1940: 9)
Introduction to the text in which he states categorically that:

It would be useless and anti-Spanish to attempt to conceal or dissimulate his death.

Its profound significance was truly Spanish both popularly and universally […] The
poet Lorca, innocent victim of this crime, is the purest and clearest example of the
martyrdom of an entire people.

It should be noted that Humphries had in fact been working on transla-

tions of Lorca’s poetry since as early as 1936, and in June 1938 had contacted
William Warder Norton about publishing his versions of Lorca’s other work.
Nevertheless, in early 1939, the project was still on standby as Norton was
unable to locate Francisco García Lorca who, in theory, had the rights to
Poet in New York. Indeed, it is somewhat surprising to learn that Lorca’s
New York poetry was not entirely to Humphries’s taste and he much pre-
ferred the earlier, lyrical poetry, of which he included twenty poems from
Canciones [Songs] and ten from Romancero gitano [Gypsy Ballads] in this
1940 edition of Poet in New York.9 In his brief but illuminating Translator’s
Note, Humphries (1940: 16) offered the following cautionary disclaimer:

8 The fact that this was a politically motivated edition is evinced by the fact the
editor Norton categorically told Bergamín he was not publishing the book
for economic reasons when the latter asked him for royalties. See Eisenberg (1976: 85).
9 In a letter to his friend Louise Bogan, Humphries (in Eisenberg, 1976: 58–59) would
opine: ‘The New York stuff is pretty much on the surrealist side and I seem to detect
in Lorca a show off bad kind of bohemianism around that period, which I don’t like
so much […] I don’t like his later poetry very much; there will be a fine passage now
and then, but in general I think the new world, and New York, were rather too much
for him, and the surrealist stuff got up his nose too much […] that surrealist smarty
side […] gets more boring as time goes on […] And the New York poems still sound
pretty hysterical.’
28 Andrew Samuel Walsh

Lorca’s poetry, in one respect at least, tempts the translator with provocative encour-
agement, for it abounds in images, and visual matters can be passed readily enough
across the barrier of language. The difficulty here, one soon comes to learn, is an
embarrassment of riches; the profuse succession of images, their seeming lack of
relation, the prompt availability of the poet’s unconscious – all this comes a little
swift for the Anglo-Saxon mind.

This reading of the poems may explain one of the major characteristics of
Humphries’s version which is his tendency towards dilution, to softening
dysphemistic or violent expressions such as the potentially anti-Semitic and
Christological images to be found in poems such as ‘The King of Harlem’
or ‘Jewish Cemetery’. He would then go to insist on the ‘strangeness’ of
Lorca’s poetry and his intention to at least make his texts sound like poems:

As for the music, the effects of Spanish verse are not ours […] I have tried to see
to it that these poems, in English, should still sound like poems. They cannot, and
should not, be expected to sound too much like English poems, or American ones;
but their strangeness should suggest Lorca’s subtle and extravagant imagination.
(Humphries, 1940: 16)

It must be remembered that Humphries’s translational task was made addi-

tionally complicated by the fact that he was essentially compiling the first
edition of the text and thus trying to establish the correct composition of
the volume rather than being handed a canonical text to translate:
The Poet in New York came to me in typescript, not always perfectly clear, and
at times declaring its own confusion. I have followed the typescript as closely as
I could, sometimes when I was not too sure it made sense – who can always tell, in
surrealist poetry? – but there are some instances when I have had to try to establish
the text. (ibid.: 16–17)

Essentially, Humphries’s translation responded to the requests of Lorca’s

circle of New York friends to publish a bilingual version of these poems in
the city that had inspired them. This was the closing of the cycle through
which the landscape that had inspired the book would also be the scenario
of its first edition and the underlying cultural collision at the heart of these
poems would also be reflected in a bilingual first edition. The translation’s
reception was lukewarm. Only 375 copies of the book were sold and the
Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 29

text did not reach a second edition.10 Indeed, it would seem that the book
represented something of an aberration for most American critics, with
the only notable literary voice to praise Lorca’s New York poetry being
that of Conrad Aiken.11 Evidently, at this juncture in time, the Andalusian
poet’s admirers in the English-speaking literary world clearly preferred the
exotic, lyrical poet of the Gypsy Ballads and this reception would remain
firmly in place until the appearance of Ben Belitt’s translation for the Beat
Generation in 1955.12

Ben Belitt (1955)

In 1955, the American poet and Professor of Literature Ben Belitt (1911–
2003) published his translation of Poet in New York in the Grove Press in
New York in an edition that included a Translator’s Foreword by Belitt and
an Introduction by Ángel del Río, a personal friend of Lorca who frequently
accompanied him during his stay in the USA from 1929 to 1930. This edi-
tion also included a series of appendices with versions of texts tradition-
ally linked to Poet in New York such as ‘Tierra y Luna’ [Earth and Moon]
and ‘Amantes asesinados por una perdiz’ [Lovers Slain by a Partridge], in

10 In 2010, the complete original text was republished in facsimile edition by the
Federico García Lorca Museum and the Diputación de Granada [Granada Provincial
Government], with a Preface by Antonio Muñoz Molina.
11 In a review in The New Republican, he would state that ‘there has been no more ter-
ribly acute critic of America than this steel-conscious and death-conscious Spaniard
[…] he hated us, and rightly, for the right reasons.’
12 Maurer (1992: 17) would refer to the problematic ‘exoticism’ and ‘racial remote-
ness’ that hindered the initial reception of the translation of Lorca’s work into
English: ‘In 1935, García Lorca was unforgivably exotic […] Fifty years of progres-
sive work have been necessary − fifty years of translators and editors who cursed the
impossible − for the desperation to disappear in terms of what has been called his
“racial” strangeness and his cultural remoteness, so that the poet can feel at home in
New York and New York can feel at home and recognize itself in its poet.’
30 Andrew Samuel Walsh

addition to a translation of Lorca’s conference on ‘The Duende: Theory and

Divertissement’ which would subsequently exert considerable influence on
contemporary American poetics (Mayhew, 2009). Unlike its predecessor,
this translation was a relative success given that between 1955 and 1957 alone
there were eleven printings and the book has currently been through some
eighteen editions. A completely revised edition was also published in 1983
with a new ‘Translator’s Foreword’ and an updated critical chronology.
In terms of this propitious reception of Belitt’s translation, it should
be noted that 1955 was also something of a watershed for a renewed
Anglophone interest in Lorca, as it was the same year that the anthology
entitled The Selected Poems of Federico García Lorca was published in New
York, in a volume edited by Francisco García Lorca and the renowned
poetry publisher Donald M. Allen.13 It was no coincidence that the influ-
ential Allen was not only one of the co-editors of the aforementioned text,
but also the Grove Press editor who commissioned Ben Belitt’s retranslation
of Poet in New York.14 The book’s reception in 1955 was no longer that of
the infinitely more politicized climate of 1940, when staunch Republican
sympathizers in the USA embraced Lorca as the poet martyr of the Spanish
people and were somewhat confused and unconvinced by his purportedly
surrealist American poetry. In contrast, by 1955 the conditions were entirely
favourable for the book’s retranslation and reception as a fashionably ‘sur-
realist’ text by the Beat Generation.
Significantly, for obvious chronological reasons, Humphries and Belitt
were the only translators who were able to count on the textual guidance of
members of Lorca’s intimate circle of family and friends. Belitt was assisted

13 Curiously, of the five poems from Poet in New York included in this volume, only
one of them is accompanied by Belitt’s translation and the other four are by Spender
and Gili.
14 As an editor at Grove Press, Allen was also the force behind The New American Poetry
(1960), an extremely influential anthology which, according to Mayhew (2009: 59),
‘helped to popularize the generation of American poets most enthused with Lorca’s
work, including Creeley, Spicer, Blackburn, Ginsberg, O’Hara […] Donald Allen
would appear to be a pivotal figure in the North American adoption and adaptation
of the Spanish poet on several levels’.
Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 31

both by Ángel del Rio and José Fernández Montesinos,15 who, according to
Belitt (1995: xlii), ‘often helped me temper the afflatus of the English to a
reading more in keeping with the original’. Belitt (ibid.: xiii) was also able to
receive the inestimable assistance and guidance of the poet’s brother, Francisco
García Lorca, in fixing the Spanish text and thanked the latter for ‘additional
help in construing images and allusions whose contexts steadfastly eluded me’.
In his Foreword, Belitt tries to justify his constant textual liberties
by insisting on the surrealist nature of Poet in New York (in line with
Humphries in 1940) in an attempt to explain the apparent lack of logic of
the text. By 1955, however, the term ‘surrealist’ undoubtedly held positive
associations for the book’s prospective readers and this critically question-
able tag would remain steadfast in Lorca’s reception in the USA. Thus, in
a notable demonstration of the ‘translator’s ego’, Belitt makes frequent
and startling departures from the original text and often takes immense
poetic licences. Although one might argue that herein lay the secret of the
success of the book for the Beat Generation, it is frequently impossible to
relate Belitt’s text to Lorca’s original despite the protestations made in the
extraordinarily verbose Foreword which essentially represents a lengthy
justification of his free translation of the original text:

My concern, in a very real sense, has been a double one: that of exploring a dimen-
sion of translation, as well as an artifact of Spanish culture […] It has not been my
assumption, as it was Mr Humphries’, that these poems ‘cannot and should not be
expected to sound like English poems or American ones.’ (Belitt, 1955: xi–xii)

Speaking of the task of the translator, Belitt (ibid.: xii) also made clear his
intention to not be bound by what he rather dismissively referred to as
translating ‘accurately’:

His premise, at the outset, must be a hard one: that the poem in English will not
gratuitously follow upon the poem in Spanish, once the English word has followed
‘accurately’ upon the word in Spanish.

15 A fellow granadino and the brother of Lorca’s own brother-in-law, Manuel Fernández
Montesinos, the Socialist mayor of Granada, who, like Lorca, was murdered at the
outbreak of the Civil War in the city.
32 Andrew Samuel Walsh

This wilfully unfaithful translation of the text has not escaped critical cen-
sure, and Mayhew (2009: 67) has spoken of ‘Belitt’s vandalistic approach to
Lorca’ as he repeatedly imposes his own poetic voice on that of the original
author, adding, eliminating and introducing unnecessary complications
into his English language version of the poems. Belitt’s version is one that
tends to distort rather than transmit the poetic intentions of the original.
Nevertheless, as Humphries’s version quickly became a bibliographical
rarity, Belitt’s translation of Poet in New York was the only generally available
version of the text in English and thus became an enormously influential
edition that would hold sway until 1988.16

Stephen Fredman (1975)

In the interim period, we can find this curious retranslation of Poet in

New York, which is the only monolingual English text of the five versions
analysed. The text was translated by Stephen Fredman, who is currently
a professor of American Literature at Notre Dame University and is an
expert in the field of contemporary US poetry. The text appeared in the Fog
Horn Press in 1975 and is something of a translational enigma as it is not
even made clear where the translation was published and this information
is not forthcoming in any Internet search. Furthermore, this edition rather
surprisingly contains no Introduction, Translator’s Foreword or any other
form of paratextual information. Presumably, the simplicity of this edition
would have excluded the possibility of any unnecessary expenses and kept
the text to the minimum length. In this sense, the text appears to have been
typed and then reproduced and, clearly, the circulation of the book was
extremely limited as it does not feature in most relevant bibliographies nor is

16 This version has not been without its advocates and, as late as 1990, Honig (1992: 22)
would still speak of Belitt as ‘that extraordinary American poet, whose translation
of Poet in New York has kept alive in America the spirit of Federico García Lorca
during the last thirty-five years’.
Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 33

it currently available for purchase. Therefore, its impact upon the reception
of Lorca’s work has been inconsequential and its place in the retranslations
of Lorca’s Poet in New York has to be that of a bibliographical curiosity which
did not affect the hegemony of Belitt’s Beat Generation reading of Lorca.
Stylistically, Fredman’s approach to the text is much more faithful
than Belitt’s, although, like Humphries, he tends to dilute and transpose
the harsher ideas and associations. It is also worth highlighting that, as
we shall see, Fredman uses the term ‘negro’ in each translation of Lorca’s
frequent use of the Spanish ‘negro’ throughout the book, whereas in 1955
Belitt had alternated between ‘black’ and ‘negro’. Undoubtedly, by 1975
racial sensitivity in language use had not reached the apex that it would
experience around the end of the twentieth century and Fredman was still
able to comfortably use this now somewhat out-dated and problematic
term.17 He is also the last translator to use the term ‘Jewess’ and this sug-
gests that subsequent translators were obviously wary of presenting anti-
Semitic strains in the verses of Lorca and seem to have opted to mitigate
this possibility through the transposition of ideas and adoption of milder
language removed from the harsh imagery of the original texts.

Greg Simon and Steven F. White (1988 and 2013)

Thirty-three years would, therefore, have to pass before Belitt’s version

was set in its historical context by the 1988 publication of a new transla-
tion by Greg Simon (a poet and specialist in the translation of Spanish
language verse) and Steven F. White (a poet, translator and Professor of
Spanish at St Lawrence University, New York), an edition published by
Farrar, Strauss, Giroux in New York which includes a critical introduction
by the renowned Lorca scholar Christopher Maurer. Although there is no

17 In his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech of 1963, Martin Luther King still resolutely used
the word and it was not until the 1970s that the term first became truly problematic
and then gradually came to be considered unacceptable.
34 Andrew Samuel Walsh

Translator’s Introduction in this version of the text, both Simon and White
would subsequently publish some interesting reflections on their transla-
tion of Poet in New York in a special edition of the Boletín de la Fundación
Federico García Lorca [Bulletin of the Federico García Lorca Foundation]
which was published in 1992 and gathered together the papers read at a
1990 conference held in New York to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary
of the publication of the book in the aforementioned city. In particular,
White’s contribution (entitled ‘Misery and Splendor of Translating Poeta
en Nueva York’ in intertextual homage to Ortega y Gasset’s seminal essay
on literary translation) offers some interesting reflections on the special
qualities of the original text and the peculiarities of its translation due to
its genesis in the ‘quintessential American metropolis’ and the clash of
cultures and languages at the heart of the poems:

His is a foreign language, etymologically speaking (from the Latin, foras) in the sense
that it is generated in the open air and abroad […] In this respect, the original treat-
ment, which is so full of the sense of shock that Lorca felt about New York, can be
considered to be the result of the fundamental dissimilarity between English and
Spanish. (White, 1992: 37–38)

After more than thirty years of dominance by Belitt’s heterodox translation

of Lorca, a new English language edition was much needed in the light
of much greater critical knowledge of the text and much more detailed
information about Lorca’s American experience. This version has subse-
quently become the standard academic text for English-speaking students
and readers of Lorca and has been steadily in print since then, undergoing
a complete revision in 2013,18 which contained extensive new material in
the form of letters and photos and was motivated by the appearance of the
definitive manuscript of the book.19 The translations by Simon and White

18 Curiously, in his aforementioned paper read in 1990, White (1992: 38) already warned
of the inevitable tendency for a text to become obsolete and stated that ‘if it’s lucky
it will only last thirty years’.
19 This new revised edition includes some very minor modifications in the text in the
light of the appearance of the aforementioned definitive manuscript, none of which
affect the sensitive racial and sexual language which is the object of this study.
Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 35

also appear in the anthology entitled Federico García Lorca. Selected Verse,
which has been in print regularly since 1988 (the latest revised edition
appeared in 2013) and is also edited by Maurer who, along with Andrew A.
Anderson, is perhaps the predominant lorquista among US academics, as
evinced by their recent collaboration on a collected volume of Lorca’s cor-
respondence, photos and other assorted documents from his time in New
York and Havana (Maurer and Anderson, 2013), a volume which serves as
an extraordinarily interesting paratext to Poet in New York.
This retranslation by Simon and White represents a balanced edi-
tion in terms of its textual and critical apparatus, which have benefited
from the latest developments in the light of the definitive version of the
book edited by Andrew A. Anderson. This definitive edition appeared
in 2013 and the revised translation followed shortly afterwards. Thus, the
2013 re-edition of the translation has the advantage of being based on
what can now be considered the canonical Spanish original text, following
the appearance of the original manuscript in 1999 and its acquisition by
the Federico García Lorca Foundation at an auction in 2003. Simon and
White’s text is a decidedly more faithful version than its predecessors, and
is predominantly much more direct and literal than Belitt’s notoriously
free translation. The most notable change observed lies in the evolution
of the racial and sexual language found in the poems as we shall see in our
analysis later. Evidently, by the late 1980s terms such as ‘negro’ or ‘Jewess’
were no longer acceptable (although Simon and White still use the rather
questionable ‘Chinaman’). The 1988 translators were also free to produce
franker translations of Lorca’s original reference to maricas in his ‘Ode to
Walt Whitman’, and thus the coy allusion to ‘perverts’ and the rather less
ambiguous option of ‘pansies’20 rendered by Humphries and Belitt in 1940
and 1955 respectively have now become ‘faggots’. Evidently, the linguistic
prudishness of the earlier versions had given way to a frank recognition
of the dysphemism present in Lorca’s totemic poem about homosexuality
in a world where his sexual orientation could be accepted, discussed and
even celebrated. Indeed, part of the renewed interest in Lorca’s poetry and

20 Interestingly, as early as 1939, Spender and Gili also opted to render maricas as ‘pansies’.
36 Andrew Samuel Walsh

drama was undoubtedly due to his revindication as a quintessentially gay

poet and literary martyr by the burgeoning Queer Studies movement.
In summary, this enduring and solid version can be seen as a reaction
and an antidote to the eccentricities and sheer ‘vandalism’ of Belitt’s ver-
sion. By 1988, American readers and critics were ready to see the book as
a contemporary classic and not an alternative Beatnik cultural shibboleth
as had been the case in 1955, and the socio-cultural conditions were right
to acclaim a modern translation of a canonical text.

Pablo Medina and Mark Statman (2008)

In the Introduction to their 2008 translation of the book, the Cuban-

American poet Pablo Medina and his US counterpart Mark Statman begin
by offering a rather curious post 9/11 justification for their new version of
Poet in New York, alluding to the strangely relevant and almost prescient
nature of the poems in the light of the tragic events that took place that
day in Manhattan:
We came to García Lorca’s Poet in New York and saw reflected in this book the
range of emotions we ourselves felt and images strangely reminiscent of the ones
we witnessed on September 11 and its aftermath. (Medina and Statman, 2008: xvi)

Although some may find this a rather tenuous and decontextualized ref-
erence, these tragic events are frequently allowed to permeate the reading
of the poems. Along with the text by Simon and White, this is the second
dual translation and the only one thoroughly completed by an English-
speaking poet (Statman)21 and a Spanish-speaking counterpart (Medina).
It would not do, perhaps, to overstate this linguistic collaboration as we
have seen previously how earlier translators such as Humphries and Belitt

21 Curiously, Statman is the author of a poem entitled ‘Translating García Lorca’, which
debates the shadow that translating these poems cast over his own work.
Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 37

had privileged access to Lorca’s poetic peers and family members as well
as extensive bilingual assistance in their translations, which would com-
pensate for their presumable shortcomings in terms of knowledge of the
Spanish language. In their Introduction to this retranslation, Medina and
Statman (2008: xvi) offer an extensive explanation of their collaborative
methodology and also make some rather flippant observations regarding
their translational task,22 in addition to a quite categorical insistence on
their suitability for the task being poets rather than professional transla-
tors or scholars:
Who would be better suited to the job than two New York poets, neither of whom
was a professional translator or scholar but who were for decades (still are) devoted
readers of Lorca?

This new translation, which also includes an Introduction by the poet

Edward Hirsch, was fittingly published by the Grove Press and thus, as
Anderson (2013: 12) points out, can be seen as a belated ‘retirement’ for
Belitt’s translation. In essence, the translators adopt a similar approach to
that of Simon and White, and offer a balanced and consciously literal ver-
sion, devoid of extravagant free translations. As we shall see in our analysis,
Lorca’s maricas are now rendered as ‘queers’, a curiously ambivalent term in
the light of the positive recuperation of the term by the pioneers of Queer
Studies in the Anglo-American academic world, and the fluctuating seman-
tics of terms for racial groups is clearly reflected in their eschewal of the
previously acceptable ‘negro’ and ‘Jewess’. However, like Simon and White
in 1988 and 2013, ‘Chinaman’ is still deemed an acceptable equivalent of
chino, despite the translators’ recognition of ‘all the negative connotations
the word carries from Spanish into English’.

22 ‘the goal became how to take the language that Lorca wrote in – which looks remark-
ably like Spanish but is really a language called Lorca – and render that into a lan-
guage that looks remarkably like English but remains, again, a language called Lorca’
(Medina and Statman, 2008: xix).
38 Andrew Samuel Walsh

Textual examples

I will conclude this chapter with an analysis of some selected examples of

problematic lexical areas related to race and sexual orientation and the solu-
tions offered by the translators studied. This analysis must be necessarily
limited, as I feel that each of these aspects of the English-speaking world’s
reception of Poet in New York should be the focus of further detailed study
which would inevitably exceed the confines of this chapter.
Firstly, in relation to racial terminology, one of the first and clearest
observations that we can make is that Humphries and his immediate suc-
cessors in the translation of the text, Belitt in 1955 and Fredman in 1975,
habitually use the term ‘The Negroes’ to translate the section of the book
originally entitled Los Negros. The same term is maintained by Humphries
in each translation of Lorca’s frequent use of negro throughout the book,
whereas in 1955 Belitt alternates between this term and ‘black men’, pre-
sumably to avoid repetition as the term ‘negro’ clearly held no taboo con-
notations for the translator and his readers in that period. By 1988 (and
2013), Simon and White had changed to the term ‘the Blacks’, a translation
maintained by Statman and Medina in 2008. Thus far, none of the transla-
tors analysed have opted to render this reference with the more politically
correct but syllabically clumsy modern term ‘African Americans’, although
as this option has gradually superseded the term ‘black’ in politically cor-
rect usage in the USA, we cannot discard this possibility in a hypotheti-
cal future translation of the text. The use of ‘negroes’ would undoubtedly
seem thoroughly offensive today and, indeed, it is unthinkable that any
contemporary English language poet would comfortably write verses with
such racially sensitive titles and references. Another significant translational
problem is posed in the ‘Ode to Walt Whitman’ by Lorca’s repeated and
strongly pejorative use of the word maricas, then and now a deeply offensive
Spanish term for gay men. From the first coy translation by Humphries
in 1955 (‘perverts’) to the dynamic equivalence of the blunt but accurate
choice made by Simon and White in 1988 and 2013 (‘faggots’), the trans-
lation of this term has changed in keeping with an increased frankness
about and acceptance of homosexuality and this has been reflected in the
Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 39

retranslations analysed. In this respect, the question we must ask ourselves

is: in the face of a universal classic that employs such potentially racist and
homophobic references in the source text, how do the translators mitigate
this? We will now see how the different translators engaged with this ques-
tion over the years and the contrasting solutions they proposed in selected
verses from Poet in New York.

‘El Rey de Harlem’ [The King of Harlem]

This celebrated poem contains what would now seem a troubling and
abhorrently anti-Semitic exhortation from Lorca to literally ‘punch the
little Jewish women’:

y es necesario dar con los puños cerrados

a las pequeñas judías que tiemblan llenas de burbujas

In the face of such a potentially offensive reference in the original text,

the translators analysed offered the following versions, which in some
cases are either distinctly overtranslated (Belitt) or considerably milder

Humphries Necessary to shove with fists clenched

(1940) The little Jewesses that bubble over
Belitt We must batter with fistblows
(1955) the gone little jewesses, in a lather of bubbles
Fredman it is necessary to punch with your fists
(1975) the small Jewesses trembling full of bubbles
Simon and White it’s necessary to use the fists
(1988) against the little Jewish women who tremble, filled with
Medina and one must punch
Statman (2008) the small Jewish women who tremble full of bubbles
40 Andrew Samuel Walsh

Clearly, after 1975 there had been a tidal change in terms of the approach
to the translation of racial language and specifically a conscious deci-
sion to eschew such loaded and potentially offensive terms as ‘negro’ and
‘Jewess’ (although ‘Chinaman’ had curiously managed to survive). Another
notable tendency that one can appreciate from a contrastive analysis of the
translations is that Belitt invariably offers the more extreme and overtrans-
lated version. In this instance, his curious addition of the word ‘gone’ can
perhaps be explained by the translation’s appearance in the midst of the
Beat Generation upon whom it exerted a notable influence and consoli-
dated the reception of the text in the English-speaking, and more specifi-
cally, American literary world (Anderson, 2013). Clearly, the pejorative
overtones of the term ‘Jewess’, deemed to be ‘sometimes offensive’ by the
Webster-Merriam Dictionary of American English, had become unacceptable
by the time the later versions were produced, and it is also worth recall-
ing that Humphries was the only translator who produced his text with
no knowledge of the horrors of the Holocaust. I do not intend to suggest
that Lorca was in any way a consciously anti-Semitic poet23 (indeed Lorca
appears to have been proud of what he believed to be the Jewish origins of
his mother’s surname, Lorca)24 and, in this sense, he would once famously

23 Although he was by no means consciously anti-Semitic, Lorca could undoubtedly

be rather naive in terms of the potentially offensive nature of his reference to Jews
in his work. A clear example of this can be found in a 1933 interview with a Bueno
Aires-based Jewish magazine in which he tried to mitigate the offence caused by
references to ‘Jewish executioners’ and ‘rude Jews’ in his play La zapatera prodigiosa
[The Shoemaker’s Prodigious Wife] by stating that ‘Jew’ was a ‘traditional term of
insult in rural Andalusia’. According to Stainton, ‘despite his lifelong protestations of
sympathy for the oppressed, Lorca seemed oblivious to the impact of racist language’
(Stainton, 1998: 357–358).
24 For more information on this question, see the following newspaper article by
Ian Gibson: <http://blogs.publico.es/apuntesperipateticos/181/lorca/> accessed
16 June 2015.
Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 41

I believe that being from Granada leads me to understand and empathize with those
who are persecuted. With Gypsies, Blacks, Jews […] with the Moorish exile that we
have inside us. (García Lorca, 1986: 503, my translation)

Nevertheless, his romantic and somewhat paternalistic defence of the

blacks25 in New York (and these poems abound in what now seems
rather questionable primitive, jungle imagery) led him to use language
to describe those who he saw as their oppressors (white people in general
and, specifically, the Jews) which would nowadays be deemed entirely
inappropriate and offensive, even in the presumably more permissive
context of a surrealistic-inspired poem which is not meant to be read in
an entirely literal manner.26 This undoubtedly rather disquieting aspect
of the poems is further confirmed by reference to the conference-recital
which he dedicated to his New York cycle of poems and which he read
many times around Spain and Latin America during the years that passed
between his return from the USA in 1930 and his tragic death in Granada
in 1936. In this conference, Lorca declared in reference to the plight of
the blacks in New York that ‘I protested to see so much flesh stolen from
paradise and managed by Jews with gelid noses and blotting-paper souls’
(Maurer and Anderson, 2013: 140, translation by Maurer, 2013: 186). It
must be admitted that in this troubling reference for modern readers
of Lorca, we can observe a rather disturbing distinction between the
romantic, persecuted Jews expelled from his native Granada with whom

25 See Umbral (2012:158) for an analysis of what he calls Lorca’s ‘inverse racism’.
26 The polysemic nature of the term judías in Spanish has even led some translators of
this poem to opt for a rather bizarre and literal rendering of the word as ‘the little
French beans’ or ‘the little haricot beans’. As the context, clearly expressed in the
three preceding lines, is that of violence against the presumed enemies of the blacks
and Lorca refers to judíos and judías as participants in this oppression, it is extremely
hard to justify this reading: According to Sager (1999: 86) ‘we must assume that two
of the translators Merryn Williams and J. L. Gili, deliberately ignore the context
when they introduce vegetables into this line, presumably influenced by “manzana”
(apple) in the line above. We should exclude the possibility that they did not know
both meanings of the word because any dictionary would have listed both meanings’.
42 Andrew Samuel Walsh

he fully identified and the presumed oppressors of the blacks he identi-

fied in New York.

‘Danza de la muerte’ [Dance of Death]

This poem contains the following verse which represents one of the many
examples encountered by the translators of the problematic equivalence
of the Spanish term chino:
el chino lloraba en el tejado
sin encontrar el desnudo de su mujer

All of the translators analysed opt for the potentially offensive term
‘Chinaman’27 as an equivalence of the word chino, which strictly denotes
‘a Chinese man’ in singular or ‘Chinese people’ in plural. This is undoubt-
edly a choice that nowadays could only be justified for prosodic rather than
cultural reasons as the tri-syllabic term ‘Chinaman’ scans rather better than
the alternative use of ‘Chinese’.

Humphries the Chinaman wept on the roof

(1940) Without finding the nakedness of his woman
Belitt the Chinaman wept on the roof
(1955) because the nudeness of woman escaped him
Fredman the Chinaman wept on the roof
(1975) without finding the nakedness of his wife
Simon and White the Chinaman wept on the roof
(1988) without finding the naked body of his wife
Medina and Statman the Chinaman cried on the roof
(2008) without finding the nude of his wife

27 The Webster-Merriam Dictionary of American English regards the term as ‘often

Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 43

‘Panorama Ciego de Nueva York’ [Blind Panorama

of New York]

This is another poem that offers a problematic translation of the aforemen-

tioned term chino(s) and which, in this case, provides some thoroughly
surprising solutions:

Nosotros ignoramos que el pensamiento tiene arrabales

donde el filósofo es devorado por los chinos y las orugas

Humphries We do not realize that thought has suburbs

(1940) Where the maggot swarm devours philosophy
Belitt ours never to know meditation’s frontiers
(1955) where larvae and mandarin devour the philosopher
Fredman we ignore that the mind has suburbs where the
(1975) philosopher is devoured by the Chinese and the caterpillars
Simon and White we forget that the mind has boroughs
(1988) where Chinese and caterpillars devour the philosopher
Medina and Statman we ignore that the mind has outlying boroughs where the
(2008) philosopher is devoured by Chinamen and caterpillars

As can be observed, Humphries makes an extraordinary leap and offers a

version which eliminates any reference to the Chinese.28 Belitt once again
translates freely and changes the verse quite substantially while also remov-
ing the direct reference to los chinos. None of the translators seem to have
grasped or fully considered the negative connotations of the Spanish term
arrabales and this oversight leads to a particularly flagrant mistranslation in
the case of Humphries and Fredman who both opted for ‘suburbs’ (which

28 In his translation of the reference to griterío chino [Chinese shouting] in the same
poem, Humphries also eliminates another mention of the Chinese and instead opts
to render this as ‘multiple cry’.
44 Andrew Samuel Walsh

in turn is a well-known false cognate of the Spanish concept of suburbios)

and, thus, does not convey the pejorative overtones of the original term
which usually refers to a relatively poor neighbourhood on the outskirts
of a city. Like Medina and Statman, Fredman also produces a mistakenly
literal (or perhaps deliberately foreignizing) translation of the Spanish verb
ignorar [to not know about].

‘El Niño Stanton’ [The Little Boy Stanton]

This poem, composed during Lorca’s summer sojourn in the countryside

of Vermont, contains another startling reference to negras that led to the
following divergence between the use of the terms ‘negresses’ and ‘black
algunas negras suben a los pisos para repartir filtro de rata

Humphries Black women climb upstairs to divide rat philter

Belitt negresses mounting the stairs to divide up the rat-potion
Fredman negresses climb to the lofts to give-out philter of rat
Simon and White black women who go upstairs to spread rat potion29
Medina and Statman some black women who go up to the apartments to put
(2008) out rat potion

Curiously, in his 1940 text Humphries avoids the term ‘negresses’ and
instead opts for the term ‘black women’ which would now be the only

29 This verse from the 2013 edition has been slightly modified from the 1988 version,
but in both texts the translators render negras as ‘black women’.
Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 45

acceptable option. The terms ‘negro’ and ‘negress’ were certainly not at
all taboo for Humphries at that time, and both options available to him
contain three syllables, so we can only assume that this was a question
of personal preference rather than political correction. Once more, the
post-1975 versions are unable to use the now obsolete and offensive term

‘Cementerio judío’ [ Jewish Cemetery]

This is another notably disquieting poem in terms of its potentially anti-

Semitic imagery such as the following verse:
Las niñas de Cristo cantaban y las judías miraban la muerte
con un solo ojo de faisán

In this case, only Humphries and Belitt opt for ‘Jewess’, although the term
was clearly not yet taboo for Fredman in 1975 who had used it in his ver-
sion of ‘The King of Harlem’:

Humphries the daughters of Christ were singing and the Jewesses looking at
(1940) death
With the single eye of a pheasant
Belitt Christ’s girl-children sang and the Jewesses looked upon death
(1955) with the single eye of a pheasant
Fredman Christ’s little girls sang and the Jewish women looked at death
(1975) with a single pheasant’s eye
Simon and Christ’s little girls sang and the Jewish women looked at death
White with a pheasant’s solitary eye
Medina and the girls of Christ sang and the Jewish women looked at death
Statman with a single eye of pheasant
46 Andrew Samuel Walsh

‘Grito hacia Roma’ [Cry to Rome]

This celebrated poem represents a furious and impassioned denunciation

of the excesses of the Catholic Church, despite Lorca’s ambivalent relation-
ship with the religion of his childhood, and also contains some problematic
racial references that lead to quite disparate translations. Thus, we can see
the historical transition in the translation of Lorca’s use of negros:
los negros que sacan las escupideras

Humphries the negroes who get out the cuspidors

Belitt the negro who sets out the cuspidors
Fredman the Negroes who take out the spittoons
Simon and White the blacks who remove the spittoons
Medina and Statman the blacks who empty the spittoons

Yet again, it seems that the post-1975 period marked a watershed in terms
of the use of politically correct language and that by the 1980s the term
‘negro’ had become distinctly unpalatable.

‘Oda a Walt Whitman’ [Ode to Walt Whitman]

This seminal text is notable for its expression of Lorca’s troublingly ambiva-
lent and somewhat contradictory attitude towards his own homosexuality
in particular and gay culture in general (for a complete exploration of this
topic see Sahuquillo, 2007), and this inherent cognitive dissonance leads to
Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 47

a disquieting translation for readers of modern English. Thus, when Lorca

repeatedly uses the disparaging term maricas to refer to homosexuals, as
we have seen there is a clear historical progression in the frankness of the
different translations offered:
¡Maricas de todo el mundo, asesinos de palomas!

Humphries Perverts of all the world, killers of doves!

Belitt Perverts of the world, dove-killers!
Fredman Pansies of all the world, killers of doves!
Simon and White Faggots of the world, murderers of doves!
Medina and Statman Queers of the world, assassins of doves!

Both Humphries and Belitt adopt a form of self-censorship with their

choice of the more neutral term ‘perverts’, which deliberately eliminates
the specific reference to homosexuality which is key to the understand-
ing of Lorca’s poem, whereas the later translators felt free to render the
unequivocally harsh and dysphemistic term marica with equally pejorative
equivalents in English, although the use of ‘queer’ in Medina and Statman’s
2008 version could perhaps be imbued with the consequences of the afore-
mentioned reclaiming of this word by the gay community.


Our analysis of the retranslations of Lorca’s Poet in New York is inevitably

bound to social and historical context. Early editions of the book were less
inhibited by racial sensitivities but more likely to be squeamish about raw
allusions to homosexuality or the scatological references found in some of
48 Andrew Samuel Walsh

the poems. The book’s successive translators have attempted to mitigate

antiquated and potentially offensive racial imagery and stereotypes and
this is a clear vindication of the need to update language and offer a ‘gen-
erational retranslation’. It was logically impossible for the first translators
to predict how racial sensitivity regarding language would change over
the intervening decades, and the translation of this book represents a clear
case of the differing racial sensitivities and consequent lexical imbalance
between Spanish and English which poses a notable problem for translators
searching for a dynamic equivalence (see also Marías, 2004). In my view,
at the heart of the translational dilemma posed by the English language
versions of Poet in New York lie the differing racial and sexual sensibilities
between English and Spanish, in addition to a much stronger tendency
towards violent and scatological dysphemism in the latter. The harsh and
direct nature of the references in the original Spanish text were invariably
diluted and softened in the earlier translations, a natural consequence of
their genesis in a less open and tolerant era. Over the course of the sixty-
eight years that stretched from the first to the last complete translation of
the text (seventy-three years if we include the updated 2013 version by Simon
and White), attitudes towards race and sexual orientation changed dramati-
cally and this process has been accompanied by a concomitant change in
the language used to refer to these questions. The English-speaking world
has become much franker and more tolerant about homosexuality and also
much more cautious and sensitive about racial stereotypes and the potential
for offence that underlies certain out-dated expressions in this linguistic
field. In this sense, the language used to refer to the black community in
the USA has undergone significant transformations since the 1980s and
terms freely used by the Civil Rights leaders of the 1960s, such as ‘negro’
or ‘colored’, are now entirely unacceptable. Poet in New York has been an
extraordinarily influential text in the US literary world and its reception
has been largely due to its successive retranslations, each of which reflected
the shifting status of ‘American Lorca’ from the anti-Fascist poet martyr of
the Spanish Civil War to the Surrealist icon of the Beat Generation and, lat-
terly, the gay totem embraced by the burgeoning Queer Studies movement
around the turn of the century. All of these interpretations of the Spanish
Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 49

poet were largely constructed around the successive retranslations of Poet

in New York and, as we have seen in this chapter, these retranslations have
consequently reflected profound changes in society and language in terms
of race and sexual orientation. These changes have ranged from the openly
politicized version of 1940, which avoided clear allusions to the poet’s
homosexuality and could freely use what is now strongly stigmatized racial
terminology, to the later versions of the book, the post 9/11 translations of
Lorca which could accurately reflect his deliberate use of dysphemism in
his references to homosexuality without any need for self-censorship, but
rigorously avoid any possibly offensive references to the black or Jewish
community in the original poems. In conclusion, in their ongoing search
for dynamic equivalence and their notable modifications in terms of racial
and sexual language, the English language versions of Poet in New York rep-
resent a paradigm of ‘generational retranslation’ in response to the social
and historical evolution experienced in the target language.


Primary references: English editions of Poet in New York

Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter and Other Poems by Federico García Lorca (1937).
Translated by A. L. Lloyd. London: Faber and Faber.
The Poet in New York and Other Poems of Federico García Lorca (1940). Translated by
Rolfe Humphries. New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc.
Poet in New York (1955). Translated by Ben Belitt. New York: Grove Press.
Poet in New York (1975). Translated by Stephen Fredman. Fog Horn Press.
Poet in New York (1988). Translated by Greg Simon and Steven F. White. New York:
Farrar, Strauss, Giroux.
Poet in New York. (2008). Translated by Pablo Medina and Mark Statman. New York:
Grove Press.
Poet in New York (2013). Revised edition. Translated by Greg Simon and Steven F.
White. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux.
50 Andrew Samuel Walsh

Secondary references

Anderson, A. (2013). ‘Poeta en Nueva York en el mundo de habla inglesa: 1940, 1955’.
<http://www.poetaennuevayork.com/media/files/ensayos/1.pdf .> accessed
21 May 2016.
Belitt, B. (1955). ‘Translator’s foreword’ in Poet in New York. New York: Grove Press.
Benardete, M. J., and R. Humphries (eds) (1937). And Spain Sings. Fifty Loyalist Bal-
lads Adapted by American Poets. New York: The Vanguard Press.
Bergamín, J. (1940). ‘Death at dawn. Night of blood and tears’. Introduction to
The Poet in New York and Other Poems of Federico García Lorca. New York:
W. W. Norton & Company Inc.
Del Río, Á. (1955). ‘Poet in New York: Twenty five years after’. Introduction to Poet in
New York. New York: Grove Press.
Eisenberg, D. (1976). Poeta en Nueva York: historia y problemas de un texto de Lorca.
Barcelona: Ariel.
Frederick, S. (2013). ‘Lorca, Jews and African Americans. Romance, racism or simple
misunderstanding?’ <http://www.nypl.org/events/programs/2013/07/09/
ing> accessed 21 May 2016.
Gambier, Y. (1994). ‘La retraduction: retour et détour’, Meta, 39(3), 413–417.
García Lorca, Federico. (1986). Federico García Lorca. Obras completas. Madrid:
García Lorca, Federico. (1997). Epistolario completo. Madrid: Cátedra.
García Lorca, Francisco, and D. Allen (1955). The Selected Poems of Federico García
Lorca. New York: New Directions.
Honig, E. (1992). ‘Traducción y transfiguracion: Apartes sobre Poeta en Nueva York’,
Boletín de la Fundación Federico García Lorca, 10–11, 19–22.
Humphries, R. (1940). ‘Translator’s note’ in The Poet in New York and Other Poems of
Federico García Lorca. New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc.
Koskinen, K., and O. Palopski (2015). ‘Anxieties of influence. The voice of the first
translator in retranslation’, Target, 27(1), 25–39.
Marías, J. (2004). ‘Traducción y racismo’. <http://elpais.com/diario/2004/12/12/
eps/ 1102836419_850215.html> accessed 21 May 2016.
Maurer, C. (1992). ‘Traduciendo a García Lorca’, Boletín de la Fundación Federico
García Lorca, 10–11, 15–17.
Maurer, C. (2013). Introduction to the Revised Edition of Poet in New York. New York:
Farrar, Strauss, Giroux.
Maurer, C., and A. Anderson (eds) (2013). Federico Garcia Lorca en Nueva York y La
Habana: Cartas y recuerdos. Madrid: Galaxia Gutenberg.
Lorca’s Poet in New York as a Paradigm of Poetic Retranslation 51

Mayhew, J. (2009). Apocryphal Lorca. Translation, Parody, Kitsch. Chicago, IL:

University of Chicago Press.
Medina, P., and M. Statman (2008). Introduction to Poet in New York. New York:
Grove Press.
Muñoz Molina, A. (2010). ‘El poeta perdido y encontrado en Nueva York’. Introduc-
tion to The Poet in New York. Granada: Diputación de Granada.
Sager, J. C. (1999). ‘Comprehension and interpretation in the multiple translations
of Federico García Lorca’s Poeta en Nueva York’, Quaderns. Revista de Traducció,
3, 81–99.
Sahuquillo, A. (2007). Federico García Lorca and the Culture of Male Homosexuality.
Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company.
Spender, S., and J. L. Gili (1939). Poems by F. García Lorca. London: Dolphin Press.
Stainton, L. (1998). Lorca: A Dream of Life. London: Bloomsbury.
Umbral, F. (2012). Lorca. Poeta Maldito. Barcelona: Planeta.
White, S. (1992). ‘Miseria y esplendor en la traducción de Poeta en Nueva York’, Boletín
de la Fundación Federico García Lorca, 10–11, 37–39.
Young, H. (1992). ‘Sombras fluviales: Poeta en Nueva York y The Waste Land’, Boletín
de la Fundación Federico García Lorca, 10–11, 165–177.
Young, H. (1999). ‘La primera recepción de Federico García Lorca en los Estados
Unidos (1931–1941)’. In A. Anderson (ed.), América en un poeta. Los viajes de
Federico García Lorca al nuevo mundo y la repercusión de su obra en la literatura
americana, 105–118. Sevilla: Universidad Internacional de Andalucía.
Ana María Roca Urgorri

Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological
Change: The History of Spanish Versions
of Gay American Twentieth-Century Novels

This chapter aims at contributing to retranslation theory by delving into the causes of this
phenomenon. More specifically, in accordance with the existing literature emphasizing the
influence of socially held values on translation, it proposes that changes in the ideology of
the target system elicit new versions of foreign works that have been previously introduced
into this system. This hypothesis is preliminarily validated and further research necessary
in order to confirm this conclusion is suggested on the basis of the analysis of a corpus
made up of gay American twentieth-century novels and all of their translations published
in Spain. The key to the proposed methodology is publication dates, which are plotted on
a table using a new representation system and then compared to the profound evolution
of Spanish attitudes towards male homosexuality since 1936.


Over the past few decades, there seems to have been a consensus that
the existing research about retranslations is insufficient (Gambier, 1994;
Enríquez Aranda, 2008; Deane, 2001). Different translations of a given
original work into a particular language allow very revealing comparisons
(Paloposki and Koskinen, 2004; Zaro Vera, 2007), which have become
an ideal methodology for descriptive translation studies (Deane, 2011).
However, my goal in this chapter is to contribute to the efforts to identify
the characteristics of retranslations in and of themselves. In particular, I
wish to participate in the construction of retranslation theory by trying
54 Ana María Roca Urgorri

to shed some light on the causes of this phenomenon, which is one of the
most widely discussed issues in the scarce literature on the subject.
On the one hand, some authors, such as Ortiz Gonzalo (2007), claim
that new versions of a foreign work continue to be produced as a result
of the unfulfillable aspiration to create a perfect target text. The famous
Retranslation Hypothesis, theorized by Bensimon (1990) and Berman
(1990), but coined as such by Chesterman (2000, 2004), is based on this
concept and assumes that the sought-after unattainable ideal is always
maximum faithfulness to the source text.
On the other hand, those who question the utopian and mono-
lithic approach of the Retranslation Hypothesis favour a more mundane
and relativistic motivation for retranslations: ‘it is a new context which
gives birth to a reinterpretation informing a retranslation’ (Brownlie,
2006: 153). According to this idea, which is the foundation of this chap-
ter, once there is a version in a target language of a foreign work, the so-
called introductory translation (Bensimon, 1990), a new translation is
published because, after changes in the receiving context, the previous one
‘is shown to be no longer acceptable because it has come to be judged as
insufficient in some sense’ (Venuti, 2004: 26). Therefore, retranslations
are considered an attempt to produce a target text adapting to circum-
stances that are different to those that surrounded the publication of its
This rationale is in line with the teachings of the Manipulation
School, which postulates that any translation is conditioned by the target
system where it belongs (Lefevere and Bassnett, 1992). Consequently,
changes in context can be claimed to account for retranslations even
when the agents involved are unaware of the existence of other versions,
a possibility admitted by many experts (Gambier, 1994; Venuti, 2004;
Skibinska, 2007; Deane, 2011), but not considered by other approaches
to the phenomenon.
Among the many contextual factors, ideology (Brownlie, 2006; Venuti,
2004) is frequently emphasized. It is no coincidence that, without disre-
garding the influence of personal subjectivity, Lefevere (1992: 16) states that
it is a key factor determining translation practice in general, and defines it
by quoting Jameson (1974): ‘ideology would seem to be that grillwork of
form, convention and belief which orders our actions’.
Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological Change 55

In this study, I intend to explore the influence of ideology on the

commissioning of new versions of an original work. Following the lead of
those who have theoretically speculated that it is a cause for retranslation,
I will attempt to test the following hypothesis: changes in the ideology of
the target system trigger retranslations. Although this is a seemingly simple
and intuitive statement, it actually comprises an enormous complexity, and
thus, the present study can only endeavour to make a contribution towards
proving this statement but, inevitably, will not be able to settle the issue.
This chapter follows a common methodological trend in the literature
on retranslations, which consist of case-studies focusing on a particular
source text and its versions or a small corpus tailored according to certain
criteria (Deane, 2011; Paloposki and Koskinen, 2004; Brownlie, 2006;
Desmidt, 2009; Frei, 2005). First of all, in order to address the afore-
mentioned hypothesis, it is necessary to specify a target system to study.
In accordance with my general research interests, this chapter will deal
with Spain.
The ideology of any system is made up of a multitude of aspects that
evolve at different speeds. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to describe
it fully and, in the limited scope of a chapter, it is essential to choose a par-
ticular ideological matter to analyse. Ideally, it must be one with a markedly
varied trajectory that could elicit retranslations according to the hypothesis.
In the Spanish target system, homosexuality can be claimed to be a perfect
aspect to focus on because the ideology surrounding it has experienced
very deep changes, particularly since 1936. Consequently, this study aims
to examine the potential relationship between changes in the ideology
regarding homosexuality in Spain during the past eighty years and the
publication of retranslations in this country.
Although it is far from my intention to contribute to the regretfully
frequent favouring of male homosexuality and the disregard for lesbian-
ism in the context of sexual and gender identity issues, it must be admitted
that these questions cannot all be studied together in this chapter, since
the evolution of the ideology regarding all of these topics in Spain differs
greatly, mainly because of the interplay of other socially held values, such as
sexism. Probably due to traditional discrimination in this social question,
there is more information available on the ideology realted to gay men in
Spain, which motivated my choice to focus exclusively on them.
56 Ana María Roca Urgorri

It is obvious that a particular ideological aspect does not influence

every work translated into a given system, but only those to which it is rel-
evant because of their topic, author, context, etc. Thus, only those foreign
texts that are potentially sensitive to the target society’s views on a sub-
ject (in this case, homosexuality) should be considered part of the corpus
studied. In this chapter, I have chosen American twentieth-century novels
belonging to both the gay canon and also the general canon in which male
homosexuality is a prominent theme. The selection process and its rationale
are set out in detail in section 2.
The key to the methodology of this study is how and what elements
of the different versions of selected originals will be analysed so as to
determine whether the cause of such retranslations is related to changes
in the ideology of the target system. Existing comparative descriptive
methods are, arguably, not only partial and subjective, but also too com-
plex to be applied in a book chapter and, even more so, when considering
more than one work. Therefore, although no conclusions on any kind of
textual material can possibly be complete without due content analysis,
it can be interesting to gather preliminary information through sim-
pler procedures. To date, this simplification seems the most reasonable
course of action in order to heed the advice of Gambier (1994) about
the importance of working with a more complete corpus when studying
Publication dates can be claimed to be suitable for the purposes of this
study, as they are one of the most accessible pieces of data about translations
and can be easily compared to the milestones of the historical evolution of
the ideology of the target systems so as to test the hypothesis. Nonetheless,
it must be re-emphasized that results solely based on publication dates
cannot be taken as definitive in any research on translation.
In order to facilitate the analysis of publication dates, a representa-
tion system has been specifically created for this chapter. The details of
the suggested graph will be explained in section 2 as well. These types of
visual aids can be extremely clarifying in general, but can be particularly
revealing in case-studies attempting to delve into a subject in a theoreti-
cal framework, since they integrate the data and thus, provide a global
Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological Change 57

Once the corpus has been determined and even represented, the his-
tory of the social attitudes towards male homosexuality during the period in
question in the target system, that is, in Spain since 1936, must be researched.
Ideology, according to the abovementioned definition by Jameson (1974)
that Lefevere (1992) embraced, is omnipresent in society and thus, it is
difficult to describe abstractly other than through its indirect, concrete
manifestations at a given historical moment. Therefore, these manifesta-
tions will be the focus of section 3.
The comparison between the publication dates of the selected ver-
sions and the variations in the relevant ideological aspects in the target
system will be carried out in the ‘Analysis’ section in order to attempt to
discern whether or not such changes are a cause for retranslation. It must
be pointed out that publication years should never be taken as discrete
and absolute. Paradoxically, it is more accurate to take a more flexible
approach that interprets them in terms of periods of influence, since,
depending on the nature of the ideological variations, reactions to them
might take time, happen during a build-up stage before the transforma-
tion is completed, be more immediate or tardy for different publishing
houses or unattributable to a precise moment of change. Furthermore,
the edition process is complex and can be slowed down or sped up for
many different reasons.
In this study, the possible preliminary confirmation of the hypoth-
esis requires that the corpus meets two conditions. Firstly, patterns of
behaviour must be detected in the publication years, since anarchy would
signal that the aspect they have in common, the basis for their selection,
in this case, an ideological issue, is irrelevant to the appearance of new ver-
sions. Secondly, it must be possible to establish a certain correspondence
between such patterns and the evolution of social attitudes towards male
homosexuality in Spain.
It is essential to bear in mind that even if both conditions are ful-
filled, it is impossible to fully ascertain whether or not the retranslations
in the corpus were motivated by changes in ideology, since this study can
only hope to show a concurrence of facts, not a proven or exclusive causal
relationship. However, I believe that it does allow us to reach some useful
preliminary conclusions that can be the starting point for further research.
58 Ana María Roca Urgorri

Corpus design, description and representation

The corpus of this study is primarily based on the database created by the
RETRADES research project at Comillas Pontifical University, whose
members are the authors of this volume. Their aim is to reach a contextual
and systemic understanding of retranslation as a phenomenon. The database
compiles information, including publication dates, about canonical fiction
written in English, German, French and Italian during the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries and their translations in Spain. To set the limits of its
research, the group decided to begin by studying the works about which,
presumably, there would be more abundant and readily available data, that
is, relatively recent canonical pieces of the most popular genre at the time
which were originally written in the working languages of the members.
The canonical status of the works, although admittedly always open to
questioning, has been determined as objectively as possible by resorting
to different types of anthologies, philological studies, lists of prestigious
literary award winners, etc. This criterion potentially contributes to the rep-
resentativeness of conclusions and allows permanent revision and growth.
In general, RETRADES is understood as a project which is permanently
under construction, and thus, its corpus and the subset thereof that will
be selected here are a mere starting point for later expansion.
It is generally easy to find out the details about the original works
in the database, but (if possible) locating all their translations published
in Spain and gathering the required data about them is a laborious task,
because it is necessary to research several generally incomplete sources (The
catalogue of the National Library of Spain, the Unesco database Index
Translationum, etc.). These sources were last checked for the purposes of
this study in December 2015.
In the present study, we have not taken into consideration the whole
RETRADES retranslation database, but only American twentieth-century
novels. This decision is based on practical reasons. First of all, it is an attempt
to only take into account a volume of data that can be realistically and
pragmatically managed in a single book chapter. Secondly, and on a more
personal level, the choice is consistent with my broad research interests,
which mainly focus on the translation of American literature. Last but not
Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological Change 59

least, as this study considers the Spanish ideological context since 1936, it
is interesting to only focus on works written in the past century so as to
be able to analyse their complete trajectory.
Testing the hypothesis of this study through the specific case of homo-
sexuality requires further limiting the American twentieth-century novel
subset in order to select works that can be expected to be sensitive to vari-
ations in the ideology on this subject. Therefore, the proposed corpus
will be composed of originals whose homosexual thematic content is so
prevalent that its presence can be argued to have been unavoidably taken
into account when the decision to translate or retranslate them was made.
The starting point for the selection of the works meeting the afore-
mentioned condition has been the gay canon. By its most open definition,
it can be claimed to ‘comprise any literary material which has anything to
say about matters which we now think of as pertaining to gender roles
and to the spectrum of sexual experience’ (Woods, 1998: 12), and thus, it
is not restricted to literature written by gay authors nor to positive rep-
resentations of homosexuality (an unthinkable possibility during certain
periods), neither of which are requirements of the proposed corpus, which
consequently includes works and writers that may not be intuitively associ-
ated with gay literature (e.g. Norman Mailer). The gay canon of American
twentieth-century novels has been determined by resorting to three refer-
ence books on the subject (Herring, 2015; Woods, 1998; Summers, 1995).
They are all authorities in the source language system, so that they cannot
be suspected of a bias due precisely to translation.
First of all, I have chosen works from among the American twentieth-
century novels in the database that are also included in at least one of the
reference books on the gay canon. The most salient were featured in all
three of these books, but this was not imposed as a requirement, since there
is no reason why the analysis of less well-known novels should not yield
interesting results. Conversely, given that this study relies on RETRADES
as the source of information, works belonging to the gay canon have been
excluded if they had not been previously taken into account in the com-
pilation of canonical fiction by the research group.
Not every gay canon novel included in the database focuses on homo-
sexual thematic content sufficiently for one to consider that this aspect
of the work probably carried some weight in the decision to publish the
60 Ana María Roca Urgorri

work in Spain. Secondary characters or isolated episodes might be disre-

garded when considering translation or retranslation because they are seen
as incidental and not affecting the work as a whole, or just because they
can be easily eliminated or manipulated by censors. Ideological stances on
homosexuality can also be circumvented when original authors address it
in their works through sublimation or just by questioning gender roles or
the nature of homosocial relationships. The reference books consulted
have offered some guidance to discard more uncertain cases. Although
ideological constraints could be relevant in the case of any writer known
to be gay, some of them cannot be part of the corpus because they never
dealt with homosexuality in their novels.
Although the gay canon includes lesbian and transsexual and transgen-
der literature, it has not been included in this study for the reasons detailed
in the previous section. However, as the selection is based on the theme
of the novels, the works of female, transsexual or transgender writers are
accepted in the corpus as long as they focus on male homosexuality.
Finally, in order to account for the complete interaction process
between the evolution of ideology and the creation of target texts, including
the cases when such interaction does not seem to have made a difference,
it has not been a requirement that works in the corpus must have been
retranslated or even translated once in Spain. After applying the mentioned
criteria, the works in the corpus and the key information compiled about
them are the following:

1. Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin. Published in English in 1956, its

introductory translation in Spain, El cuarto de Giovanni, was made by
Estela Cantó in 1980 and it was retranslated by Ana Alcaína in 2005
as La habitación de Giovanni.
2. Another Country, by James Baldwin. It has been available in English
since 1962, but Otro País, by Luis Echévarri, was only published in
Spain in 1984.
3. James Baldwin’s Tell Me How Long the Train Has Been Gone. Andrés
Bosch translated Dime cuánto hace que el tren se fue in 1974, whereas
the original work had been published in 1968.
4. One last novel by James Baldwin, Just Above My Head. Sobre mi cabeza,
was translated into Spanish by Jaime Silva in 1982, three years after the
appearance of the original work in English in 1979.
Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological Change 61

5. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote. The original text dates
back to 1948 and has always been translated in Spain with the title
Otras voces, otros ámbitos, firstly by Floreal Mazía in 1970 and secondly
by Víctor Rodríguez in 1981.
6. Norman Mailer’s Why are we in Vietnam? is probably the most unex-
pected of the works that meet the selection criteria of the corpus, and
was originally published in 1967. It was first introduced in Spain in
1981 by Ana María Fuente Rodríguez with the title ¿Por qué fuimos al
Vietnam? Its retranslation, ¿Por qué estamos en guerra?, by María Luisa
Rodríguez Tapia and Jaime Zulaika Goicoechea, was published in 2003.
7. Reflections in a Golden Eye, by Carson McCullers. There are three trans-
lations in Spain of the 1941 original work: by Jaime Silva, published
in 1981; by María Campuzano, in 1988; and by María Luisa Gefaell
Gorostegui, which appeared in 2011. All of them are entitled Reflejos
en un ojo dorado.
8. The City and the Pillar, by Gore Vidal. It was first published in English
in 1948 with the ending that the editor recommended to the author,
but the latter changed it back to the dénouement that he had origi-
nally envisioned in a new version published in 1965 (Fone 1998: 690).
Richard Guggenheimer’s La ciudad y el pilar de sal y siete relatos de
juventud is the only translation marketed in Spain since its appearance
in 1997 and, as the Spanish title suggests, it includes seven other short
stories written by the author when he was young.
9. Another novel by Gore Vidal, Two Sisters, published in 1970. It has
never been translated in Spain.
10. Tennessee Williams’ Moise and the World of Reason. Always translated
as Moise y el mundo de la razón, it was introduced in Spain by Pilar
Giralt in 1978 and retranslated by Ana María Becciu in 2008.

I believe that this corpus, thanks to its systematic and purposeful design,
can allow us to reach some preliminary conclusions regarding the subject
of this study. Further research should seek to enlarge it and open its selec-
tion criteria for debate in quest of more definitive answers.
As stated previously, the abovementioned relevant data about the
corpus are represented in the following table as a tool to easily integrate
and compare information.
1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010
G.’sR. TT1

J. B.
M.H. TT1

T. C.

N. M.
R.I. TT1
G.E. TT2

C. McC.

G. V.

T. W.

Table 2.1:  History of Spanish translations of gay American twentieth-century novels

Ana María Roca Urgorri
Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological Change 63

The figure should be read horizontally, as it is based on horizontal time-

lines. Since the oldest original work in the corpus was published in 1941,
the timelines start in 1940 and are divided into two-year sections up to
the time of writing (2016). Decade changes are clearly labelled and marked
with a line in bold. On the far left margin, as main headings, the initials
of the authors of the studied novels appear in bold, as well as their titles,
which have been abbreviated for reasons of space.1
Each novel in the corpus is associated to one or more timelines. All
title headings include at least one subheading labelled ‘ST’, standing for
‘source text’, and its corresponding timeline. On the timeline of the original
piece, a patterned bar represents the existence of the novel in English and
stretches from its year of publication, which is marked with a zigzag line,
up to the present. Should a source work have been significantly reviewed by
its author, as it is the case for Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar, another
zigzag line appears on the date when it was re-published.
Original novels that have never been translated in Spain can logically
not be further represented. Excepting these situations, a timeline is added
for every translation of a work, under the subheadings ‘TT1’ (target text
1 or introductory translation), ‘TT2’ (target text 2 or first retranslation),
‘TT3’ (target text 3 or second retranslation), and so on. Solid grey bars
of different shades on each one of these timelines depict the existence of
each version of the piece, starting with zigzag lines that mark the publica-
tion year of each target text. The bars always continue until 2016, so as to
indicate that, after they are published, all versions of the English novel are
potentially available to Spanish readers from that moment on. Therefore,
the figure shows how a given translation is not necessarily replaced by the
next one, but probably coexists with it to a certain degree.

1 ‘G.s’ R.’ stands for Giovanni’s Room; ‘A. C.’ for Another Country; ‘T.’ for Tell me How
Long the Train Has Been Gone; ‘J. A. M. H.’ for Just Above My Head; ‘O. V. O. R.’
for Other Voices, Other Rooms; ‘W. A. W. I. V.’ for Why Are We in Vietnam?;
‘R.I.G.E.’ for Reflections in a Golden Eye; ‘C. & P.’ for The City and the Pillar; ‘T. S.’
for Two Sisters; and ‘M. & W. O. R.’ for Moise and the World of Reason.
64 Ana María Roca Urgorri

Ideological changes in the target system: Homosexuality in

Spain since 1936

As will be illustrated below, a detailed study of the specialist sources used

as references throughout this summary leads us to the conclusion that the
evolution of ideology on homosexuality in Spain since 1936 may be seg-
mented into four different time periods. Not surprisingly, they are roughly
in line with general historical phases. The first one corresponds to Francoism
and starts in 1936 with the coup d’état that triggered a brutal civil war
resulting in the establishment of the dictatorship of the victorious General
Franco in 1939, and ends with the death of the dictator in 1975. The second
phase is the Spanish transition to democracy and extends until 1982, when
Felipe González was elected the first Socialist president of Spain. The limit
between the third period, which I will call ‘the settlement’, and the fourth
one, which will be named ‘the leap’, is harder to draw, as it does not cor-
respond to any particular event and its relative proximity tends to hinder
historical perspective. Nevertheless, it can be set approximately at the turn
of the century with the arrival of the new millennium.
The destruction of the Civil War left Spain in an extremely difficult
economic situation. Due to a low level of technological development and
training, Spain could not hope to recover and compete by focusing on the
quality of its population, in line with the prevention of social degeneration
that justified the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany. Instead,
Spain’s government could only rely on quantity, on a large working popula-
tion, which was rather closer to the Italian Fascist approach. Consequently,
the Government needed to encourage an increase in the number of births
without being able to afford offering families any benefits. There were also
limited resources to solve an additional challenge: the end of the conflict
involved a surge in male unemployment, in spite of the horrific amount
of casualties inflicted by the Civil War.
The Catholic Church was, along with the army, the main ideologi-
cal support of the new regime, which found in religious teachings the
solution to the abovementioned problems: the re-establishment of tradi-
tional gender roles and corresponding prescriptive sexual behaviours. In
Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological Change 65

accordance with these ideas, men and women had been created by God
to carry out different tasks, which were also presented as their patriotic
duties: the former were supposed to be vigorous and the only breadwinners
providing for a family which was expected to be as big as possible, while
women had to be submissive and retreat from the workplace into their
homes to look after their many children. Reproduction within wedlock
was encouraged as God’s mandate to spread Christianity and as the only
form of sex that was not sinful. According to this ideology, which was
imparted in every possible way, homosexuality, a non-reproductive sexual
orientation that challenges traditional gender roles, was considered both
sinful and treacherous.
The status of homosexuals as social pariahs that was instilled in society
was aggravated by the addition of their resulting consideration as crimi-
nals. All throughout the dictatorship, they were accused of ‘public scandal’,
‘dishonest abuses’ and ‘crimes against honesty’ and sentenced to a fine, jail
or disqualification from employment under the reformed Criminal Code
of 1944, although it did not mention same-sex acts specifically, and the
Military Justice Code of 1945 punished carnal relationships between men
with imprisonment.
In line with the medicalization of homosexuality that had started in
the late nineteenth century in Europe, psychiatry claimed this subject of
study in Spain in the 1950s. As the medical establishment was sympathetic
to the regime, doctors equated illness, sin and crime, a triple justification
for rejection, by means of the argument of corruption: homosexuals were
not to blame for being sick and needed treatment, but, when they did not
follow it and were not moral enough to remain chaste, their condition made
them dangerous to others because they could entice them into becoming
homosexual as well.
The new psychiatric trends inspired specific legislation. In 1954, the
existing Ley de Vagos y Maleantes [Layabouts and Scoundrels Law] was
amended to explicitly include homosexuals as offenders for the first time.
Their condition was punishable with a ban on living in a certain area,
monitoring by the authorities and imprisonment in special centres where
they would be treated, although lack of funds meant they mainly served
in regular jails. A renewed emphasis on treatment was part of the rationale
66 Ana María Roca Urgorri

of the Ley de Peligrosidad y Rehabilitación Social [Social Dangerousness

and Rehabilitation Law], which was passed in 1970. The police enforced it
with greater zeal, but the sentences barely changed in theory and practice
and the number of the intended re-education centres was immediately
insufficient. However, in some cases, families were offered the possibility
of putting homosexual relatives in such institutions, as an alternative to
jail, or some individuals requested it voluntarily under social and religious
pressures, although therapies were cruel.
Under Franco’s regime, homosexuals did not deserve the same sym-
pathy as political prisoners and were also rejected by the clandestine leftist
opposition groups. Those who did not go into exile were often victims of
blackmail and police and prison violence, and developed self-hatred by
internalizing homophobia. Gay men usually had to marry to conform, as
some tolerance was granted to those who were discreet about their sexuality,
which could only be expressed in performing arts circles or by people who
could afford to lead a double life, usually involving resort to prostitution
and requiring enough influence to be released without the usual purpose-
ful public disclosure in case of arrest in the underground venues that only
existed in major cities. Lesbians were basically ignored by authorities, since
the prevailing ideology disregarded women in general and ruled out the
possibility of female desire.
Society became slightly more tolerant over time, although the base
ideology remained the same. Some of the factors for greater acceptance
of homosexuality were foreign influence, mainly through tourism, after
an initial period of international isolation ending thanks to the dynamics
of the Cold War; economic growth, with the subsequent appearance of a
more educated and critical middle class; and the gradual entry of women
into the workplace.
Throughout the dictatorship, there was no real freedom of speech.
The first norms regarding censorship of new materials and destruction
of existing ones for all media, including the need for previous authori-
zation to publish and trade with any kind of printed content, both of
Spanish and foreign origin, were passed in 1937 and 1938. These wartime
norms established the basic standards and procedures of censorship under
Franco and they did not evolve significantly for the next twenty-eight years.
Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological Change 67

As the country started to open up and receive a greater foreign influence,

censorship became more lenient. In 1966, a new law recognized freedom
of speech, but still set out a wide range of restrictions that potentially cov-
ered any material. It was still possible to voluntarily submit printed media
products to evaluation, but, unlike films and theatre performances, they
no longer required previous authorization. Nevertheless, a copy of all of
them had to be filed with the authorities before circulation, which could
result in their ban and criminal liability.
Merino and Rabadán (2002: 143) note that ‘the most outstanding
characteristic of Franco’s overt official censorship was its vagueness’. As
these authors explain, laws only included broad guidelines and there were
hardly any other rules and thus, final decisions depended heavily on the
ideology of the individuals composing the censorship boards. Films and
theatre were subjected to a stricter control. Works that were ideologically
compatible with the regime were authorized without changes. Some works
were banned altogether, but those which were only relatively problem-
atic had to be modified to become public, whether they were originals or
translations, regardless of faithfulness considerations. These changes were
purposely designed so that they could remain undetected. Aware of the
circumstances, authors, translators or editors frequently resorted to pre-
cautionary self-censorship.
The strictness in censorship did not only depend on the specific cen-
sors and legal evolution, but also on the ideology of the Minister in charge.
They were generally conservative, but a more liberal control was exerted
under the relatively progressive Manuel Fraga Iribarne (1962–1969) and
Pío Cabanillas ( January–October 1974).
The monitoring of sex-related content was one of the main obsessions
of the censorship authorities. In particular, outside the medical, religious
or legal discourse, homosexuality was either forbidden and eliminated or,
later on, only representable in terms compatible with the regime’s ideol-
ogy and never in positive terms: as communists, and thus, enemies of the
State; as unhappy, marginal and damned individuals; or as effeminate comic
traitors to their sex. No alternative was allowed and the perspective of the
homosexual himself was silenced and could only be expressed through
sublimation strategies.
68 Ana María Roca Urgorri

After Franco’s death in November 1975, Spain underwent drastic

changes to quickly transform into a democracy, in a process known as
the Transición [Transition]. However, the Social Dangerousness and
Rehabilitation Law continued to be enforced strictly and opposition to
this law was the original motivation of the birth of the gay movement in
Barcelona through a clandestine organization in the early 1970s. It changed
its name several times to become the FAGC (Front d’Alliberament Gai de
Catalunya) [Catalonian Gay Liberation Front] in 1975.
The FAGC was the most important gay-rights group after the dictator’s
death, and its lead was followed by many organizations that were created
all around the country in the next few years. There were attempts to coor-
dinate the different groups in the movement through supraorganizations,
but ideological debates resulted in further divisions into subgroups with
unstable existences.
The Catalonian origin of gay-rights activism in Spain is probably
related to its connections to nationalism, an ideological approach that
provided a useful minority discourse against oppression. Nonetheless,
Marxism and other left-wing theories were the main ideological founda-
tions of the movement.
After a long struggle characterized by mostly illegal protests, fund-
raising parties and mutual support actions, the Social Dangerousness and
Rehabilitation Law was amended to remove any reference to homosexuals
in January 1979. The movement then established legalization of its organi-
zations as a new goal, and this was attained in 1980.
Since 1976, in Spain there was a general interest in any issues related
to sex, as it was considered a sign of change: it is the time known as the
destape [the uncovering]. The fascination with sex explains the broad media
coverage of the actions of gay activists, although this was not the approach
to homosexuality that received the most attention. Most frequently, it was
featured among other ‘perversions’ and generally portrayed as the subject
studied by a heterosexual expert for the sake of a heterosexual audience.
Although stereotypes were presented as objective, stories gradually became
more realistic and, most importantly, curiosity replaced hate and, through
compassion, a tolerant attitude was encouraged.
Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological Change 69

In spite of the political success of the gay rights movement, very little
committed cultural materials were produced during the Transition. In fact,
the main expression of the homosexual culture of the time was the Movida
[Movement, Cultural Scene], an urban, experimental, artistic movement
that glorified freedom and mocked political activism, and displayed an
unacknowledged gay sensitivity, mainly through a camp perspective. In
any case, during this period, homosexuals started being addressed as an
audience, mainly revalued through a new emphasis on consumerism, and
magazines, collections in publishing houses and movies (mostly foreign)
were specifically designed for them for the first time.
All this was possible due to more relaxed censorship controls. Freedom
of speech was recognized in legislation in 1977 (for the theatre, in 1978)
and was confirmed by the new constitution, passed in December 1978.
Nevertheless, until 1985, ‘cultural products continued to be subjected to the
same formal constraints by virtually the same Government offices, although
their names changed more than once’ (Merino and Rabadán, 2002: 130).
The changes brought about by the Transition gradually settled after the
victory of the Socialist Party in the general elections in 1982. Police raids
on gay bars finally stopped, although they had already been very unusual
since the late 1970s, but still possible under the crime known as ‘public
scandal’, which did not disappear until 1988. Although Spain had become
more accepting of homosexuality, homophobia did not disappear fully,
but mutated into what Mira (2007: 570) refers to as ‘liberal homopho-
bia’. After the stir of the Transition, Spaniards were convinced that they
lived in a tolerant country where not only was there no homophobia, but
gays had also achieved complete equality. According to this logic, homo-
sexuality had become an irrelevant personal trait solely belonging to the
private life of the individual. However, this was understood to mean that
homosexuality should be unnoticeable and only expressed privately. As a
result, gays were seen as improper when behaving in public in ways which
were completely acceptable for heterosexuals and were believed to have no
reason to be open about their sexual orientation. The belief that there was
nothing special about homosexuals implied that ‘normality’ was expected
from them and thus, any alternative attitude, including effeminacy, was
70 Ana María Roca Urgorri

rejected. The underlying assumption was that heterosexuality was the only
possible standard and, therefore, the better option, preferable unless one
could not manage it, in which case, tolerance was granted as long as certain
rules were obeyed. In fact, failure to comply with these rules could trigger
discriminatory responses.
Homosexuals themselves embraced liberal homophobia by conforming
to its demands, which seemed bearable in comparison to previous circum-
stances. They did not identify any urgent problems, which contributed to
strengthen society’s conviction that none existed. As a consequence, gay
rights activism was generally perceived as an out-dated victim attitude. In
fact, the movement was disoriented by the lack of concrete goals and the
number of militants decreased sharply and a lot of organizations disappeared.
The movement underwent a short rebirth during the AIDS crisis. Its
response was slow, as it did not happen until the 1990s, and it was less bel-
ligerent than in other countries. Nonetheless, it must be pointed out that
the socially homophobic reaction to the illness was significantly weaker in
Spain. AIDS still involved the revisiting of old motifs, but, as it affected
mainly drug addicts in this country, discussions and campaigns focused on
heterosexual experiences and silenced homosexuality, much in line with
liberal homophobia.
Censorship no longer restricted public discussions on homosexual-
ity. In mainstream fora, although stereotypes were frequently validated,
meanings were not as predetermined as they used to be. Gays started to be
exceptionally allowed to be active participants in their own representation.
Nevertheless, there was a line that was still hard to cross: positive images.
Positive images of homosexuality were barely produced by gay culture
either, mainly due to the claim that they were unnecessary. The Movida
continued creating camp expressions with a strong influence on nocturnal
urban culture. However, as a highly individualistic and hedonistic current,
it did not get involved in social causes. Moreover, the Movida started to
be commercialized from a heterosexual perspective in the early 1980s,
which contributed to its already on-going loss of momentum due to the
devastating effects of heroin.
The period that I have named ‘the leap’ can be claimed to begin
around the turn of the millennium with the definite consolidation of a
Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological Change 71

phenomenon that had been developing, nonetheless, since the 1980s: the
existence of a modern gay district, what Mira (2007: 605–9) refers to as
the ‘Chueca model’, after the Madrid neighbourhood of the same name. It
is an area offering a wide range of services specialized in the needs of homo-
sexuals and is mainly founded on the discovery of the gay community as
a market. The Chueca model is not restricted to that specific district: it is
the origin of a mentality that creates and wants to consume an abundance
of specifically gay culture products2 (including magazines, films, literature,
icons, festivals, etc.), which homosexuals use to share their own point of
view, rather than just being the subject of somebody else’s analysis as they
used to be.
The Chueca mentality promotes tolerance outside the neighbourhood
borders, as it allows homosexuals to become visible in the daily lives of citi-
zens, and thus, to be no longer only known to society through a stereotype,
but sometimes even by means of openly gay prestigious individuals. All of
this means a new public voice, thanks to which homophobia is confronted,
and is even treated as a crime by the Court system.
In the late 1990s, the gay rights movement started pushing for a civil
union law that included same-sex couples. Marriage equality had never
been on the agenda of activists, who rejected it as a heterosexist conven-
tion. Nevertheless, when the Socialist Government of José Luis Rodríguez
Zapatero was in need of credibility in social policies, its connections with
the movement were crucial to the real leap of the period: the approval of a
superficial amendment to the Civil Code allowing gay marriage. The amend-
ment was passed extraordinarily quickly, in spite of the firm opposition not
only of the PP, the Spanish Conservative Party, which lodged an appeal with
the Constitutional Court that was finally rejected in 2012 (‘El matrimonio
gay es constitucional ’ 2012), but also of the Catholic Church. In June 2005,
Spain became the third country in the world to allow same-sex couples
to marry. This event was covered by the international media and enthu-
siastically celebrated by the gay community in the nation. Additionally,

2 For an analysis of the question of translation and gay publishers during the Spanish
Transition, see Zaro (2013).
72 Ana María Roca Urgorri

the controversy around the law reinforced visibility and raised awareness
about the debate on equality and tolerance, which has destabilized liberal
In the new context, the Spanish gay rights movement, which has always
used concrete legal changes as their goal, is forced to question its role.
However, as Mira points out, it is still necessary to fight homophobia, as
it is a constant and deep part of Spanish culture and it can reappear swiftly
and strongly.


After gathering the data about the corpus, representing it for easier reference
and summing up the situation of gay men in Spain since 1936, this section
will be devoted to identifying patterns of behaviour in the selected works
and verifying whether they correspond to the evolution of ideology on
homosexuality in the target system, the two conditions set above to con-
firm the hypothesis: namely, that changes in social values cause retransla-
tions. Using publication years as the key element for analysis provides the
following related information to be considered when studying patterns
of behaviour in the corpus: the time gap between the publication of the
work in the original language and its subsequent appearance in the target
country, if it was ever published, and the dates of the introductory transla-
tions and retranslations, as well as the number and frequency of the latter.
First of all, one can easily classify the introductory translations in the
corpus into three groups, one of which clearly predominates. Firstly, two
novels were first translated in Spain in the first half of the 1970s: the one
that was introduced the earliest, Other Voices, Other Rooms, in 1970; and
Tell Me How Long the Train Has Been Gone, in 1974.
Secondly, six of the selected works, the majority, were made available
to Spaniards in the five-year interval between 1979 and 1984 and, more
specifically, five of them were published in only three years, from 1979 to
1981: Just above My Head (1979), Moise and the World of Reason (1979),
Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological Change 73

Giovanni’s Room (1980), Why Are We in Vietnam? (1981) and Reflections

in a Golden Eye (1981), and later on, Another Country (1984).
Finally, the introductory translations of the remaining two novels do
not follow any recognizable pattern: Two Sisters has never been translated
in Spain and the public in this country had to wait until 1997 to read The
City and the Pillar in Spanish. Interestingly, they are the two works in the
corpus by Gore Vidal.
One of the first things that is noticed when analysing these publication
dates is that a long time generally went by before the originals were trans-
lated in Spain. Six out of the nine target texts, most of them, clearly spent
a period on hold, ranging from fourteen years (Why Are We in Vietnam?)
to forty years (Reflections in a Golden Eye; although if the 1948 edition of
The City and the Pillar is taken into account instead of the 1965 reviewed
version, the maximum wait extends to forty-eight years). As Spain con-
sistently became more accepting of homosexuality over time, it is pos-
sible to interpret these delays as required by ideological constraints until
they became lax enough. This idea is reinforced by the fact that the three
introductory translations that were relatively immediately published (just
after some time attributable to normal publishing practices), Just above My
Head, Moise and the World of Reason and maybe even Tell Me How Long
the Train Has Been Gone, which were published three, four and six years
after their original, respectively, seem to only have been possible because
their time period was favourable, since they coincide with the delayed
target texts and fit the observed patterns.
The less common pattern detected is followed by the introductory
translations of Other Voices, Other Rooms and Tell Me How Long the Train
Has Been Gone, which were published in the last few years of Franco’s dic-
tatorship, when ideology on homosexuality was changing to become more
lenient, even though those were the years when the Social Dangerousness
and Rehabilitation Law was planned and implemented. Baldwin’s novel
was published in September 1974, when the more progressive Cabanillas
was still Minister of Tourism and Information and in charge of censorship.
Further investigation should focus on why this work benefitted from the
opening of the period, but the chance was not taken for any of the other
originals. It is true that the representation of homosexuality in Spain became
74 Ana María Roca Urgorri

possible at the end of the regime provided that it conformed to certain ste-
reotypes or could be made to conform to them through censorship. This
might not be the case of any of the works in the sample excepting Tell Me
How Long the Train Has Been Gone and, maybe even of Other Voices, Other
Rooms, whose translation cannot be attributed to the political presence of
a more liberal minister. This hypothesis can only be corroborated through
content analysis outside the scope of this study.
The pattern followed by the introductory translations of the majority
of the corpus can be related to the change in ideology that occurred at the
time of their publication dates, which indicates that the hypothesis of this
study might be correct. Most target texts first appeared in Spain between
1979 and 1984, right after homosexuality became completely legal and when
its status changed into an uncensored, acceptable, even attractive literary
topic, that could also be interesting to newly discovered gay consumers,
thanks to all the transformations involved in the Transition process and
the advocacy of the gay rights movements. Specifically, half of the corpus
was first published between the amendment of the Social Dangerousness
and Rehabilitation Law in 1979 and the ascent to power of the Socialist
government in 1982, the starting point of the ‘settlement’, a less favourable
moment to publish about homosexuality due to the appearance of liberal
homophobia and the weakening of gay activism and culture manifestations.
The methodology of this study does not allow us to account for the
two works that do not respond to any of the patterns, The City and the
Pillar and Two Sisters. Without further analysis, it cannot be discerned
whether their approach to homosexuality was still ideologically challenging
for both the early 1970s and the 1980s and whether their common author
could be relevant in this sense.
Once aspects related to introductory translations have been discussed,
retranslations should also be analysed. A majority of the translated works,
five out of nine (Giovanni’s Room; Other Voices, Other Rooms; Why Are
We in Vietnam?; Reflections in a Golden Eye; and Moise and the World of
Reason), were reconsidered through a new target text when a first version
was already available in Spain. This pattern of behaviour is consistent with
the hypothesis of the study, since, as explained in the previous sections,
there were deep changes in the ideology on homosexuality in the recent
Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological Change 75

history of the country that could be the cause for the retranslation of most
of the novels on this subject. Only two different target texts exist for the
five retranslated originals, except for Reflections in a Golden Eye, with three
Four out of the five retranslated originals followed the aforementioned
main pattern in their introduction in Spain, that is, they were first pub-
lished around 1980, and new target texts for all of them appeared between
2003 and 2011 (Why Are We in Vietnam?, in 2003; Giovanni’s Room, in
2005; Moise and the World of Reason, in 2008; and Reflections in a Golden
Eye, in 2011). In total, four out of the six novels first published during the
Transition were retranslated during the ‘leap’ period, when the Chueca
model was consolidated, the necessary transformations for the acceptance
of gay marriage were taking place and it finally became legal. The broad
difference between the ideologies regarding homosexuality of those two
historical moments could be understood as the cause for such a clear pat-
tern of behaviour in the corpus.
The last of the five retranslated novels, Other Voices, Other Rooms, is one
of the two that were introduced under Franco, in 1970, and its second ver-
sion was published around the same time as the first target text of the major-
ity of originals, in 1981. This emphasizes the significance of the Transition
for works dealing with homosexuality, as it witnessed both the publica-
tion of previously untranslated foreign novels and a second version of one
that had been available for some years. This pattern can be preliminarily
attributed again to the ideological differences regarding homosexuality
between Francoism and the early 1980s. It is noteworthy that Other Voices,
Other Rooms was not retranslated again during the ‘leap’, as were most of
the originals introduced in Spain during the Transition. The fact that it
already had two versions might be relevant, but no conclusions can be
drawn from the application of the methodology of this study.
Reflections in a Golden Eye, the only work in the corpus with two
retranslations, is further anomalous because its second target text in Spain,
published in 1988, does not fit any pattern. It was published only seven years
after the introductory translation, the shortest interval observed between
versions, although it includes a change of ideological period, from the
Transition to the ‘settlement’. Therefore, the causes of this retranslation
76 Ana María Roca Urgorri

could be found in an ideological variation, but a different type of research

would be necessary to confirm this claim and, particularly, to discern why
no other work in the corpus was affected.
The analysis of publication dates does not allow us to provide a pre-
liminary explanation for the selected works that were introduced but never
retranslated. As the first and only version of The City and the Pillar was
published in 1997 and the date when the ‘leap’ started is not clear, it is
possible, although this might exceed the limits I have established for this
time period, to consider that this novel belongs to this last stage and that
another version has not been not undertaken because there has not been any
significant ideological change in terms of homosexuality since it appeared.
If the reserves about its association with the leap are disregarded, this novel
could be interpreted to be in line with the pattern of retranslations pub-
lished after 2003, as the result of the same variations in ideology.
James Baldwin is the author of the other three unretranslated novels,
Tell Me How Long the Train Has Been Gone, Another Country and Just
above My Head. The first one was published during Francoism as part of the
minority pattern for introductory translations, and the other two belong to
the majority pattern of works initially published in the Transition, but all
seem unaffected by the unquestionable changes in the ideology regarding
homosexuality that have been related to the retranslation of the rest of the
corpus. This, as well as the potential significance of the common author,
can only be explained through a different type of methodology.
Finally, it is essential to analyse other equally interesting information:
the moments when there was no translation or retranslation activity, the
‘silence patterns’. The time gaps between the publication of the original
works and their first versions in Spain have already been accounted for. A
change in social attitudes towards homosexuality is arguably the cause for
the long silence during the ‘settlement’, the period when the prevalent lib-
eral homophobia spread the idea that the ideology on homosexuality was
as liberal as it could ever be and thus, no evolution of it was envisaged, not
even by gay culture or the gay movement. Indeed, this stage lasts from 1982
to approximately 2000 and, with the exception of the second retranslation
of Reflections in a Golden Eye in 1988, whose singularity has already been
pointed out, no new versions of the originals in the corpus were published
at all for thirteen years, between 1984 and 1997.
Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological Change 77


The case-study carried out in this chapter through the comparison of the
publication dates of, on the one hand, gay American twentieth-century
novels and their translations in Spain, and, on the other hand, the evolution
of social attitudes towards homosexuality in this country, would seem to
support the hypothesis that changes in the ideology of the target system lead
to retranslations. With few exceptions, the versions of the original works
in the corpus follow certain patterns, which can be simplified to describe
prevalent behaviour: the original novels were written during Franco’s regime
(1936–1975), which rejected homosexuality as a crime, a sin and an illness
and imposed censorship, and the introductory translations of such works
were not published until the end of information control, the conquest of
gay rights and greater social acceptance were achieved in the transition to
democracy (1975–1982). These versions were not reviewed during the fol-
lowing years (1982–c. 2000), when homosexuality was not discussed under
the liberal homophobic assumption that it was not necessary because it
was a strictly private issue that no longer entailed discrimination and due
to a decline in activism. Retranslations were published when gays became
visible as general consumers and as creators of their own cultural products,
with the Madrid district of Chueca as an epicentre, at the same time as the
country’s ideology adapted to allow the approval of same-sex marriage (c.
These results can be considered a small contribution to retranslation
theory, as they shed light on the causes of this phenomenon, which can
improve the current understanding of it as a whole and of specific target
texts, and could ultimately allow predicting when a new version will be
published. The preliminary confirmation of the hypothesis also seems to
turn retranslations into a useful indicator of changes in social values in a
particular historical period. Moreover, this study can be argued to reveal
that target texts are ideologically determined, which entails an unavoid-
able bias that all agents in the translation process (commissioners, editors,
translators, etc.), researchers and, particularly, readers should be aware of
because of its potentially crucial implications for the interpretation and
use of a piece.
78 Ana María Roca Urgorri

It is essential to keep in mind that the methodology used in this study

can only yield preliminary results and thus, the hypothesis is still far from
being definitively proved. A correspondence between variations in ideol-
ogy and the publication dates of retranslations does not necessarily imply
a causal relationship, which would have to be questioned if other reasons
to publish a new version were found, and would obviously be discarded
in case of an incompatible content analysis.
Indeed, content analysis can be considered an ideal complement to
this chapter, but it poses many as yet unresolved challenges, particularly
regarding significantly sized corpora. Consequently, preliminary results
are deemed a revealing starting point, especially if further research can be
suggested to support them. For instance, the Spanish censorship archives
could be checked to find out if the chosen American novels were explicitly
rejected by the authorities under Franco or no application for their approval
was filed, whether due to lack of interest or self-censorship. If some of the
selection criteria were reviewed keeping in mind the purpose of the study, a
larger corpus could be analysed. It would be useful to compare the present
conclusions to the patterns of behaviour of novels by the authors in the
corpus or those by other writers that do not deal with homosexuality at
all. The methodology of this study should also be applied to a different set
of works selected on the basis of another ideological matter. Furthermore,
re-editions could also be taken into consideration in future studies, as they
can be interpreted as revalidations of a target text.
Beyond the possible supplementation of this case-study, this chapter
can arguably inspire new retranslation research through the application of its
methodology to other issues, especially if it were strengthened by statistical
concepts and calculations for the study of patterns of behaviour in publica-
tion dates. Furthermore, beyond this very interesting possibility for future
improvement, the proposed representation system can be claimed to have
great potential and would be particularly useful to compare, expand and
review data about versions if it became a widely accepted standard for the
academic community. Although publication dates cannot be assumed to be
relevant in all cases and will only provide preliminary answers, provided that
the corpus is appropriately designed for the question posed, they are valuable
as easily accessible information that can be compared with different factors.
Retranslation as a Reaction to Ideological Change 79

Because of the nature of the selected corpus, this study could have
also adopted an approach that, unfortunately, could not be covered in
the expanse of a chapter: minority translation. In line with this central
notion of the cultural turn of descriptive translation studies, it means
that ‘a discursive identity that was hitherto studied exclusively in terms
of otherness is given prominence and reappraised as central’ (Mira, 2001:
147). The information and results in this chapter could be reinterpreted
from this perspective and later expanded in order to give an account of
the history of the translation of works dealing with male homosexuality
in Spain.
In conclusion, this chapter suggests that ideology is a cause for retrans-
lation, but rather than settling the subject, it has raised new questions and,
hopefully, can be a basis for other studies.


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part ii
Retranslation and Censorship
Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

3 Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into

Spanish: The Case of Chinua Achebe’s
Things Fall Apart

Although the translation of African postcolonial literature into Spanish is not a very wide-
spread phenomenon, there are some examples of literary works that have been translated
several times. This is the case of Things Fall Apart (1958), the first novel by the Nigerian
author Chinua Achebe. The first translation dates from 1966, followed by three retransla-
tions published in 1986, 1997 and 2010. In this chapter, we will analyse on the one hand
how the different translations represent the image of Nigerian reality, which Achebe
shows in Things Fall Apart. Therefore, we will focus especially on the translation of fic-
tive orality and elements of Nigerian culture. On the other hand, we will analyse how
African literature is addressed in Spain and how through the study of the translations
of this book we can reach some conclusions about the reception of African postcolonial
literature in Spain.


Addressing Achebe’s Things Fall Apart as the main representative of

African literature translated into Spanish summarizes the contempo-
rary panorama of the translation of African literature in Spain. Only a
few African authors are translated into Spanish, mostly because of spe-
cific commercial agendas and decisions related to the publishing market.
Therefore, Spanish readers have few choices to access African literature,
with the exception of well-known African authors (mainly those who have
received international literary awards). Thus, encountering four different
86 Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

translations of a book such as Things Fall Apart could be evidence of its

impact on Spanish readers. However, this fact also offers us the oppor-
tunity to study possible changes in the Spanish reception of postcolonial
literature, considering that research should be focused on both why (or
why not) postcolonial literature is translated in specific countries and, if
so, how it is translated.
The assumption that between the original and the translated text
there is a relationship wherein multiple actors, situations and contexts are
involved leads us to analyse not only textual aspects but also contextual
ones. Writers, translators and publishers are part of a complex system and
the decisions made concerning the translation process and the final transla-
tion can be related to these multiple aspects. In particular, the retranslation
of a particular work can lead us to understand changes in the reception of
an author in a specific historical context.
New translations could indicate the revival of interest in a particular
author or work because of the multiple causation that exists behind the
retranslation phenomenon. Looking at this phenomenon from a contex-
tual perspective, retranslation could be motivated by commercial consid-
erations: international recognition, literary prizes or anniversaries often
influence publishing houses in their decisions to re-edit or retranslate
the work of an author. However, as we have seen in the first translations
and retranslations are also motivated by social, cultural, historical and
even political changes in the target culture: a growing interest in certain
cultures or increasing tolerance towards countries or minorities can be
motivated by openings of political and social systems or by changes in the
relationship between countries or continents. All these factors show that
translation can have enormous power over the reception, appreciation
and image of an author, his work and his culture. As Niranjana (1992: 1)
points out, ‘in a post-colonial context the problematic of translation
becomes a significant site for raising questions of representation, power
and historicity’. Therefore, strong cultural and historical baggage and the
representation of generally unknown idiosyncratic modes of life, of think-
ing and traditions have to be taken into account when studying postco-
lonial translation. Most postcolonial literary works have been written in
order to spread knowledge about cultural identities, to make the readership
Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish 87

aware of injustice suffered during and after the colonization process or to

denounce social suffering.

How to study retranslation in the postcolonial context?

As mentioned in the introductory chapter of this book, the complexity

and the impossibility of reaching universal findings about the motivations
behind new translations of the same literary work have led us to concen-
trate our research on a specific local and historical context. The motives
for new translations of the same literary work can be different according
to each country and each socio-historical time. In a postcolonial context,
Tymoczko (1999a: 25) argues that approaches to Translation Studies centred
on space and time take Translation Theory in a new direction: ‘They place
translations within their synchronic context, but also reveal diachronic
processes and patterns.’
Most of the aspects concerning the retranslation phenomenon may
not be different in the case of postcolonial literature. Considering that
retranslations can indicate the impact (or at least the interest) of a par-
ticular author, a particular work, a particular genre or a particular national
literature in a certain culture, research should be focused on both external
and internal aspects as mentioned before.
However, in the case of translating postcolonial literature, the focus
should be placed on those concrete aspects related to the specific character-
istics of the literature itself. As it encompasses different cultures that once
were subjected to European colonial rule, the sociological, economic or
philosophical consequences represented in the form of the literary texts
produced in cultures that have been colonized can be approached from
different fields, including intercultural studies, turning postcolonial stud-
ies into a constantly changing interdisciplinary field (Schwarz, 2005).
Considering the importance of the cultural turn in translation, analysing
internal aspects should always take into account the specific aspects related
to the source culture where ‘distinct cultural practices, concepts, beliefs,
88 Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

values, and so forth, […] for which there are no close counterparts in the
receptor culture’ (Tymoczko, 1999a: 165) are crucial elements used as a
means of identity expression. Those kinds of culture elements ‘are not only
important, they are central, emblematic of the culture’s independent and
autonomous views of the world, particularly views of the world promoted
by the cultural framework in the precolonial period’ (ibid.).
In this chapter, we analyse Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) accord-
ing to both contextual and textual aspects. As an example of postcolonial
translation, we will first offer a brief overview of African authors who
write in English and have been translated into Spanish, which shows the
importance of Achebe’s retranslations of Things Fall Apart in the current
Spanish translation panorama of African postcolonial literature written in
English. Then, we will focus specifically on the analysis of Things Fall Apart.

Things Fall Apart in context: The current situation of African

postcolonial literature in English translated in Spain

The following list is the result of research into the database of the National
Library of Spain, where all books published in Spanish and Spanish co-
official languages are supposed to be registered.1 As the study was conducted
from January until June 2015, our first intention was to find out how many
relevant African English-writing authors were translated into Spanish in
the last decade 2004–2014. Then, in the second stage, we extended the
period searching for authors translated before 2004 because of the impor-
tance of some novels within the field of African postcolonial literature in
English. These results could enable us to understand choices regarding the
translation of African English-writing into Spanish and the choices made
by publishing houses in this country.

1 In our research project we found out that not all books in Spanish and co-official
languages are registered in the National Library of Spain. This is not the case of the
postcolonial authors studied in this chapter.
Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish 89

Table 3.1:  Published translations of African English-writing into Spanish

Published translations Published translations

until 20042 2004–20143
Abdulrazak Gurnah 3 0
Ama Ata Aidoo 0 1 SPA
Amos Tutuola 3 2 (1 SPA)
Athol Fugard 2 3 (0 SPA)
Ben Okri 2 4 SPA
Bessie Head 1 0
Buchi Emecheta 2 2 SPA
César Mba 0 1 SPA
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 0 7 SPA
Chinua Achebe 6 11 (5 SPA)
Christopher Okigbo 0 0
Emma Mashinini 0 0
J. M. Coetzee 30 69 (56 SPA)
Jamal Mahjoub 1 2 SPA
John Kani 0 0
Lauretta Ngcobo 0 0
M. G. Vassanji 0 3 (2 SPA)
Mbudelo Mzamane 0 0
Nadine Gordimer 45 23 (13 SPA)
Ngugi wa Thiong’o 2 7 (2 SPA)
Niyi Osundare 0 0
Okot p’Bitek 0 1 SPA
Sefi Atta 0 1 SPA
Tsitsi Dangarembga 1 1 SPA
Winston Ntshona 0 0
Wole Soyinka 7 8 (5 SPA)
Zoe Wicombe 0 0

2 The results in this column show the results of the number of literary works translated
into Spanish languages (including co-official languages).
3 The results in this column show the number of literary works newly translated into
Spanish and co-official languages (Catalan, Galician and Basque) in the last decade
(2004–2014), specifying the number of books translated into Spanish (SPA) in
90 Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

If we focus on the results until 2004, we can see that only four authors
are frequently translated: Gordimer (45), Coetzee (30), Soyinka (7) and
Achebe (6). Gordimer, Coetzee and Soyinka have been awarded the Nobel
Prize, as well as the Booker Prize. Thus, it can be inferred that Spanish pub-
lishing policies mainly seem to favour authors that have received literary
recognition and are therefore relevant to the international community.
However, it is significant that Ben Okri had only had two of his books
translated into Spanish by 2004, although he received the Booker Prize
in 1991.
If we focus on the books translated in the 2004–2014 decade, we can
see that the trend for publishing authors that have received literary prizes
continues, as the most translated authors are still Coetzee, Gordimer and
Soyinka. Achebe appears with five new published books in Spanish, of
which four are new translations and one (Todo se derrumba) is a repub-
lished version of a former translation. We can also see that Ben Okri has
been translated into Spanish four times and that many authors who had
never been translated before 2004 are now beginning to gain attention
from publishers (e.g. Ama Ata Aidoo or Okot p’Bitek). One highly rep-
resentative case is that of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who has received
international recognition with seven translations into different Spanish
co-official languages within this last decade. However, the only author
who has the same book retranslated four times into Spanish language is
Chinua Achebe.

External aspects: The case of Chinua Achebe in the Spanish

translation panorama

As can be observed in the aforementioned list of publishing frequency,

Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is representative of the reception of African
postcolonial literature because this novel has been translated several times
into Spanish. Whereas before 2004, his only translated novel in Spain was
Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish 91

Things Fall Apart, in the last decade, it has been published again, together
with four other novels at the same publishing house DeBolsillo. These titles
are Me alegraría de otra muerte (2010), La flecha del dios (2010), Termiteros
de la Sabana (2010), and Un hombre del pueblo (2010). In order to analyse
the specific context of the translations of Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart
into Spanish in the following section, the focus of analysis is based on the
socio-historical context of the first translation and the commercial factors
of its retranslations.

Socio-historical context of Things Fall Apart in Spain

The first translation into Spanish from Things Fall Apart dates from 1966,
which was still a period of publishing censorship in Spain. The period of
censorship during the regime of Franco began with a special order dated
29 April 1938, which affected not only original texts but also translations.
Publishing houses were forced to present complete texts to the administra-
tive organism created especially for censorship. All texts were examined to
determine whether they attacked morality, the Spanish church or Francisco
Franco’s regime and its members. In addition to these aspects, the censor
used to inform about the content of the book by summarizing it in a few
lines. Curiously, in this same year of 1966, the publishing date of the first
translation of Things Fall Apart, a new print and press law appeared which
conferred a more flexible attitude regarding publishing rules. From this
period onwards, the examination of the texts that were going to be published
was voluntary. However, such flexibility caused a contradictory reaction
among authors and publishers as it was the Ministry of Information and
Tourism who ultimately decided to publish or to forbid the circulation of
all types of written texts. In order to avoid subsequent prohibitions, pub-
lishers, authors (and probably translators on some occasions) manipulated
parts of the texts in order to guarantee the diffusion of a literary work
(Pajares Infante, 2007).
The Spanish Ministry of Education and Culture still holds the cen-
sorship record of Things Fall Apart (Un mundo se aleja) at the Archivo
92 Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

General de la Administración under the file number 4804–66.4 This doc-

ument, which we translate below, specifies among other questions the
publishing house (Círculo de Lectores) and a print run of 3,000 copies,
as well as the final decision to publish the book without any changes or

Does it attack dogma? NO

Does it attack morality? NO
Does it attack the Church or its Ministers? NO
Does it attack the Regime and its Institutions? NO
Does it attack those who work with have worked with the Regime or its Institutions?
Do the censored passages represent the total content of the work?

Report and other observations:

This is a novel that describes the tribal habits of a black village, apparently in Nigeria,
just before the beginning of the period of English [sic] colonization: the conflict
that occurs is due to the total clash between indigenous beliefs and those which
are introduced little by little by the first Christian missionaries, and the novel ends
with the suicide of the main character who hangs himself convinced that his tribe
will not fight to free itself of those who want to change it and thus destroy the
prestige of the clan.

Publication of the novel can be authorized without any problem.

Nevertheless, when comparing the source text (ST) and the first published
translation (TT1) searching for possible omissions or changes, we find that
there are only a few instances of missing or softened information, most
of which are in the second part of the book after white missionaries had
arrived at the village. In the following table, we indicate the relevant frag-
ments that have been omitted or softened in the TT1 (1966) translation
(underlined in the original).

4 The Archivo General de la Administración [The General Administration Archive],

which is located near Madrid in Alcalá de Henares, includes all written, graphic,
radio and cinema documentation from the censorship period in Spain.
Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish 93

Table 3.2:  Omissions in TT1 (1966)

ST: Things Fall Apart TT1 (1966): Un mundo TT2 (2010): Todo se
se aleja desmorona
[Talking about God as –Yo no dije que Él tuviese –Yo no dije que Él tuviera
only one god] una esposa –repuso esposa –dijo el intérprete un
‘I did not say He had a el intérprete, un poco poco vacilante.
wife,’ said the interpreter, turbado. –Tu trasero ha dicho que
somewhat lamely. tenía un hijo –dijo el
‘Your buttocks said he had bromista–. Así que tiene que
a son,’ said the joker. ‘So he tener una esposa y tienen que
must have a wife and all of tener todos ellos trasero.
them must have buttocks.’
The missionary ignored
him and went on to talk El misionero se puso a El misionero no le hizo caso y
about the Holy Trinity. hablarles de la Santísima pasó a hablar de la Santísima
(107–108) Trinidad. (150) Trinidad. (148)
[…] and his children the […] mientras sus hijos […] mientras sus hijos
while praying to the white oraban ante el Dios del rezaban al dios del hombre
man’s god. If such a thing hombre blanco. blanco. Si ocurría tal cosa
were ever to happen, he, alguna vez, él, Okonkwo, los
Okonkwo, would wipe barrería de la faz de la tierra.
them off the face of the
Okonko was popularly Los del poblado daban A Okonkwo se le conocía
called ‘Roaring Flame’. a Okonkwo el apodo de popularmente como «Llama
(112) «Llama rugiente». (157) Crepitante». (154)
‘Go and burn your –Id y quemad a vuestras –Id a quemar los genitales de
mothers’ genitals’, said one madres –replicó uno de vuestra madre –les dijo uno
of the priests. (114) los sacerdotes. (158) de los sacerdotes. (156)
He has put a knife on Ha interpuesto un Ha cortado las cosas que
the things that held us cuchillo entre los lazos nos mantenían unidos y nos
together and we have que nos unían y nosotros hemos desmoronado. (176)
fallen apart. (129) hemos sido puestos al
margen. (177)

Due to the fact that the parts referring to sexuality could be understood as
‘attacking morality’ the omissions lead us to conclude that they are a product
of self-censorship linked to the specific socio-historical circumstances of
94 Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

the period. It was a common practice during Franco’s regime that authors,
publishers or even translators omitted or changed parts of the source text,
not only in the more restrictive period but also in the later more flexible
period of censorship, as mentioned above. The censor’s report does not
mention any need for change or omission in this first version of Things Fall
Apart. Omissions may therefore be due to the so-called self-censorship by
translators, editors or publishers or all of them. As we can see in the table
above, these fragments appear in the last published version (2010).

Commercial aspects in the retranslation of Things Fall Apart

After the first translation we can find two new translations published before
2004: Todo se derrumba (1986) and Todo se desmorona (1997), both from
different publishers and different translators. The last version of the novel
appears in the last decade (2010), together with a greater number of Achebe’s
books translated into Spanish. It is important to remember that in 2007
Achebe was awarded the Man Booker International Prize,5 which apparently
supports the original idea that internationally awarded African authors are
translated into Spanish. In the following table, we summarize the dates,
titles and translators of the novel:

Table 3.3: Things Fall Apart retranslations into Spanish

Year Title Translator

1966 Un mundo se aleja Jorge Sarrió
1986 Todo se derrumba Fernando Santos
1997 Todo se desmorona J. M. Álvarez Flórez
2010 Todo se desmorona J. M. Álvarez Flórez

5 The Man Booker International Prize is a biennial prize awarded to a living author
who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally
available in translation in the English language.
Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish 95

In order to receive more information about publishing policies and the

motivation for the retranslation or the republishing of certain African
literary works, on 18 May 2015 we conducted an email interview with the
publisher, María Casas, the current literary director of DeBolsillo (part
of the publishing group Penguin Random House Spain) and the editor of
the last republished translation.
The translated text chosen to be republished was the one by J. M.
Álvarez Flórez, the person responsible for the 1997 retranslation. When
we asked Casas about the decision to use a former version instead of a new
translation, she answered that the main reason had been its quality, but
it was also chosen because using a previous translation meant a reduction
of final costs. Answering our question about the motives that led them to
decide to republish Things Fall Apart, she answered that it was an editorial
decision, as they consider Achebe to be the father of African literature and
one of the great African authors. According to her opinion, Achebe is not
difficult to understand for Spanish readers, and this was the reason that
they decided to translate four more books by Achebe.
From now on, we will focus on the last published version, and we will
not take into account the first version from 1997.6 In addition to being
the last published version, it has undergone a revision process that has
improved the final product. Thus, we find minor changes mainly in typog-
raphy regarding Igbo words. While in the version published in 1997 Igbo
words appear without any typographic marking and are adapted to Spanish
(the pluralization of words, for example), in the last version Igbo words
appear in italics, as they appear in the original and without adapting them
to plural forms. Moreover, in the 1997 version there are some paragraphs
missing that appear in the later version.
María Sofía López, an academic expert on Achebe and the translator
of the rest of his books, states in her interview with Rodríguez Murphy
(2014) that many Spanish scholars claim that Spanish readers have no
interest in African literature. Sofía López also argues that the literature
that attracts the interest of Spanish publishing houses is that which has

6 See Martín Matas (2006) for a more in-depth analysis of the 1997 translation.
96 Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

its prestige consolidated by the Anglo-American market through prizes,

and thus becomes part of what can be called ‘World African Literature’
(e.g. Achebe or Adichie).

Internal aspects of Things Fall Apart and its translations into


As mentioned before, through a comparative analysis of different transla-

tion strategies we can identify changes in the different versions that can
affect the reception of the work or author during the time the translation
is published. An analysis of the first and last translations with a time gap of
forty-four years between them as well as the consideration of their specific
socio-historical backgrounds can provide us with some clues about differ-
ences in the perception of this novel.

The title(s)

One of the first differences between the two translations lies in the titles.
The original title Things Fall Apart is derived from Yeats’s poem The Second
Coming. The poem was first written in 1919, but there are numerous ver-
sions published and it is categorized as one of the most anthologized
poems in English language (Harmon, 1998). According to Sallah and
Okonjo-Iweala (2003: 106), ‘Yeats adopted the Christian view of the
world to his own, using the “Second Coming” to signify the chaotic
and cataclysmic changes of the pre- and post-World War II era’. Achebe
(2003: 86) states that the line ‘just seemed to me a very dramatic way of
summarizing what in my conception was the theme of that book’. The
poem is included, as in the source text, in both translations (1966 and
2010) but the title differs consistently. In the 1966 translation we can find
the original English poem and its translation into Spanish, whereas in
the 2010 translation only the Spanish version appears. Nonetheless, the
Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish 97

phrase extracted from the poem and which forms the title of the novel is
different in the two translations:
Table 3.4:  Translation of Yeats’s poem included in Things Fall Apart

ST: Things Fall Apart

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
W. B. Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’
TT1 (1966): Un mundo se aleja TT2 (2010): Todo se desmorona
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Girando y girando en círculos más amplios, Dando vueltas y vueltas en su giro creciente
El halcón no oye al halconero; El halcón no puede oír al halconero;
Un mundo se aleja; el núcleo no puede Todo se desmorona; el centro no resiste;
resistir; Se desata en el mundo la absoluta
La anarquía se esparce por el orbe. anarquía.
W. B. Yeats ‘The Second Coming’ W. B. Yeats, ‘La segunda venida’

The translation of ‘things fall apart’ into todo se desmorona [everything

crumbles away] in the 2010 edition is the translation we can find in dif-
ferent published translations of the poem, mostly included in antholo-
gies or bilingual editions dated from the 1980s onwards. The translation
into un mundo se aleja [a world moves away] has not been located. It can
therefore be supposed that the translator of this first version translated
the poem by himself. Nevertheless, the differences in the title are relevant
with regard to the first impression of the novel, as un mundo se aleja
does not have the strong apocalyptic implications that todo se desmorona
conveys. The first translation, through the choice of its title and other
elements that we will see in the next section ‘softens’ the chaotic message
that the book portrays.
98 Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

Identity through text and language

As mentioned before, translation has been defined as powerful in the sense

that it has to represent and recreate not only textual or aesthetic literary
styles but also cultural practices and elements including values, ideas, ideals
and aspects of identity that can be different from the target culture. In
particular, studying retranslations of the same literary work enables us ‘to
realize that translating can’t be viewed as a simple act of communication
because it creates values in social formations at specific historical moments,
and these values redefine the foreign text and culture moment to moment’
(Venuti, 2004: 36).
Looking at postcolonial literature, the representation of cultural ele-
ments is generally used to expose the problem of identity (loss of identity on
the personal and collective level, self-discovery through memory and narra-
tion of traditional myths, legends, tribal wisdom and beliefs, etc., conflict
between personal and collective identity and imposition through coloniza-
tion, etc.). This is also the case of Things Fall Apart. The loss of the tribe’s
identity is personalized in the thinking, experiences and crisis of its main
figure Okonkwo. Achebe (1965: 3) uses the novel in order ‘to help my society
regain belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of denigration
and self-abasement’. He feels responsible for educating and regenerating his
own native community because he wants to show them that ‘their past –
with all its imperfections – was not one long night of savagery from which
the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them’ (ibid.: 4). Aiming
originally at an African public, Achebe transposes his cultural past in Things
Fall Apart through the invention of his own personal literary style. Using
different linguistic and discursive devices, he transfers concepts and the
mentality of a past culture at the same time as he evokes the diction of a past
discourse in the Igbo language. Tymoczko (1999a: 164) mentions Chinua
Achebe as a writer who encodes and represents ‘variant cultural practices
and perspectives in literary domains’ and emphasizes the difficulties for a
translator who ‘unlike a writer, is additionally constrained in the process
of transposing cultural structures by the givens of a particular source text’
(ibid.: 165).
Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish 99

primary orality and identity

The following table includes the beginning of Things Fall Apart and its
TT1 and TT2 translations into Spanish.

Table 3.5:  Beginning of Things Fall Apart in ST, TT1 (1966) and TT2 (2010)

Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame
rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen he had brought
honour to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. Amalinze was the great wrestler
who for seven years was unbeaten, from Umuofia to Mbaino. He was called the Cat
because his back would never touch the earth. It was this man that Okonkwo threw
in a fight which the old men agreed was one of the fiercest since the founder of their
town engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights. (3)
TT1 (1966) TT2 (2010)
Okonkuo era bien conocido en los Okonkwo era muy conocido en las nueve
nueve poblados y aun fuera de ellos. aldeas e incluso más allá. Su fama se
Su fama descansaba en sólidos méritos apoyaba en sólidos triunfos personales.
personales. Siendo un muchacho de Cuando tenía dieciocho años había
dieciocho años, había dado gloria a honrado a su aldea derribando a Amalinze
su pueblo derribando a Amalinze el el Gato. Amalinze fue un gran luchador
Gato. Amalinze era un gran luchador que se mantuvo siete años invicto, desde
imbatido durante siete años, desde Umuofia hasta Mbaino. Le llamaban
Umuofia a Mbaino. Le llamaban el Gato «el Gato» porque nunca tocaba el
porque su espalda nunca había tocado el suelo con la espalda. Okonkwo había
suelo. Tal era el hombre que Okonkuo derribado precisamente a aquel hombre
había derribado en un combate que los en un combate que todos los ancianos
viejos coincidían en considerar como decían que había sido uno de los más
el más feroz, después del librado por el encarnizados desde que el fundador de
fundador de su ciudad con un espíritu su poblado había luchado con un espíritu
de la selva durante siete días y siete del bosque durante siete días y siete
noches. (9) noches. (21)

Analysing the diction of the discourse, we can find devices that remind
us of primary orality, ‘the orality of cultures untouched by literacy’ (Ong,
2002: 5). The syntactic structure of primary oral discourse is defined by
100 Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

Ong (ibid.: 36–39) as ‘additive rather than subordinative’, ‘aggregative

rather than analytic’ and ‘redundant’ or ‘copious’. It is really remarkable that
all those structures are used in this (short) opening of the novel. Primary
oral discourses have an additive structure because of the succession of
short, simple sentences or sentences combined with the connector ‘and’
(parataxis), while subordinating structures (hypotaxis) are less common.
By ‘aggretative structures’, Ong (ibid.: 38) means that ‘elements of orally
based thought and expression’ tend to be characterized by ‘parallel terms
or phrases or clauses, epithets’ as oral discourse prefers ‘not the soldier, but
the brave soldier; not the princess, but the beautiful princess’. Phrases like
‘Amalinze the Cat’, ‘the great wrestler’, ‘from Umuofia to Mbaino’ belong
to this kind of aggretative structure. ‘Since redundancy characterizes oral
thought and speech, it is in a profound sense more natural to thought and
speech than sparse linearity. Sparsely linear or analytic thought and speech
are artificial creations, structured by the technology of writing’ (ibid.: 39).
This kind of redundancy is represented in the following locutions: ‘he had
brought honour to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. […] It was
this man that Okonkwo threw in a fight’. The Nigerian precolonial Igbo
culture is thereby not only subject of the novel but it is also represented
through its narrative discourse. Ong (ibid.: 35) mentions Achebe’s novel
No Longer at Ease (1961) as directly drawn from ‘Ibo oral tradition in West
Africa’,7 which provides:

abundant instances of thought patterns of orally educated characters who move in

these oral, mnemonically tooled grooves, as the speakers reflect, with high intelli-
gence and sophistication, on the situations in which they find themselves involved.

The analysis of the 1996 and 2010 translations of Things Fall Apart shows
that the second translation uses a much more literate diction than the first
one. The performative and personalized style, such as the sentence structure
commented above is transferred into more literary expressions.
‘As a young man of eighteen’ is translated into Cuando tenía dieciocho
años [when (he) was eighteen years old] using a subordinate clause and

7 The term ‘ibo’ used by Ong is the archaic name of the Nigerian culture and language.
Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish 101

omitting the animated emphasis on man, whereas the first translation

maintains the original structure in Spanish (Siendo un muchacho de die-
ciocho años). According to Havelock (1986: 76), in oral cultures the narra-
tion is always structured around action, and there have to be agents acting,
persons or personified animals or forces. In writing cultures, even orally
pronounced formula like ‘Honesty is the best policy’ would be expressed
in oral cultures as ‘An honest man always prospers’ (ibid.). In Things Fall
Apart, not only are single formulaic expressions written in this animated
style focusing on action and on actors, but the whole literary discourse of
the novel is created in this special manner, evoking primary oral speech.
The same occurs with ‘It was this man that Okonkwo threw’. Whereas
the first translator tries to maintain the original diction of the sentence that
could sound somewhat contrived for more cultivated readers, transposing
it into Tal era el hombre que Okonkuo había derribado [Such was the man
that Okonkuo had knocked down], the last translator uses a sentence
structure adapting it to a more literate style. He uses the standard word
order subject, verb, object and transforms the structure ‘it was this man
that’ into an adverbial structure Okonkwo había derribado precisamente a
aquel hombre [Okonkwo had thrown precisely this man].
Another important aspect is the respect for the old men of the tribe.
In oral cultures, wisdom and historical memory, religion and ideals are
transferred through the older generation and through story-telling; two
elements that are present in the novel Things Fall Apart: ‘the old men’ and
‘story-telling’ appear as two leitmotifs throughout the novel, as a subject
within the narration and through the diction itself of the discourse diction.
The old men are consulted if there is a conflict. Old men spread wisdom
and knowledge in ritual meetings, women tell stories to their children in
order to instruct them and children are asked to repeat the stories again
and again. The stories belong to their cultural heritage and are considered
to be something precious:
Knowledge is hard to come by and precious and society regards highly those wise old
men and women who specialize in conserving it, who know and can tell the stories
of the days of old. By storing knowledge outside the mind, writing and, even more,
print down grade the figures of the wise old man and the wise old woman, repeat-
ers of the past, in favour of younger discoverers of something new. (Ong, 2002: 41)
102 Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

However, at the very beginning of Things Fall Apart the ‘old men’ are men-
tioned, as shown in the quotation above. The old men’s agreement that
Amalinze the Cat has been the strongest fighter during the last time (‘which
the old men agreed was one of the fiercest’) turns the affirmation into truth.
Looking at the two translations, both may reflect the respect for older genera-
tions. Nevertheless, the translation of ‘old men’ considering them an essential
group in the Igbo culture differs in the two versions. In the first translation
‘old men’ is translated as los viejos [the old (men)] associating them with
an institution or authority whereas in the last translation we find todos los
ancianos [all the old men], is referring to a defined group of old people.
One could argue that the 2010 republished translation is more readable
for a modern literate reader. Without comparing the translation with the
original, this Spanish version is able to convey the story, the precolonial and
colonial situation and the dilemma of Okonkwo. The reader is immersed
in an unknown world and is able to recognize the problem of coloniza-
tion on an individual and a collective level. However, by literalizing the
diction of the discourse it loses, on the one hand, some parts of Achebe’s
personal style and, on the other, parts of the author’s main intention. That
is to say, going back to the past, transmitting precolonial thinking, recalling
old traditions in order to find and respect the original culture through a
fictionalized oral primary discourse in the Igbo language by means of the
English written language.

translating proverbs

In addition to the particular diction, primary orality is characterized by the

use of proverbs and formulae. Proverbs are embedded in prime-order level
translation, the level where ‘the message is derived from a language event
through a combination of formal primitive meanings with the components
of the simple situation’ (Adejare, 1998: 23). Proverbs become undecoded
metaphors that are used in English, ‘appropriated from the mother tongue’,
serving as a translation that represents ‘linguistic and cultural differences
between the medium and the experience’ (ibid.: 27).
The novel Things Fall Apart represents in formulaic sayings and prov-
erbs the law inherited in its culture. According to Ong (2002: 35) this is one
Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish 103

of the characteristics in oral cultures. Igbo proverbs transposed into English

are used to evoke in the reader this kind of formulaic speech in order to
‘preserve the residual glory of Igbo oratory’ (Zabus, 1996: 32). Formulaic
expressions function as wholes, signalling knowledge that is already shared.
In oral tradition, it is not assumed that the expressions contain meaning
in themselves, in a way that can be analysed. Rather, words are a conveni-
ent tool to signal already shared social meaning (Tannen, 1993: 1–2). As
Achebe says in his interview with Ogbaa (1980: 67):
A proverb is both a functional means of communication and also a very elegant
and artistic performance itself. I think that proverbs are both utilitarian and little
vignettes of art. So when I use these forms in my novels, they both serve a utilitar-
ian purpose, which is to reenact the life of the people that I am describing, and also
delight through elegance and aptness of imagery.

In Things Fall Apart, proverbs or formulaic expressions appear throughout

the novel. In the original text, we identified 29 different proverbs, some
of which are repeated several times. The proverbs are related to cultural
aspects inherited in the Igbo society. They refer to the respect for the older
generation, to personal achievements, to loyalty to the clan and the family
or to animal behaviour (Martín Matas, 2006: 75–81).
Analysing the proverbs, we can observe that their characteristics
follow the same rules observed in the fictionalized diction of the primary
oral discourse. Proverbs appear in Things Fall Apart in ritual meetings, in
conversations between people of different ages and are generally used to
instruct or to transfer traditional wisdom. They are usually repeated because
redundancy as a mnemotechnic device is necessary in oral cultures. The
formalized style in rituals can be compared with some kind of primary oral
‘literature’ because it differs from spontaneous oral utterances:
Rituals […] are performed and listened to over and over again. As a result they
contain language that has been formalized and polished, even over many centuries,
contrasting with the spontaneity and roughness of conversation. We might then
expect to find in ritual language something like the integration of written language,
as opposed to the fragmentation of spoken. (Chafe, 1993: 49–50)

The following proverb appears twice, firstly in indirect speech and secondly
in direct speech.
104 Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

Table 3.6:  Proverbs (I)

ST TT1 (1966) TT2 (2010)

Eneke the bird says that Eneke, el pájaro, dice que, El pájaro Eneke dice que,
since men have learnt to desde que los hombres del mismo modo que los
shoot without missing, he aprendieron a disparar sin hombres han aprendido a
has learnt to fly without errar el tiro, él aprendió disparar sin errar nunca el
perching (17) a volar sin posarse en las tiro, él ha aprendido a volar
ramas (28) sin posarse (38)
Men have learnt to shoot Los hombres han aprendido Los hombres han aprendido
out without missing their a disparar sin errar el tiro y a tirar sin fallar nunca y yo
mark and I have learnt to yo he aprendido a volar sin he aprendido a volar sin
fly without perching on a posarme en las ramas (204) posarme en las ramas (199)
twig (148)

The animated style mentioned above as a characteristic of primary orality

is also present in the proverbs. Animals speak and argue. They are attrib-
uted with wisdom and their sayings are considered to be the truth. The
difference between the two quotations in the original text is merely the
change into direct speech. As a proverb with its fixed wording, all other
expressions are identical. In the first translation, the translator seems to
be aware of the necessity of redundancy and uses the same translation
only changing the perspective. The last translation, however, follows a
more literate style. The adverb ‘since’ is transformed into the more formal
expression del mismo modo que [in the same way as]. In order to avoid
any repetition, the second proverb is translated using other expressions
normally found in written language. Eneke, the bird, says that los hombres
han aprendido a disparar sin errar nunca el tiro [men have learnt to shoot
without missing], whereas the indirect version states that los hombres
han aprendido a tirar sin fallar nunca [men have learnt to shoot without
ever missing].
In general, the first translator uses a more literal translation method
and maintains the peculiar diction of the original, whereas the last transla-
tion changes the diction into a written style. These different strategies can
also be seen in the next proverb.
Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish 105

Table 3.7:  Proverbs (II)

ST TT1 (1966) TT2 (2010)

I have learnt that a man who He aprendido que el He aprendido que el que
makes trouble for others is daño que se hace a los perjudica a los demás se
also making it for himself demás se lo hace uno a sí perjudica también a sí
(71) mismo (101) mismo (106)

In TT1 (1996), ‘who makes trouble’ is translated more colloquially into el

que hace daño [he who damages], whereas TT2 (2010) has a more sophis-
ticated verb el que perjudica [he who harms]. The same tendency can be
appreciated in other proverbs such as in the following.

Table 3.8: Proverbs (III)

ST TT1 (1966) TT2 (2010)

When mother-cow is Cuando la vaca come Cuando la vaca come hierba
chewing grass its young hierba sus pequeños le los terneros no apartan la
ones watch its mouth (51) observan la boca (75) vista de su boca (82)

In the first version ‘its young ones watch its mouth’ is translated literally
into sus pequeños le observan la boca whereas the last translator transforms
the sentences into los terneros no apartan la vista de su boca [the calves don’t
avert their eyes from her mouth] using a more formal style. A much freer
translation style can also be seen in the next example. In the last transla-
tion, the indirect speech is transformed into direct speech.

Table 3.9:  Proverbs (IV)

ST TT1 (1966) TT2 (2010)

The lizard that jumped from El lagarto, al saltar desde Si nadie me alaba ya me
the high iroko tree to the el alto iroko al suelo, dijo alabo yo, dijo el lagarto
ground said he would praise que se alabaría a sí mismo que saltó del gran árbol
himself if no one else did (17) si nadie lo hacía (27) iroko (38)
106 Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

However, the purpose of this chapter is not to discuss the polemic between
literal and free translation, or to defend one of these methods. The recon-
struction of orality in novels is a complex literary process. ‘In consequence,
narrative resources to imitate oral speech have to be analysed and recognized
before their translation’ (Cadera, 2014: 48). Thus, whether a more literal
or free translation strategy is convenient has to be decided in each case. In
the case of Things Fall Apart, the use of proverbs and the special diction of
the literary discourse of the novel is due to Achebe’s intention to recreate
within the English language aspects of primary orality in order to transmit
his culture. Reading the original English text, we became aware that the
diction differs from Standard English literary style. Translators should be
aware of this and try to respect the author’s intention. As we mentioned
at the beginning of this chapter, translation is not innocent because it
has to ‘form images that in turn come to function as reality’ (Tymoczko,
1999b: 17). Translation, therefore, provides a tool for cultural interaction
that shows certain aspects of that culture at a given time (Bassnett and
Lefevere, 1990: 5–6). Nevertheless, the 2010 translation transmits a great
deal of Igbo culture whereas the 1966 version reproduces more faithfully
Achebe’s special style in this novel.

Language use elements: Vocabulary and Igbo words

Achebe is one of those African authors who choose to write their novels in
English, but introducing Igbo words. While the issue of whether to write
in English or in the vernacular language is a widespread one, Achebe (in
Fabre, 1973: 51) chooses consciously to write in English but without fol-
lowing Standard English conventions: ‘I say I am a conscious artist because
I often make conscious attempts at recreating the turns and phrases of the
vernacular while using English.’
We cannot forget that Achebe is writing in the language of the colo-
nizer, English, that ‘has been viewed as a potent force for the assertion
and control in the Empire’ (Talib, 2002: 8). As such, forcing the use of
English in the colonies was an instrument of domination and ‘educating
the natives in English not only served the civilizing mission but also – and
Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish 107

more importantly perhaps – the imperial mission of exerting better con-

trol over them’ (ibid.: 9). Achebe (2003: 85) reflects on the importance of
language in Things Fall Apart by stating:
I don’t remember sitting down and thinking of it, to create it first, it comes out of
the story. Now I was going to write this story in English, it was my first decision. But
what kind of English? Okay you start? You know, Okonkwo was a fine fellow. That
wouldn’t do. So what do I say about Okonkwo, how do I begin? So I think another
way of talking about him. This man is a strong man, and so on. And the language is
created, as far as I am concerned, by the story I was telling.

Things Fall Apart represents the clash between the English missionaries and
the Igbo people, including language miscommunication. Achebe represents
this including an interpreter and portraying how one of the main aspects
of colonization was imposing a new language.
Complementing the use of proverbs and the representation of oral
features in written language which we have mentioned previously, Things
Fall Apart shows particular characteristics regarding the use of English by
including Igbo words that are not translated. Achebe used these words in
Igbo, often including an explanation before or after the first time they are
used, for example: ‘The elders, or ndichie’ (1958, 10). These Igbo words are
marked typographically by the use of italics, which makes them stand out
in the text. Achebe did not offer a glossary of these words in his original
novel, as the reader is able to understand them within the context.
Analysing the 1966 translation, we find that the translator had decided
to include the Igbo words as Achebe did in the original, in italics and with-
out offering a glossary at the end of the book. The translator followed the
same strategy as Achebe using the explanation of the Igbo word the first
time it appears, like Los mayores o ndichie (Achebe, 1966: 19).
As we have stated above, the latest published version of Things Fall
Apart (2010) is a republished version of the 1997 translation that has under-
gone a revision before being republished. In this latest published version, we
find that the reviser has followed the same strategy: leaving Igbo words in
italics and offering the explanation the first time they appear. This is a modi-
fication with regard to the 1997 translation, where Igbo words appear with-
out any typographic marking and are adapted to Spanish plurals (adding a
108 Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

final ‘–s’). The following examples show one of the Igbo words pluralized
in the 1997 translation, egwugwu, compared in the four versions:
a) Everyone looked in the direction of the egwugwu house (1958: 64).
b) Todos volvieron la vista hacia la casa del egwugwu (1966: 92–93).
c) Todos miraron hacia la casa de los egwugwus. (1997: 94).
d) Todos miraron hacia la casa de los egwugwu. (2010: 98).
Both the first translation and the last republication follow Achebe’s typo-
graphic marking and respect the original Igbo word egwugwu. The 1997
translation shows the general strategy adopted by the translator/publisher:
no markings and pluralization following Spanish rules.
Moreover, the 2010 version differs from the source text and the 1997
edition by including a glossary with all the Igbo words that appear in the
novel. The reviser of this version, López Rodríguez (in Rodríguez Murphy,
2014: 257, our translation), who also wrote the introduction to this last edi-
tion of the novel, states that including a glossary was an editorial decision:
[I]f the author does not translate certain words it is because he doesn’t want to. Or,
when he is interested in translating them, he does so inside the text. ‘Strange’ words
for Spanish readers are not so complicated to understand without the help of the
glossary, but they help the author to inscribe in his works that cultural difference that
he tries to portray and that are, actually, an invitation to keep on reading’.

Nevertheless, the original idea of the author to represent Igbo language

through the use of a created literary language style is achieved in both
translations. Igbo words provide the idea of encountering a different cul-
ture that maintains its differences with Spanish culture.


We argued that an approach to the study of the translation of postcolonial

literature should be on two levels, considering both external and inter-
nal elements. Generally, the decision to retranslate a work may be due to
Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish 109

external interests – commercial interests, changes of interests in a specific

source culture, political and international relations, etc. – but also due
to changes in the poetic and aesthetic considerations of translation itself
or to socio-historical changes in the target culture. In the case of African
postcolonial literature, commercial interest seems to be the most important
factor when publishing decisions are made.
As we have seen through the analysis of the editorial choices concern-
ing the publication of the different translations and republication of Things
Fall Apart, the fact that Achebe is considered in Spain to be the father of
African literature and that he has international prestige has had a direct
impact on the decision to republish this novel and make it available to
the general public, as DeBolsillo is aimed at a broader Spanish readership.
Interestingly enough, even if a publisher was keen on Achebe’s books,
judging by sales figures these texts seem not to have reached the general
reading public, which in turn opens up further paths for research into the
acceptance and the future of postcolonial African literature translated into
Spanish. It can be deduced that the general politics of publishing houses
is to translate African authors that have received international awards and
who write in English and not in their vernacular language. Nevertheless,
even in these specific cases Spanish readers seem to represent a complicated
market, as sales do not reflect this international prestige except on a very
few occasions (e.g. Coetzee).
As we have tried to exemplify with the novel Things Fall Apart, one of
the few retranslated African postcolonial works, external factors such as
publishing decisions have an enormous influence on reception. Apart from
this, we maintained that the socio-historical context of each translation
should be considered because it could determine why specific novels were
translated or whether the context had an influence on the translation. For
example, this chapter indicated that Things Fall Apart was authorized to
be published during the period of Spanish censorship without any amend-
ments, although the original text contained parts that could be understood
to be against morality and the church, two subjects that were censored
during the Franco regime.
After this stage, in order to complete the study, the analysis of internal
or textual elements was necessary to find out what image the translation
110 Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

offered and how the text was or had been read in the target culture.
Studying, for instance, the 1966 translation demonstrated that the text
had been manipulated, especially regarding the omission of the parts that
‘attack’ religion or were against the moral precepts of this period. Taking
into account that in those years nothing that went against Catholicism
could be published in Spain, we stated that this might have been due to
the translator’s or publisher’s self-censorship, which was clearly related to
the socio-historical context in which a translation was produced.
Other internal elements such as the analysis of the transposition of
language elements were especially useful in postcolonial literature, where
vernacular languages were instruments of identity claims (Venuti, 1998:
136). In the case of Africa, novels were usually characterized by a certain
trans-lingualism where the English language could be influenced by both
syntactic and semantic forms of the vernacular languages and/or the intro-
duction of indigenous terms into the English text (Martín Matas, 2006:
36). Obviously, this kind of language use implied enormous difficulties
for translators. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe creates his own fictive liter-
ary language to represent Nigerian identity (ibid.: 24). The challenge for
translators, therefore, should be that the reader of the target language
is able to receive the same images that are represented in the original in
order to understand the peculiarities of the characters, places and culture
(Cadera, 2012: 53).
The analysis of the two translations has shown the differences con-
cerning this image. The first translation suffered manipulation and did not
include all the cruelness of the colonization and Christianization process.
Nevertheless, it reflected more faithfully the style of the literary discourse
of the novel transposing the fictionalized primary orality into Spanish. The
last and most complete translation offered an acceptably readable text for
contemporary readers and represented Nigerian original culture through
the use of Igbo vocabulary, although it lost much of the typical diction of
the literary discourse.
Finally, we agree with Tymoczko (1999b: 17–18) that ‘the investigation
of translations is an essential aspect of the investigation of culture, reveal-
ing through comparison with the source texts valuable information about
both the source culture and the receiving culture’. In the case of African
Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish 111

postcolonial literature, this affirmation is more important than ever, as

the Spanish reader is receiving a culture (African) through English and its
cultural implications, and only in those cases with international recogni-
tion. After this analysis a question arises that remains to be solved: How
will the translation of postcolonial African literature evolve in Spain and
how will it reach the wider public?


Primary references

Achebe, C. (1958). Things Fall Apart. London: Penguin Books Ltd.

Achebe, C. (1966). Un mundo se aleja. Aster: Círculo de Lectores.
Achebe, C. (1986). Todo se derrumba. Madrid: Alfaguara.
Achebe, C. (1997). Todo se desmorona. Barcelona: Ediciones del Bronce.
Achebe, C. (2010). Todo se desmorona. Barcelona: DeBolsillo (Random House).
Achebe, C. (1965). ‘The novelist as teacher’. In G. D. Killam (ed.) (1973), African
Writers on African Writing, 27–31. London: Heinemann.

Secondary references

Achebe, C. (2003). Straight from the Heart. Lagos: The Stone Press Publishers.
Adejare, O. (1998). ‘Translation: A distinctive feature of African literature in English’.
In E. L. Epstein and R. Kole (eds), The Language of African Literature, 19–40.
Trenton: Africa World Press.
Bassnett, S., and A. Lefevere (eds) (1990). Translation, History and Culture. London:
Pinter Publishers.
Cadera, S. M. (2012). ‘Reflexiones sobre la traducción de la oralidad fingida en la
narrativa’. In M.ª L. Romana, J. M. Saénz Rotko and P. Úcar Ventura (eds),
Traducción e interpretación. Estudios, perspectivas y enseñanzas, 37–58. Madrid:
Universidad Pontificia Comillas.
Cadera, S. M. (2014). ‘Translating fictive dialogue’. In J. Brumme and A. Espunya (eds),
The Translation of Fictive Dialogue, 35–51. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
112 Susanne M. Cadera and Patricia Martín-Matas

Chafe, W. L. (1993). ‘Integration and involvement in speaking, writing and oral litera-
ture’. In D. Tannen (ed.), Spoken and Written Language. Exploring Orality and
Literacy, 23–53. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.
Fabre, M. (1973). ‘Chinua Achebe on Arrow of Gold ’. In B. Lindfors (ed.) (1997), Con-
versations with Chinua Achebe, 45–51. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.
Harmon, W. (ed.) (1998). The Classic Hundred Poems. New York: Columbia Uni-
versity Press.
Havelock, E. A. (1986). The Muse Learns to Write. New Haven, CT: Yale University
Martín Matas, P. (2006). Estudio y análisis de dos traducciones de ‘Things Fall Apart’:
Vertientes lingüísticas y culturales. PhD thesis. Madrid: Universidad Pontificia
Niranjana, T. (1992). Siting Translation: History, Post-Structuralism, and the Colonial
Context. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Ogbaa, K. (1980). ‘An interview with Chinua Achebe’. In B. Lindfors (ed.) (1997),
Conversations with Chinua Achebe, pp. 64–75. Jackson: University Press of
Ong, W. (2002). Orality and Literacy. The Technologizing of the Word. London:
Pajares Infante, E. (2007). ‘Traducción y censura: Cumbres borrascosas en la dic-
tadura franquista’. In R. Merino Álvarez (ed.), Traducción y censura en España
(1939–1975). Estudios sobre corpus TRACE: cine, narrativa, teatro, 49–103. Bilbao:
Universidad del País Vasco.
Rodríguez Murphy, E. (2014). ‘Entrevista a Marta Sofía López Rodríguez, traductora
de No longer at Ease y Anthills of the Savannah de Chinua Achebe’, Trans, Revista
de Traductología, 18, 241–250.
Rodríguez Murphy, E. (2016). Traducción y literatura africana: multilingüismo y trans-
culturación en la narrativa nigeriana de expresión inglesa. Granada: Comares.
Sallah, T. M., and N. Okonjo-Iweala (eds) (2003). Chinua Achebe: Teacher of Light.
A Biography. Trenton: Africa World Press.
Schwarz, H. (2005). ‘Mission impossible: Introducing postcolonial studies in the
US academy’. In H. Schwarz and S. Ray (eds), A Companion to Postcolonial Stud-
ies, 1–20. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.
Talib, I. S. (2002). The Language of Postcolonial Literatures: An Introduction. London:
Tannen, D. (1993). ‘The oral / literate continuum in discourse’. In D. Tannen (ed.),
Spoken and Written Language. Exploring Orality and Literacy, 1–15. Norwood,
NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.
Postcolonial Literature Retranslated into Spanish 113

Tymoczko, M. (1999a). Translation in a Postcolonial Context: Early Irish Literature

in English Translation. Manchester: St Jerome.
Tymoczko, M. (1999b). ‘Postcolonial writing and literary translation’. In S. Bassnett
and H. Trivedi (eds), Post-Colonial Translation: Theory and Practice, 19–40.
London: Routledge.
Venuti, L. (ed.) (1998). ‘Translation and minority’, The Translator, 4(2).
Venuti, L. (2004). ‘Retranslations: The creation of value’. In K. M. Faull (ed.), Transla-
tion and Culture, 25–38. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Press.
Zabus, C. (1996). ‘Language, orality and literature’. In B. King (ed.), New National
and Post-Colonial Literatures: An Introduction, 29–44. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
José Luis Aja Sánchez

4 Zeno Cosini Comes to Spain: The Response to

Italo Svevo and the First Censored Edition of La
coscienza di Zeno (1956)

The reception in Spain of a classic author such as Italo Svevo (1861–1928) is influenced
by three factors that characterize the cultural polysystem of the target language: the aes-
thetic canon, the decisions of the publishing sector and the presence of censorship. The
identification of Italian culture with Neorealism drew attention away from an introspec-
tive author such as Italo Svevo, and therefore he only became known quite late in Spain.
The sensibility of certain independent publishers led to the first Spanish translation of
La coscienza di Zeno (1956), a version subject to several omissions imposed by the censor.
A detailed analysis of those passages which were eliminated has allowed us to establish
some taxonomies for censorship and an assessment of this first translation as a histori-
cal document. The reconstruction of the message in the target culture, with its gaps and
defects, allows us to make a sociological evaluation of this first version, which was a faith-
ful reflection of the period in which it was published. Freedom of expression, changes in
literary tastes and the fact that Svevo’s work is no longer subject to copyright have all led
to new translations of La coscienza di Zeno, Una vita and Senilità, his three main novels.
Researchers are therefore now able to carry out new analyses that allow for an interesting
contrast between the translations, as well as the possibility to reflect on the mechanisms
of correction, rewriting and translations practised in these texts.

The response to Italo Svevo in Italy

Italo Svevo was an author who gained late recognition in Italy. His first two
novels, Una vita (1888) and Senilità (1898), like La coscienza di Zeno (1923) –
considered his masterpiece – represented an authentic publishing failure.
Nonetheless, Italo Svevo is undisputedly recognized nowadays as one of
the main figures who contributed to Italian literature towards the end of
116 José Luis Aja Sánchez

the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth century. The keys to
this initial misunderstanding may be related to several factors including
the aesthetic canon, which was predominant among Italian readers at the
time, tied to the decadent movement and, notably, to mass culture (Sturmar,
2007: 15). Svevo was a minority writer: entertaining literature, that is, the
effortless novel, which forms part of a series and retains the reader’s atten-
tion, was not one of his objectives. In fact, the author often criticized this
literature as a straightforward exchange that financially benefits publishers
(ibid.: 22). Svevo was a literary outsider who was influenced by converg-
ing ideological tendencies that were not in line with Italian literature at
the time. Born in Trieste, he was brought up in a non-practising Jewish
family and the mixture of his father’s conventional German culture and his
mother’s Italian tradition characterized Italo Svevo. Since his earliest work,
he was curious to discover, through key elements akin to naturalism, the
mechanisms which govern social conventionalism, a tendency which later
steered him towards introspection and self-analysis. In a similar way to other
authors from Trieste such as Umberto Saba, Freud and psychoanalysis were
particularly influential throughout the development of his work, particu-
larly in his last novel, La coscienza di Zeno (1923).1 The autobiographical
narrative of Zeno Cosini, envisaged as a critical confession written using
a psychoanalytical approach, required the use of narrative strategies more
in tune with Proust and Joyce than naturalism, such as free and indirect
speech and interior monologue. It becomes clear that:
Svevo was an unusual writer right from the start of his literary career. He was torn
between the last stages of Naturalism and the aesthetic imposed by D’Annunzio
and his followers, who reached a considerable degree of success at the beginning of
Svevo’s career. Therefore, the interest that his work aroused in the local press was not
enough to end his isolation. (Lunetta, 1972: 150, my translation)2

In fact, the recognition of Svevo came from outside of Italy, notably from
France, where authors such as Joyce, with whom he had a close relationship,

1 Among the many studies carried out on the presence of central European culture
in Triestine literature at the end of the nineteenth century and at the start of the
twentieth century, it is worth mentioning Vogera (1995).
2 From now on, all of the translations of quotes are mine unless stated otherwise.
Zeno Cosini Comes to Spain 117

Valéry Larbaud and Benjamin Crémieux circulated Svevo’s work beyond

Italian borders (Contini, 1985: XII). In fact, the first German translation
of La coscienza di Zeno appeared in 1929, six years after the novel was pub-
lished in its original version (Guida, 2014).

The response to Italo Svevo in Spain

Unlike what happened in France and Germany, Svevo was virtually an

unknown author in Spain until the second half of the twentieth century.
The presence of Italian culture in Spain was significant during the Middle
Ages, the Renaissance and throughout the Spanish Golden Age. However,
it underwent a notable descent during the eighteenth and nineteenth cen-
turies, as well as in the first decades of the twentieth century (Muñiz, 1990:
245). Other ideological influences, extending especially from France and
England, led to a decrease in the number of translations and, therefore,
connections between the Spanish cultural elite and Italian literature after
the eighteenth century were scarce. Thus, the lack of awareness of Svevo’s
work in Spain may be attributed to a general tendency. However, Svevo
generated less interest among Spanish publishers than other contemporary
authors, such as Gabriele D’Annunzio or Luigi Pirandello, who both have
more titles published.3 We have already pointed out that Svevo’s three major
aforementioned novels are characterized by their ideological and formal
complexity, an aspect that undoubtedly hindered the dissemination of the
author’s work. Therefore, we fully concur with Peña (1999: 83) and Muñiz
(1990: 249), who attribute Svevo’s ostracism to the burden of the canon
and to the operational mechanisms that defined the publishing sector:
It would be difficult to specify the causes that led to a certain lack of interest in Italian
culture. An even more difficult to establish a relation between this circumstance and

3 See the entries on both authors in the Diccionario histórico de la traducción en España
(Lafarge and Pegenaute, 2010). It is worth pointing out that there is no entry in the
dictionary on Italo Svevo.
118 José Luis Aja Sánchez

the failure that Svevo experienced in Spain. His lack of fortune in our country is closely
linked to the evolution of Spanish postwar fiction which, particularly in the 1940 and
1950s, preferred realism and social commitment. Therefore, the introspective analysis
of a tortured conscience did not arouse much interest. Perhaps this is due to the fact
that the problems posed by the Trieste born are near to Central European culture
and, consequently, they are not identified as a product ‘Made in Italy’.

Muñiz (ibid.) associates the lack of interest in Italo Svevo during the postwar
era with an autochthonous literary tendency inherent to the Spanish tradi-
tion: the solid development of the social novel that sparked interest among
authors and readers of Italian neorealism, both in its cinematographic and
literary dimensions. Consequently, the publishing sector opted to promote
figures who were more closely aligned with social criticism: this was the case
with Moravia or Pratolini and, later on, Pasolini or Sciascia. Perhaps for
this reason, a complex writer with an introspective viewpoint such as Svevo
took longer to take his rightful place in Spanish publishing catalogues.4
Peña (1999) gives a detailed account of the vicissitudes of the response
to Svevo during the Francoist regime and throughout the years of democ-
racy. The first record of Italo Svevo in Spain dates back to 1927. He was
featured in an article in the Revista de Occidente, written by Juan Chabás, a
Spanish critic and poet linked to the generation of 1927 (ibid.: 83–85). The
glowing review, which was featured in the fifty-third edition of the journal,
was accompanied by what was the first translation of Italo Svevo in Spain:
the short story Vino Generoso [Fortified Wine]. Chabás suggested trans-
lating Svevo’s three major novels, for which he would have to wait three
decades considering that the first version of La coscienza di Zeno would
not arrive until 1956, in other words, after the Civil War. Once more, the
war and immediate post-war constitute a crucial cultural digression that
represented a slump in the dissemination of culture in Spain.

4 The latest sociological studies on the translation process place a particular emphasis on
the translation as a cultural product and on the impact of the aesthetic canon of the
target language on what is translated and what is not (Wolf, 2007: 15). In this regard,
it is clear that the literary preferences of postwar Spain – strongly defined by literature
with a socio-ideological focus – were less favourable towards Italo Svevo. With regard
to the way in which literary systems canonize particular authors, those with followers
and imitators, whilst simultaneously demonizing others, see Lefevere (1992).
Zeno Cosini Comes to Spain 119

The three major novels by Italo Svevo have been published in Spain at
least twice. A comprehensive study on the response to these three pieces
of work in Spain contemplates various methodological strategies for study
in the light of the obtained data presented in the following table, which
includes an exhaustive list of translations and re-editions of Una vita,
Senilità and La coscienza di Zeno in Spain.5

Works by Italo Works by Italo Svevo translated in Spain

Una vita Una vida (1978). Translated by Francisca Perujo. Barcelona: Barral.
(1893) Una vida (2003). Translatedby Francisca Perujo. Madrid: Joseph K.
Senilità (1898) Senilidad (1965). Translated by Francisco J. Alcántara. Barcelona,
Plaza & Janés.
Senectud (1982). Translated by Carmen Martín Gaite. Barcelona:
Senectud (1982). Translated by Francisco J. Alcántara. Barcelona:
Ediciones del Cotal.
Senectud (1993). Translated by Carmen Martín Gaite. Barcelona:
Senectud (2001). Translated by Carmen Martín Gaite. Barcelona:
El Acantilado.
Senectud (2008). Translated by Carlos Manzano. Madrid: Gadir.
La coscienza di La conciencia de Zeno (1956). Translated by José María Velloso.
Zeno (1923) Barcelona: Seix-Barral.
La conciencia de Zeno (1982). Translated by Carlos Manzano.
Barcelona: Bruguera.
La conciencia de Zeno (1985). Translated by Carlos Manzano.
La conciencia de Zeno (2004). Translated by Mercedes Rodríguez
Fierro. Madrid: Gredos.
La conciencia del señor Zeno (2015). Translated by Attilio Dabini.
Seville: Ulises.

5 The compilation of this table entails an exhaustive search of translations in three basic
document sources: The Index Translationum, the digital catalogue of the National
Library of Spain, and the ISBN database. Other document databases were used such
as WordCat, Rebiun and, occasionally, certain publishers’ websites.
120 José Luis Aja Sánchez

The response to translations is a process that is intrinsically connected to

the cultural polysystem of the target language (Even Zohar, 1990). We are
aware that the metatextual reality surrounding these translations clearly
conditions the characteristics of the final product; therefore, before begin-
ning to assess purely textual aspects, it is important to consider a series of
factors that categorically influence the translation process and the dissemi-
nation of the author’s work:

− Historical-political factors, which may or may not imply the presence

of censorship in the translated texts (Monti, 2001).
− Cultural factors concerning the aesthetic canon of the target language
and the criteria for editorial circulation (Berman, 1990; Monti, 2001;
Gambier, 2011).
− Factors which are intrinsically related to the translation phenomenon itself.
It is worth highlighting the interrelation between new translations and
translations which are already published, which may give rise to cases of
intertextuality, as well as methods of retranslation, correction and revision.
Where are the limits which differentiate a new translation from a revised
translation? Who carries out the revision and makes the corresponding
changes? The translator? The editor? (Gambier, 1994: 414).
− Time-related factors linked to the possible ageing of a translation,
which lead to rewriting processes or the commissioning of new ver-
sions (Berman, 1990).

It is clear that it is not possible, within the scope of this article, to apply all
of these analytical tools to the three major novels written by Italo Svevo.
Moreover, the reception of Italo Svevo has already been partially studied
in the past, at least in the case of Senilità,6 even if there is no similar work
which looks at Una vita.7

6 See De Aizpuru et al. (1988: 16–24), and Carotenuto (2003: 147–180). The translation
by Carmen Martín Gaite has already been studied in terms of quality and stylistic
equivalence. A study on rewriting and intertextuality would be needed to approach
a joint analysis of the three translations.
7 The only translation of the novel was made by Francisca Perujo and published in 1978.
It would be interesting to find out, given the considerable time gap, if any update or
Zeno Cosini Comes to Spain 121

To this end, we have chosen to focus on the study of La coscienza di

Zeno, particularly on the first translation which was published in 1956.
It was made by José María Velloso and was published by Seix-Barral. It
is, as outlined by the publisher, Carlos Barral, in his Memorias (Barral,
1982: 140), a censored copy. In his article on the response to Svevo in
Spain, Peña (1999: 86) discusses in detail the conflicts which took place
between the publisher and the censor during the novel’s publishing
The reasons for this choice are as follows:

− It is the first consistent sample of the great narrative by Svevo in Spain,

considering that Senilità and Una vita were not published until 1965
and 1978 respectively. It is also one of the first volumes of the Biblioteca
Breve collection of Seix-Barral, which intended to launch contempo-
rary classics and new publications that had been absent in the Spanish
market as a result of the immediate post-war crisis and the burden of
− All translations pave the way for retranslations because no translation
is unique and there are as many translations as there are translators
(Berman, 1990). Translators from years later may or may not use this
first version by José María Velloso as a point of reference. However, it
is undeniable that this work offers a way forward toward a process of
intertextuality. Subsequent retranslations can be considered to be echoes
of this first version.
− Until now there was a lack of analysis to assess the scope of censorship in
this first version of La coscienza di Zeno. Is it an adapted version or has
the act of censorship merely been restricted to omitting certain extracts
from the novel? What is the impact of censorship on the ideological
reconstruction of the message in the target language? Does it affect the
nature and psychology of the characters?

revision strategy was used in the new edition of this version which was published
in 2003.
122 José Luis Aja Sánchez

La coscienza di Zeno in the translation by José María Velloso

(Barcelona: Seix-Barral, 1956): A censored edition

Methodological justification: General Administration Archive

In order to discover the mechanisms that governed censorship, the

methodological strategies proposed by the TRACE group were closely
followed,8 and a meticulous consultation of the pertinent information in
Rabadán (2000) was carried out.
According to Peña (in Pegenaute, 1999: 88), it is clear that this
first translation of La coscienza di Zeno underwent a process of external

External censorship can be further divided into two subtypes: prepublication and
post publication censorship. In Spain, prepublication control was by far the stricter
of the two practices. It stipulated that texts (whether originally written in Spanish
or translated into Spanish) were submitted to boards of censors who decided which
texts were to be granted a publication license.

The external censorship process, to which all publications during the Franco
era were subjected, went through various phases in line with legislative
changes (Santamaría López, 2000: 209). The publisher of the novel, Barral
(1982: 134–135), witnessed first-hand the different administrative transfor-
mations through which the practice of censorship passed:

It was institutionalized after a 1939 Royal Decree indefinitely extended the censorship
established for times of war and after it had just been developed by means of minis-
terial orders and regulations, firstly from the late Ministry of Press and Propaganda
and subsequently from the Ministry of Information and Tourism. When I first came
across it, it was the responsibility of the latter Ministry, under the authority of the
Directorate General of Information, one of the three bodies making up that bizarre
hybrid that responded to the ironic name of Bibliographic Guidance Service.

8 TRACE Research Group. Translation and censorship (University of León): <http://

www.unileon.es/grupos-investigacion/detalles-grupo.php?id=0&grp=66> accessed
6 August 2015.
Zeno Cosini Comes to Spain 123

All documentation concerning censorship records is stored in the General

Administration Archive (Santamaría López, 2000: 207), therefore we
decided to visit these archives with the intention of verifying which of the
passages were unpublished so as to gain a better understanding both of the
ideological reasoning behind censorship and the nature of the final version.
Carlos Barral provides several significant details in his Memorias on
the strenuous editing process followed for the first version of La coscienza
di Zeno in Spain. The following quote reveals that the first dispute arose
with the Italian editor and it touches upon the economic and ideological
audacity involved in publishing certain titles in that era:
I, meanwhile, had already decided upon my first two volumes [for the ‘Biblioteca
Breve’ collection]: La coscienza di Zeno, which I believed to be unpublished in
Spanish, and a yet to be entitled book, the first novel by Alain Robbe-Grillet, from
which two large extracts had appeared in a recent volume of the New French Review.
I had already surprisingly been granted copyright for a Spanish version of Robbe-
Grillet’s novel from his editor, Jerôme Lyndon, who was not used to receiving requests
from Spain to translate heroic and minority novels, and also from Svevo’s editor,
Dall’Oglio, who deceptively failed to inform me that the novel had already been
translated in Argentina with the quaint title of La conciencia del señor Zeno. (Barral,
1982: 31)

This insight led to research being carried out on the dissemination of the
Argentinian version in Spain, an issue which would have undermined the
status and value of the translation made by Velloso as the first appearance of
the novel in Spain if the Argentinian version had gained a steady momen-
tum on this side of the Atlantic. However, the initial hypothesis was cor-
roborated after consulting the General Administration Archive: Spanish
readers, except in exceptional circumstances, could not have accessed the
Argentinian version, which was published by Santiago Rueda in Buenos
Aires (1953) and translated by Attilio Dabini, because the importation of
the book was prohibited by the Ministry of Information and Tourism. A
response to a request to import this edition was received by an individual
(Eduardo Figueroa Gneco) on 4 November 1953 in which it stated that
the importation of copies was prohibited. No reason was given for the ban.
The Secretary-General of Information even emphasized that ‘checks will
be carried out to verify if copies are circulating or have been circulating,
124 José Luis Aja Sánchez

and the relative authorities will ensure that the importer and the applicant
return the books to their country of origin and send us the corresponding
In a long reflection on his career as a publisher, Barral accurately
describes the process of ‘voluntary consultation’ to which all original edi-
tions to be published in Spain were obligatorily submitted. As an example of
his experience with censorship, he explicitly mentions the revision process
that the translation by José María Velloso underwent:

I remember one of my first experiences concerning La coscienza di Zeno which, as

the reader now knows, was one of the inaugural volumes of the ‘Biblioteca Breve’
collection. After omitting several adjectives along the way, the reader had reached the
chapter in which the protagonist, the neurotic Zeno, was getting into bed with Carla,
the lover, whilst anxiously thinking about his wife. The scene, by no means erotic
might I add, irritated the prudish censor who removed nearly the entire incident and
led him to ruthlessly and systematically hunt for the word ‘letto’ in the second half of
the book. The term, which means an imaginary illness that makes the sufferer count
the number of muscles that will be used before taking a step, puts the character into
a trance-like state of giving up due to fatigue. Evidently, the hunt for the word saved
the censor hours upon hours of postponed reading. (Barral, 1982: 140)

The censorship report on this first version of the novel, which is stored in
the General Administration Archive and dated 30 March 1955, issued the
following judgment on the publishing of the work:
Does it attack dogma? NO
Does it attack morality? DIRECTLY NO
Does it attack the Church or its Ministers? NO
Does it attack the Regime and its Institutions? NO
Does it attack the people who work with or have worked with the Regime? NO
Do the censored passages represent the total content of the work?

9 General Administration Archive, File 190653, Catalogue Number 21/0427. A copy

of the Argentinian edition is deposited in the file without any marks or annotations.
The book has not been consulted as the pages are untouched. Therefore, the judgment
that banned the circulation of the Argentinian edition was not based on substantia-
tion, or perhaps it was not decided by the reader who made the corresponding report.
Zeno Cosini Comes to Spain 125

Reports and other observations:

It is a novel based on the techniques of psychoanalysis in which the protagonist
describes a life that is continuously pivoting on moral ground. There is an abundance
of lascivious passages and the novel as a whole exhibits a complete lack of will and
judgment on behalf of the protagonist, however, given the humorous tone in which it
is written and bearing in mind that the idea is not to propose, but simply to describe
the protagonist’s behavior, the reader believes that it could be authorized with the
omissions stated on pages 168, 175, 183, 191, 193, 199, 200–205, 210, 220, 226–227, 240,
251–255, 276, 315, 318, 336, 337, 378, 385, 386, 389 and 399 (General Administration
Archive, File 1901, Catalogue Number 21/11056).

This report, compiled in the censorship file 1901, Catalogue Number

21/11056, dates back to 1956 and is accompanied by a copy of the novel in
Italian in which the censor marks out the omissions, as well as the set of
galley proofs that Seix-Barral sent to the Book Inspectorate with the cor-
responding amendments.
Although the publishing house Seix-Barral went on to make the rel-
evant corrections, it decided to maintain the paragraphs on pages 183, 199,
210, 227, 385 and 399. For this reason, the Book Inspectorate responded to
the publishing house refusing them permission to publish the novel as of
5 October 1955. Another letter from the publisher to the Book Inspectorate,
dated 1 November 1955, is included below in which a request to keep the
last three paragraphs of the novel for the following reasons was made:
Insofar as the ethical aspect of the issue is concerned, we would like to point out
how the anthropological biologism reported in the final paragraphs – in an order
of pure literary fiction– does not appear to dogmatically exclude the possibility of a
spiritual conception, but in reality self-recants by ironically reaching negative con-
clusions (General Administration Archive, File 1901, Catalogue Number 21/11056).

The Book Inspectorate did not respond to this missive but the follow-
ing comment, handwritten with a pen, is added to the file corresponding
to the novel: ‘The omissions from the following pages were not carried
out: 183, 191, 210, 227, 385, 399’. It can be gathered from this comment
that the requests of Seix-Barral were addressed, at least in part. Finally, on
21 November 1955, permission to publish the novel was granted.
In the file allocated to the translation by José María Velloso, the original
typed translation and a copy of the Italian edition are included (Firenze:
126 José Luis Aja Sánchez

Dall’Oglio, 1947). The pages indicated make reference to the original Italian
edition, which is marked in red in the noted contexts.10
The passages marked in red from the original Italian edition have been
checked against José María Velloso’s translation published by Seix-Barral in
1956 in order to verify if they were indeed removed from the final version
and, in particular, to establish a taxonomy that could help to rebuild, as
much as possible, the reasons that led to the omission of these extracts. The
publication faithfully complies with the content of the aforementioned
File 1901, therefore we decided to categorize the possible reasons that pro-
voked the censorship of the referenced passages. The results are as follows:
– Explicit presence of adultery. Expression of sensuality: pp. 167–168,
174–175, 183, 191, 200, 202, 210, 220, 226, 227, 385–386, 389, 398–399.
– Indirect references to adultery and to infidelity: pp. 251, 275–276, 315,
318, 336, 337.
– Justifying adultery and sexual desire as a liberating emotional strategy:
pp. 175, 193, 199, 201–202, 204–205, 240–241, 241, 255.
– Attacking dogma: p. 378 (reference to natural selection and Darwinism).

Analysis of the censored extracts

explicit presence of adultery, expression of sensuality

Adultery and romantic relationships powerfully capture the attention

of the censor, who does not condone the enthusiasm with which Zeno
devotes himself to his lover:

10 The fact that the censor carried out the work on the novel in the original language was
not a rare occurrence and, according to Barral (1982: 137), decisively conditioned the
type of ideological control that was to be exercised on the work: ‘I already pointed
out that the choice of language in which the original work was submitted had foresee-
able consequences. In fact, Latin languages rally intransigence on issues concerning
morality, good customs and religious orthodoxy; they call for Jesuit hypocrisy, cleri-
cal narrow-mindedness. Germanic languages provoked political dogmatism […]. The
border at the time was so strict that I remember having sent the Italian translation by
Feltrinelli of the Max Frisch novel, Homo Faber, but to no avail, and instead, after
having obtained the approval, sending the original German version with no omissions.’
Zeno Cosini Comes to Spain 127

Pensai irritato ch’essa volesse ch’io corressi a comperarle tutte quelle cose, solo per
procurarle l’occupazione che prediligeva. [Non dimostrai dell’ira, grazie al cielo
obbeddii alla voce del dovere che grida: ‘accarezza la fanciulla che si abbandonò a
te’]. (Svevo, 1947: 202)11

[Irritated, I thought that she wanted me to go out and buy all of those things imme-
diately, just to provide her with her favourite occupation. [I didn’t show any signs of
anger, thank God, and I obeyed the voice of duty that was shouting: caress the girl
that has given herself to you!]

There are many contexts similar to that mentioned above in which a simple
reference to the sexual act and adultery disappear in the first version by
Seix-Barral in line with the laws on censorship (pp. 210, 220, 240–241).
The explicit reference to the female body and the object of sexual
desire also shocked the censor, who in turn demanded that passages like
the following be omitted:
Forse non parlai della mia virtù perché nel penisero io tradivo sempre Augusta [e
anche ora, parlando col Copler, con un fremito di desiderio, pensai a tutte le donne
che per lei trascuravo. Pensai alle donne che correvano le vie, tutte coperte, e delle
quali perciò gli organi sessuali secondari divenivano tanto importanti mentre dalla
donna che si possedeva scomparivano come se il possesso li avesse atrofizzati. (Svevo,
1947: 167–168)

[Maybe I didn’t speak about my virtue because through thought I was still betraying
Augusta [and even then, when talking to Copler, with a shiver of desire, I thought
about all of the women I was missing out on because of her. I thought about the
women who were walking down the street, all covered up, which made their sexual
organs seem so important, whereas in the case of one’s own woman they disappeared,
as if possession had made them wither away.]

Something similar happens with the direct remarks about sexual encounters
between the lovers. Carla, who feels insecure about Zeno’s feelings, wants
to spend an entire night with him, which she sees as a defiance of his lawful
wife, Augusta, and thus the most indisputable proof of love. All references
in this chapter concerning this issue also sparked outrage in the censor and
as a result were prohibited (Svevo, 1947: 200, 226, 227).

11 Quotes are from the Italian edition stored in File 1901, Catalogue Number 21/11056
(La coscienza di Zeno. Firenze: Dall’Oglio, 1947). The quote is accompanied by the
censored extract in the original translation. The censored extracts are between brackets.
128 José Luis Aja Sánchez

Within this section, special mention should be made of an extract

omitted from the last chapter of the novel, ‘La psico-analisi’, where Zeno,
now an old man, feels attracted to a young country woman who is taking
a walk around the outskirts of Trieste. The description of the young wom-
an’s body is loaded with sensual connotations, to which a quote from The
Decameron on the fragile virtue of young women should be added. It is the
longest omission required by the censor (Svevo, 1947: 385–386, 398–399).

indirect references to adultery and to infidelity

It seems that the censor was not satisfied with removing explicit references to
the body and to Zeno’s actual relationships given that the thoughts and dreams
of the suffering protagonist were also penalized. At an early stage, Zeno felt
attracted to Ada Malfenti, the sister of his wife, Augusta. This was a case of
unrequited love. The marriage to Augusta was virtually a family imposition
and a strategy to climb the social ladder. These circumstances led to several
ambiguous situations between Ada and Zeno which angered the censor:
Poi mi strinse la mano per congedarsi e mi ringraziò. Sorridendo traverso le lac-
rime, disse che sapeva di poter contare su di me. [Il sorriso mi piacque perché certa-
mente non era rivolto al cognato, ma a chi era legato a lei da vincoli segreti]. (Svevo,
1947: 337).

[Then she gave me her hand to say goodbye and she thanked me. Smiling through
tears, she said that she was sure that could count on me. [That smile pleased me,
because, surely, it was not aimed her brother-in-law, but rather at someone who was
joined to her through secret bonds.]]

Zeno had a professional rivalry with his partner, Guido Speier, who in the
end married Ada Malfenti. Guido was the lover of Carmen, the secretary
who worked alongside Zeno in the family business. Zeno’s imagination
ran wild until he made this reflection:
Non posso fare a meno di confessarlo: meglio che con Carmen non avrei potuto
rimpiazzare l’amante che io avevo perduta, quella fanciulla tanto poco comprom-
ettente che non mi aveva chiesto altro che il permesso di vivermi accanto finché non
domandò quello di non vedermi più. Un’amante in due è l’amante meno comprom-
ettente. Certamente allora non avevo chiarite tanto bene le mie idee, ma le sentivo e
adesso le so. Divenendo l’amante di Carmen io avrei fatto il bene di Ada e non avrei
Zeno Cosini Comes to Spain 129

danneggiato di troppo Augusta. Ambedue sarebbero state tradite molto meno che
se Guido ed io avessimo avuto una donna intera per ciascuno. (Svevo, 1947: 276)

[I have no choice but to confess it: I couldn’t find anybody better than Carmen to
replace the lover I had lost, a girl who was so undemanding that she had only asked
me for one thing: permission to live by my side, until she asked me for permission
to not see me anymore. A shared lover is the least compromising of lovers. It is true
that in that moment I was totally sure about my ideas but that was what I felt: now
I am sure of it. If I became Carmen’s lover that would benefit Ada and would not
hurt Augusta too much. The betrayal of both women would have been less than if
Guido and I each had a different lover.]

The censor’s obsession with both adulterous relationships led to the omis-
sion of two other similar extracts (Svevo, 1947: 251 and 378).

justifying adultery and sexual desire as a liberating

emotional strategy

In these last two sections, the ideological reasons which clashed with the
ideals of national Catholicism that prevailed during the Franco period
will be studied. The deleted passages prompted the censor to believe, as
we saw in the aforementioned report, that there was an indirect attack on
religious dogma, which critically triggered the act of censorship. Justifying
adultery was undoubtedly one of the main moral obstacles for the censor.
The construction of a complex psychological reality in which Zeno exists
collides with the moralistic exemplariness that literature at the time had to
convey to the reader in extremely sensitive material concerning the Church
and Christian marriage. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that statements
such as the following particularly caught the censor’s attention:

Prima di essere mia, Carla doveva sapere che Augusta col suo carattere e anche con
la sua salute (avrei potuto spendere molte parole per spiegare quello ch’io intendessi
per salute ciò che avrebbe anche servito ad educare Carla) aveva saputo conquistare
il mio rispetto, ma anche il mio amore. (Svevo, 1947:199)

[Before becoming mine, Carla should know that Augusta, with her character and
also with her health (I would have needed many words to explain what I understood
by health, something which would also have helped to educate Carla), had been able
gain my respect, but also my love.]
130 José Luis Aja Sánchez

The censor could not tolerate the fact that the lover and lawful wife appeared
on the same footing, nor Zeno’s guilt complex when, upon leaving Carla,
he declares: quando penso a lei arrossisco d’averla compresa e amata tanto
male [When I think of her, I blush for having understood and loved her so
badly] (Svevo, 1947: 193). The last paragraph of the chapter, where Zeno
reflects on how Carla contributed to his life, is also completely removed
(ibid.: 255). Perhaps even the fact that Carla was appreciative of Augusta’s
virtues through the love she had for Zeno would not be praised by the
moral values of the censor.
Another ideological factor that considerably incited the act of cen-
sorship is the fact that Zeno does not feel any remorse for his relationship
with Carla. The concept of sin should have been implicitly linked to the
guilt complex and the hope of redemption, a feeling that is entirely lacking
in Zeno’s confession.12In fact, on page 175 he asks himself: ‘Why did my
desire have to provoke remorse when it seemed to have arrived in time to
save me from the tedium that threatened me at that time? It didn’t harm
my relationship with Augusta: quite the opposite.’ There is a similar rea-
soning on pages 204–205 with the following telling claim: ‘Where would
there be a place in me for remorse, as I was heading so happily to meet my
legitimate wife? It was a long time since I had felt so pure.’

attacking dogma

The censor proposed to omit the novel’s last paragraph but it was saved
at the last minute by the reasons given by the publisher, Carlos Barral. Here,
the protagonist progresses from historically reflecting on his life to offering
a present tense narrative in which a harsh reality is revealed: Zeno is a sick
man, a living testimony of a sick society. The psychological problems that
the character described throughout the novel did not experience any kind

12 The traditionalist Spanish novel of the nineteenth century offers several exemplary
outcomes where adultery, a running theme in realism and naturalism, is analysed
from the perspective of Catholicism and the Church. This the case with Amalia in
El maestrante by Armando Palacio Valdés, who feels deep remorse for her behaviour
following the tragic final narrative in which her infidelity is revealed.
Zeno Cosini Comes to Spain 131

of relief, neither through the therapies offered by psychiatry nor through

the experiences of psychoanalysis. This is the reason why Svevo wrote this
novel, which was conceived as the self-confession of the protagonist.
The censor intended to remove the last extract that starts with the fol-
lowing thought: Qualunque sforzo di darci la salute è vano’ [Any attempt
to achieve health is in vain] (Svevo, 1947: 398). This pessimistic determin-
ism excludes, a priori, a charitable influence from a redemptive God who
has mercy upon his creatures. Later Svevo describes the futility of human
ingenuity compared to the wisdom of nature, which is able to provide every
species with the necessary resources to adapt to the environment. Faced with
this sweeping reality, we find the mechanisms of man, which are imperfect
and useless: Ed è l’ordigno che crea la malattia con l’abbandono della legge
che fu su tutta la terra la creatrice. La legge del più forte sparì e perdemmo la
selezione salutare [And the instrument is what creates the disease through
the abandonment of the law, which was the creator all over the earth. The
survival of the fittest disappeared and healthy selection was lost] (Svevo,
1947: 399). A nod to Darwinian natural selection, which is ideologically
incompatible with religious dogma, is notable in these two sentences. This
determinism, which renders any form of divine intervention impossible, was
undoubtedly the reason whereby the censor decided to omit the paragraph.
Zeno concludes this excursus with a prophetic destruction of the world
by technology: a planetary catastrophe which will rid the world of disease
and turn the whole of humanity into cosmic material that will perpetually
roam the universe. This statement is openly contradictory of redemption
and eternal life, as it diminishes human life to a purely biological dimension
and excludes the spiritual aspects proposed by religious dogma.


This conclusion intends to assess the ideological and literary features that
characterize this translation of La coscienza di Zeno. The presence of eroti-
cism throughout the novel is in fact very scarce. The passages in which
132 José Luis Aja Sánchez

the encounters between Zeno and Carla are briefly described cannot be
labelled risqué and the references to the hair and nape of the young girl
are enveloped in idealism and frankness. The omission of these extracts,
undoubtedly motivated by the fact that they deal with an adulterous rela-
tionship, deprive the Spanish reader of some fairly insignificant elements
and do not specifically distort the overall reconstruction of the story in the
target culture. The omissions of references to adultery and the possibility
of Zeno sharing a lover with Guido are not particularly important and are
no obstacle to understanding the character.
On the contrary, the omitted passages in which the author justifies the
relationship with Carla and equates it with marriage from a psychological
perspective are indeed meaningful. The aim of the novel is to reflect on
Zeno’s disease, which is also the disease suffered by the society in which
we live. This reality is depicted via a stream of consciousness, defined by
Lunetta (1972: 119) as ‘like an apparently fortuitous and coincidental search
for the consciousness of being alive which, at the same time, is a defence
against the “lack of attributes”’. Zeno is a man without qualities, a kind
of ordinary anti-hero that years later will be discussed by authors such as
Joyce and Musil. The traumas caused by the relationship with his father,
which appear before the censored passages, are not only useful to get an
idea of the character’s psyche but also to chronicle the society in which
he lived, ‘even as a controversy in relation generally more accepted bour-
geois values: an enterprising nature, cynicism, pragmatism, and practical
activism: all of which are values that are aimed, above all, at economic
consolidation’ (ibid.).
Social climbing, which is dramatically depicted in Una vita, is an
act of hypocrisy that is ironically outlined in La coscienza di Zeno. Zeno’s
sarcastic view of the world is juxtaposed with the failure of Alfonso Nitti,
the protagonist of Una vita, which concludes with a suicide. Zeno man-
ages to address the demands imposed by society to achieve success, among
which we find marriage. The fact that he lives with Augusta is, in some
way, a sham considering that adultery plays an institutional role which is
complementary to the marital relationship (ibid.: 124), which cannot be
fathomed by the censor. Zeno exceeded Alfonso Nitti, his predecessor in
Una vita, however the measures taken drove him to a toxic life in which
Zeno Cosini Comes to Spain 133

his relationship with his father and with married life led to neurosis. Thus,
the novel becomes a liberating and cathartic speech in which free expres-
sion of desire is a fundamental strategy. The censor was evidently unable to
grasp the therapeutic nature of this story; therefore, the omissions deprive
Spanish readers of this important and inferred dimension to the novel.
Censorship also went too far in the case of the last scene, which was
saved at the last minute by a letter sent by Carlos Barral to the Directorate
General for Books. The references to Darwinism that appear in this con-
text can be interpreted as the author’s stance against the Church and the
dogma of faith. However, they are mere child’s play if we compare them to
statements regarding religion appearing at other points of the novel which
were not omitted through censorship. For example:
Al mistero della morte io ci penso ogni giorno, ma non ero ancora in grado di dargli
[a mio padre] le informazioni ch’egli domandava. Per fargli piacere inventai la fede
più lieta nel nostro futuro.
−Io credo che sopravviva il piacere, perché il dolore non è più necessario. La dis-
soluzione potrebbe ricordare il piacere sessuale. Certo sarà accompagnata dal senso
della felicità e del riposo visto che la ricomposizione è tanto faticosa. La dissoluzione
dovrrebb’essere il premio della vita! (Svevo, 1947: 48).

[Every day I think about the mystery of death, but I still could not give him [my
father] the information he asked me for. I invented the blindest faith in the future
just so that he would feel better.
I believe that pleasure survives, because pain is no longer necessary. Dissolution
could remind of us sexual pleasure. Of course, it will be accompanied by a feeling
of happiness and rest, given that recomposing is so tiring. Dissolution should be
the prize of life!]

Zeno only uses this reasoning to console his dying father. However, it is in
clear defence of the Freudian pleasure principle that appears surreptitiously
in other parts of the novel. He also questions the idea of transcendence
and eternal life. The reference to natural law also appears in the following
context in which biological determinism appears to be placed, once again,
in higher regard than God’s will: la compagna che si sceglie rinnoverà, peg-
giorando o migliorando, la propia razza nei figli, ma madre natura che questo
vuole …’ [The chosen companion, for better or worse, will renew the race
through children, this is what Mother Nature wants …] (Svevo, 1947: 70).
134 José Luis Aja Sánchez

This study has sought to verify several aspects which frequently occur
in the study of censored translations:

– Firstly, the impartiality and arbitrariness of censorship.13 These exam-

ples come from two chapters, La morte di mio padre [The death of my
father] and La storia del mio matrimonio [The story of my marriage],
respectively, which certainly did not arouse the interest of the censor,
who perhaps thought that nothing reprehensible could be hidden under
these titles. It is difficult to believe that this content, which involves a
head-on collision with religious dogma, went unnoticed by the watch-
ful eye of censorship. Nor does it seem clear that the prohibition of the
aforementioned Argentinian version was based on a careful reading of the
text as the pages of the book stored under File 19/0653 were untouched.
– The effectiveness of thematic taxonomies regularly applied to censor-
ship, which could only be used when the publications addressed any of
the following issues: politics, religion and sexual morality, as well as in
the use of jargon and vulgarisms (Merino, 2000; Santaemilia, 2008).
– This first translation of La coscienza di Zeno was published in 1956,
a period in which the act of censorship displayed its most iron-fisted
principles.14 Given the nature of the novel, it is likely that its publication
would have obtained the nihil obstat of censorship without any kind of
modification if the edition had been released a decade later.

In conclusion, the story of La coscienza di Zeno in Spain began thanks

to the brave initiative of the publisher, Carlos Barral, who unflinchingly
took a gamble on and committed to an author who was unknown in Spain
and only moderately valued in his home country. Spanish readers in 1956
could partially reconstruct the psychological complexity of Zeno via this

13 In this regard, see Craig (1998: 160–161), who reflects on the inconsistency with
which censorship was used, often partial or incomplete. Likewise, Barral (1982: 139)
discusses ‘the arbitrariness and the ludicrous disposition of resolutions’ which were
‘a constant bane’.
14 ‘Franco’s censorship can be divided into two distinct periods: a severe autocratic
period from 1938 to 1966, and an apparently more lenient period from 1966 to 1978’
(Linder, 2004: 258). With regard to the periods of censorship, see Merino (2000).
Zeno Cosini Comes to Spain 135

censored edition, which did not achieve the dissemination that it deserved
as a result of the intense pressure of the aesthetic canon that prevailed in
Spain during that era. The cultural system of Francoist Spain was still not
ready to accept the arrival of new authors not only for ideological reasons,
given that the presence of a single mind-set in religious and ideological
matters hindered progression in this sense, but also due to the conservative
nature of the canon, which took a long time to validate the merits of clas-
sics via two basic channels: their critical presence and their study within
the university context (Lefevere, 1992). As pointed out at the beginning
of the chapter, it took a long time for Svevo to take the place he deserved
within the literary tradition of the twentieth century, even in his own
country. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the dissemination of his
work in Spain was limited. Later re-editions of the second translation of
the novel, written by Carlos Manzano, clearly indicate this change in ten-
dency, which peaked with a new translation of the work as late as 2004. It
is clear that in 1982 the publishing house Bruguera knew how to seize the
opportunity or kairós, following Berman’s (1990: 6–7) terminology, and
used Manzano’s translation to publish a new censorship-free translation of
the novel, that would be the first comprehensive edition of the work.15 The
interest in the author can also be seen in the case of Senilità. The publishing
house Acantilado recovered the translation made by Carmen Martín Gaite
in 2001 and the publishing house Gadir decided to add a new translation
of the novel to its catalogue in 2008. The shorter novels also had new edi-
tions from many publishing houses (Gadir, Funambulista, to name but a
few), as well as their essays (Páginas de Espuma), not only because of the
freedom to disseminate a quality contemporary classic, but also under the

15 Authorization to publish the novel is lodged under File 12112, Catalogue Number
73/07713 in the General Administration Archive. The translation by Manzano has
been corroborated by comparing the censored extracts in the Seix-Barral version. All
these extracts are included in the 1982 version published by Bruguera. It would be
interesting to assess the corrected and revised work which was carried out on later
editions of this translation (Dolfi, 1985: 67), as well as their connection to subsequent
retranslations of the novel by Mercedes Rodríguez Fierro and Attilio Dabini (the
latter recovers the old 1953 Argentinian version and introduces it to the contempo-
rary Spanish market).
136 José Luis Aja Sánchez

protection of an important shift in the legal framework: the fact that Svevo
has become a copyright-exempt author.16
The censored translation that has been studied partially fulfils its
role of disseminating culture and knowledge. It is clear that the transla-
tor complied with his professional duty to fully and competently convey
the content of the original text in the target language. However, a series
of external factors prevented this work from being released in its entirety.
A censored edition is not acceptable in this day and age but it is clear
that there was no other possible translation in 1956. An analysis of the
extracts omitted helps us to gain an understanding of the text’s status as a
historical document and to reconstruct the intellectual climate prevalent
in Spain at the time, as well as defending the work of José María Velloso
and Carlos Barral who unquestionably contributed to the dissemination
of Italo Svevo in Spain.


Primary references

Archivo General de la Administración, Expediente número 190653, Signatura 21/0427

Archivo General de la Administración, Expediente 1901, Signatura 21/11056 (1956).
Svevo, I. (1947). La coscienza di Zeno. Firenze: Dall’Oglio.

16 The removal of copyright and the entry into the public domain is one of the main
reasons why old translations have been revised and published. A substantial legal
and economic shift also has an impact on the reproduction of the work, and there-
fore editors do not hesitate to seize the opportunity to retranslate pieces of work
that deserve fresh versions. In this regard, see Hermans (2007: 61–62) or Berman
(2011: 66).
Zeno Cosini Comes to Spain 137

Secondary references

Barral, C. (1928). Los años sin excusa (Memorias II). Madrid: Alianza.
Berman, A. (1990). ‘La retraduction comme espace de la traduction’, Retraduire.
Palimpsestes, 4, 1–7.
Carotenuto, C. (2003). ‘Teoria e prassi della traduzione. Analisi testuale di Seni-
lità’tradotto da Carmen Martín Gaite’. In C. Gubert (ed.), Frammenti
di Europa. Rivista di autori e traduttori del Novecento, 147–180. Pesaro:
Contini, G. (1985). ‘Introduzione’. In I. Svevo, La coscienza di Zeno, VII–XVIII.
Milano: Garzanti.
Craig, I. (1998). ‘Translation and the authoritarian regime. William end the Caudillo’.
In P. Bush and K. Malmkjaer (eds), Rimbaud’s Rainbow. Literary Translation in
Higher Education, 157–169. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
De Aizpuru, G., A. I. Fernández, P. Montero, C. M. Murciano, G. Musicco, P. Orlando,
S. Del Río and L. Valiente (1988). ‘De “Senilità” a “Senectud”: traducción-
metamorfosis de un texto’. In V. González Martín (ed.), El siglo XIX italiano.
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José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez

5 The Six Lives of Celestine: Octave Mirbeau

and the Spanish Translations of Le Journal d’une
femme de chambre (Chapters I and II)

The six translations of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre published in Spain – the first one
in 1901 and the last one in 1993 – offer readers different visions of an original text dictated
by the evolution of the sociological and cultural context that informed it. This chapter
tries to rediscover the identity of the translators and to reflect on their role as historical
subjects in order to reconstruct their link with the aesthetic and ideological canon of the
target culture. The reception of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre, which was clearly con-
ditioned by the demands of the Spanish publishing market, has posed the need to design
a methodological tool to carry out the study of the translations from a historical point of
view. The chapter gathers and describes the different translations of the novel published
in Spain in order to make a contrastive study of the different versions and establish future
research possibilities that could allow us to examine in greater depth the reception of Le
Journal d’une femme de chambre in Spain.

The translations of Octave Mirbeau in Spain

The aim of this paper is to analyse the Spanish reception of Le Journal

d’une femme de chambre, written by Octave Mirbeau in 1900, as well as to
reflect upon the different versions of the novel that have been written in our
country over the course of the twentieth century. Le Journal d’une femme
de chambre was chosen for this study based on quantitative criteria, given
that it is the work by this author which has been most frequently translated
into Spanish. We have reached this conclusion after an exhaustive process
of documentary research in which all the translations of Octave Mirbeau
140 José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez

published in Spain were compiled. The tool used to create this compilation
was based on the following sources of information:
– Index Translationum
– Digital collections of the National Library of Spain
– ISBN database
We have compared this data with an article written by Pierre Michel and
published in the Dictionnaire Octave Mirbeau,1 in which the reception of
Mirbeau in Spain is analysed. We have also observed the author’s entry in the
Diccionario histórico de la traducción en España (Bermúdez, 2009). The result
of this first phase of research has been summarized and included in Table 5.1.
Table 5.1:  Works by Octave Mirbeau and its Spanish translations

Works by Octave Mirbeau Spanish translations

Le Calvaire (1886) El calvario (1930). The translator’s name is not
L’Abbé Jules (1888) El Abate Julio (n. d.). Translated by Soledad
Sébastien Roch (1890) Sebastián Roch (1901). Translated by Félix Azzati
Dans le ciel (1892–1893) En el cielo (2006). Translated by Daniel Attala
Mémoire pour un avocat (1894) Carta a un abogado (2013). Translated by Blas Parra
Le Jardín des supplices (1899) El jardín de los suplicios (1899)
– Translated by Ana María Aznar (1977)
– Translated by R. Sempau y de C. Sos (1984)
– Translated by Pedro Banvides and Luis Miguel
Guerra (1989)
– Translated by Carlos Cámara and Miguel Ángel
Fontán (2010)
Le Journal d’une femme de Six translations analysed in Section 2
chambre (1900)

1 <http://mirbeau.asso.fr/dicomirbeau/index.php?option=com_glossary&id=594>
accessed 26 December 2015.
The Six Lives of Celestine 141

Les Affaires sont les affaires Los negocios son los negocios (2000). Translation by
(1903) Jaume Melendres
La 628-E8 (1907) El 628–E8. Un viaje en automóvil (2007).
Collective translation coordinated by the
University of Cadiz
Les Mémoires de mon ami Memoria de Georges el amargado, 1 translation
(1920) (2009). Translated by Josep Maria Todó

As can be seen in Table 5.1, the reception of Mirbeau in Hispanic America

has not been included in this chapter. It is true that numerous translations
published in Mexico and Argentina were circulating around the Spanish
publishing market for many years, notably between 1940 and 1970. However,
we are aware that these translations emerged from different cultural systems
and therefore do not represent the political and historical backdrop that
significantly predetermines the nature of a cultural product such as literature:

Translations are facts of target cultures: on occasion facts of a special status, sometimes
even constituting identifiable (sub)systems of their own, but of the target culture in
any event. (Toury, 1995: 29)

As shown in the table, the high number of translations recorded for Le

Journal d’une femme de chamber (six in total), is an indicator of the interest
shown in the book by Spanish publishers and Spanish readers. Therefore,
we have focused our analysis on exploring the nature of these translations.
The first question we have formulated is the following: Are six transla-
tions necessary for the same novel? Why such a high number? Is there any
link between them? It is equally remarkable to note the enormous time
gap between the first translation, published in 1901, and the last transla-
tion, published in 1993. What similarities and differences can be identified
between the two editions which were published practically a century apart?
Another important methodological issue is the method of analysis.
We understand from Bensimon (1990: IX, our translation):2

2 From now on, all of the translations of quotes are by the authors unless stated
142 José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez

Every translation is historic and every retranslation too. Neither of them are separable
from culture, ideology or literature, in a given society and a given moment in his-
tory. Like translating, retranslating is both an individual act and a cultural practice.

Therefore, what would be the best way to historically approach the six
Spanish versions of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre? From a textual
perspective or rather, as Bensimon states, from a cultural, historical or
ideological approach?
This debate, which has accompanied the historical study of transla-
tions for many years, is well reflected in an article by Lépinette (1997: 5)
in which two possible methodological approaches to the historical study
of translation are documented: a socio-cultural model, ‘which takes the
context into consideration […] at the time of production and reception’
and a descriptive-contrastive model that ‘focuses on the options chosen
by the translators of a target text or a series of target texts corresponding
to the same source text’.
The socio-cultural model requires consideration of ‘all of the phe-
nomena that accompany the production of a text or a set of translated
texts and their appearance in the target socio-cultural context’, defined by
Lépinette (ibid.: 4) as a ‘peritext’. This is an analytical model that opts for a
sociological approach to the text, which we have taken into account when
analysing the political, historical, canonical and editorial factors which
have shaped the different versions of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre
that we have analysed.3
In order to conduct this study, we decided to adopt a methodologi-
cal compromise between both stances. We are aware that literature and
translation constitute a system in which the author/translator and the
surrounding context merge, and that this system ‘consists both of texts
and human agents who read, write and rewrite texts’ (Lefevere, 1992: 12).
We wanted to avoid a simple textual analysis, which is a frequent flaw in

3 In this regard, we take a look at the proposal from Wolf (2007) regarding the sociol-
ogy of agents that influence the translation process, as well as the sociology of the
cultural product, which reflects upon the recipient, the demands of the reader and
upon the aesthetic canon.
The Six Lives of Celestine 143

many studies and one which Gambier (2011) warns us about. Therefore,
it must not become the decisive criteria when studying the meaning of
a translation, but instead must be supported by macroanalytical factors.
Irrespective of the above, we did not want to overlook it given that in the
words of Gambier (ibid.: 62) himself:
Two translators who work on the same source text choose determined strategies and
take options that may be different: the editor, undoubtedly, may impose his or her
demands (e.g. translating into a prose a text that is in verse, not translating proper
names, etc.), but on a microstructural level a series of decisions are taken that make
each translation a unique re-statement: the choice of words with a certain sound, the
way of translating cultural elements (transcription, loanwords, calques, explanation,
comment,, neologism), the way of reproducing the rhythm, sociolectal and idiolectal
variations, references to other statements (interdiscursive dialogue), the translational
treatment of quotes, the subtext, the subtext (i.e. allusions, implicit references which
are taken for granted), punctuation and the order in which the information is pre-
sented, make each statement a unique re-statement.

The relationship established between the translations analysed and the origi-
nal must be measured by acceptability criteria. We will consider whether or
not the different versions analysed are acceptable in the cultural systems they
form part of (Toury, 2004: 114), therefore the analysis follows contextual
and relational criteria more than quality assessments of the final product.
We are aware that a work on the Spanish reception of a classic such
as Le Journal d’une femme de chambre should be interpreted as a recovery
of the historical identity often denied to translators. In this regard, Pym
(1998: 13) has highlighted:
The central object of historical knowledge should not be the text of the translation,
nor its contextual system, nor even its linguistic features. The central object should
be the human translator, since only humans have the kind of responsibility appro-
priate to social causation.

This persuasive argument, frequently documented in modern Translation

Studies, has led us to reflect upon the professional careers of translators
whose works have been studied in this chapter. In this regard, the work by
Lafarga and Pegenaute (2009) has proven helpful, even though we have
contrasted this information with other ‘archaeological’ works, following
144 José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez

the terminology of Pym (1998: 20), without forgetting that ‘archaeology

and historical criticism are mostly concerned with individual facts and
texts’ (ibid.: 21). In any case, and in spite of having received help from
several translation associations, we have gathered very little information
on the career dynamics of the translators, partly due to the time that has
passed since their works were published. This data has allowed us to par-
tially reconstruct the translator’s relationship with the era and with the
cultural and ideological framework of the historical period in which they
lived, as well as their possible ideological affinity with Le Journal d’une
femme de chambre.

Editions of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre in Spain

The first translation of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre (1901)

The first translation of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre in Spain dates

back to 1901 and was made by Augusto Riera and Ramón Sempau. This
first version, which marked the beginning of its publishing history in Spain,
emerged with the title: Memorias de una doncella. It is a complete edition of
the novel and was published in Barcelona by the publishing house Maucci.
The book enjoyed considerable success and was reprinted at least four
times. For the analysis of this translation, we have used the third edition
for which no publication date is given.4This version by Augusto Riera and
Ramón Sempau remained in print for a remarkably long time and there are
reports of a last reprint in 1947, which we have been unable to access. Ramón
Sempau was a lawyer and a journalist whose ideological beliefs were linked
to anarchism and were reflected in his essay El capitán Dreyfus. Un proceso
célebre [Captain Dreyfus. The famous trial] (1903). Thus, there are clear
signs of a certain cultural affinity between the translator and the French

4 According to the opinions of several booksellers we consulted, this third edition

could be from between 1910 and 1920.
The Six Lives of Celestine 145

social context in which Le Journal d’une femme de chambre was written,

as well as an identification with the maverick spirit of Octave Mirbeau.
Henceforth, this version will be referred to as TT1.

The second translation of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre (1925)

The second translation of the novel was published in Madrid by the pub-
lishing house Flérida as part of a collection of bold and romantic novels
gathered under the telling title ‘La novela exquisita’ [The exquisite novel].
The copy we used for our analysis is undated, although we know that it
was published in 1925 according to its file status in the electronic catalogue
of the National Library of Spain. This version of the novel, illustrated by
Mirko, is a shortened version, indicated as such by the title which appears
in the first chapter: ‘Del diario de una doncella’ [From the diary of a cham-
bermaid] (italics ours). Thus, the novel went on to have 190 pages instead
of the 288 in the Maucci edition. The edition does not mention the trans-
lator’s name, nor have we found any documentary evidence of the authors
of this translation. The novel was jointly published with another work by
J. de Valedmar, Una señorita bien [A refined young lady]. Henceforth, we
will refer to this translation as TT2.
In our view, it is possible to rule out the suggestion made by Pierre
Michel who, in his article in the Dictionnaire Octave Mirbeau, which was
intended to describe the reception of the author in Spain, indicated that the
brevity of this edition of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre was perhaps
due to censorship. We need only compare the first two chapters of TT2
with the previous version to realize that the omissions were intended to
eliminate descriptions loaded with ideological and sociological connota-
tions that are fundamental in order to understand all of the dimensions
of Mirbeau’s novel. In the first chapter, the first two sections are missing,
those in which Celestine recalls how she got her new job. This means,
therefore, that the novel begins with one of the frequent digressions that
define Celestine’s monologue: the famous incident with the boots. There
is no mention of the habits of the Lanlaire couple in TT2, although we
do witness the first flirtations between Celestine and the gentleman of the
146 José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez

house. In the second chapter, Celestine’s digressions regarding her previous

jobs are left incomplete, even though we can read a lurid confession about
the sexual habits of madame, as well as being allowed to deduce, several
lines further down, that she feels sexually attracted to her chambermaid.
In both chapters, therefore, the most controversial excerpts have been
translated from a sexually moral perspective, one of the most common
motivations behind censorship alongside political discourse, profanity or
attacks on religious institutions.5 It is for this reason that we believe that
TT2 is not a censored edition, merely a shortened one. It is clear that the
skopos of T2 becomes the predominant translation criterion. The aim of this
edition is to please a reader who is interested in the plot lines of romantic
novels, which were perhaps somewhat daring in the prevailing moral climate
of that era, and is not particularly concerned about the literary quality or
the ideological background of the work. TT2 is a commonly published
piece from the first decades of the twentieth century, and therefore it is
essential to interpret this translation with the sensitivity imposed on us by
the predominant social and cultural system of that era (Hermans, 2007).
The approach to T2 compels us to consider this translation as a cultural
product and to reflect upon the publishing reality at the turn of the twen-
tieth century in order to understand its true dimension and scope (Venuti,
1995; Koskinen and Paloposki, 2003; Wolf, 2007).
In any case, a series of questions habitually emerge throughout the
study of the manipulated translations. Who summarized the novel’s con-
tent? The translator himself or herself ? The editor? In the case of an anony-
mous translation, even more questions arise concerning the authorship of
the final piece. In this case, the impact of editorial factors on the translation
process of TT2 is clear and has been highlighted, on many occasions, as a
determining factor to understand the end result. TT2 would, therefore, be
an example of what Pym calls active translation: it was published not long
after TT1 and its distribution period coincides with the time was present

5 Regarding the main reasons for censorship, see Craig (1998: 160) and Merino
(2000:134) among others. We do not regard TT2 as a censored version and so we
will not dwell on the place of censorship as an essential component of the cultural
system that characterizes the target language.
The Six Lives of Celestine 147

in the editorial catalogue. However, the skopos of the edition varies given
that it adheres to a cultural make-up which is different to that of TT1.
Therefore, it constitutes a different work (Pym, 1998: 82). According to
the terminology proposed by Gambier (2011: 64), we are faced with an
exogenetic translation that depends on the manifestations and needs of
the publishing market.
Although the differences with TT1 are obvious, a comparison of both
translations leads us to believe that TT2 is clearly indebted to the ver-
sion made by the first translators of the novel, Augusto Riera and Ramón

Monsieur n’est rien chez lui … moins que les domestiques, pourtant durement traités,
moins que le chat à qui on permet tout … Elle [Madame] a des roueries de vieux
comptable, des indélicatesses d’huissier véreux, des combinaisons géniales d’usurier …
(JFC, II, 65).
El señorito no es nada en su casa, menos que los criados,—à quienes se trata tan
mal—, menos que el gato, a quien todo le está permitido … […] Ella [la señora]
inventa jugarretas de mercader, diabluras de abogado trapalón, combinaciones
geniales de usurero (TT1, II, 30)
[The master is nothing at home, less than the servants, – whom he treats so badly –,
less than the cat who can do whatever it wants … […] She [the lady] is a wind-up
merchant who plans swindling lawyer mischief, great money-lender combinations]
(translated from TT1, II, 30).
El señor no es nada en su casa, menos que los criados, no obstante, el mal trato que se
nos da; menos aún que el gato, a quien todo le está permitido … […]. Ella [la señora]
tiene marrullerías de mercader viejo, indelicadezas de escribano trapalón, geniales
jugarretas de usurero (TT2, II, 27)
[The master is nothing at home, less than the servants, not forgetting how he
mistreats us; less than the cat who can do whatever it wants … […]. She [the lady]
takes part in old merchant dodgy dealings, tactless trickery of deceitful notaries, great
money-lender tricks (translated from TT2, II, 27).
148 José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez

The parallelism between TT1 and TT2 leads us to conclude think that the
translator of TT2 was familiar with the first Spanish version of the novel,
although the lack of specific details about the connection between previ-
ously published translations and subsequent retranslations prevents us from
reaching a categorical conclusion thereon. We could consider TT2 as a link
in the chain of translations which demonstrate the reception of Le Journal
d’une femme de chambre in Spain, although the numerous textual matches
between both versions leads us to believe that, following the terminology
proposed by Gambier (1994: 413), TT2 is more a revised version of TT1
than a retranslation. In this sense, it is also significant that the Diccionario
histórico de la traducción en España (Lafarga and Pegenaute, 2009) does
not include this edition in the interesting entry dedicated to the reception
of Octave Mirbeau in Spain, which confirms our suspicion that TT2 is not
a new translation of the novel.

The third translation of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre

According to Pierre Michel, the third Spanish translation (TT3) of Le

Journal d’une femme de chambre was published in 1966, ‘in Madrid by
E. D. A. F., in large volume of the collection “El Arco de Eros” entitled
Historias galantes [Erotic Stories], which also includes The Satyricon by
Petronius, The Heptameron by Marguerite of Navarre and The Lives of
Fair and Gallant Ladies by Brantôme’.6 We have consulted the volume
Historias galantes from the collection Al arco de Eros, which appeared in
1966 and Memorias de una doncella is not included. Nor does Bermúdez
(2009) include this translation in her article on the reception of Mirbeau
in Spain, which leads us to believe that this information is inaccurate.
Instead, we believe that the aforementioned version was perhaps published
in Argentina or does not correspond to the date given by Pierre Michel. In
any case, it would have been a key factor in our analysis, given that it would
have allowed us to analyse a translation that, for various reasons already

6 <http://mirbeau.asso.fr/dicomirbeau/index.php?option=com_glossary&id=594>
accessed 26 December 2015.
The Six Lives of Celestine 149

mentioned, would have struggled to successfully overcome the obstacles

imposed by Francoist censorship.

The fourth and fifth translations of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre

The fourth translation of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre in Spain

(henceforth, TT4) is characterized by a change of title compared to pre-
vious editions: Diario de una camarera. The replacement of journal for
diario preserves the spirit of this work; the internal structure of which is
an intimate diary. The translation was made by Julio Crescencio Acerete, a
writer and film critic who also had a notable career as a translator. He was
particularly active from the 1960s to the 1980s and translated many classics
both from French literature (Hugo, Dumas, Flaubert, Stendhal, Balzac,
Verne and D’Aurevilly, to name but a few) as well as English literature
(namely Dickens, James and Crane). He worked regularly for Bruguera,
who published many of his translations of Dostoyevsky, possibly using
French as the bridge language. Acerete also wrote a short introduction to
the novel and a timeline that summarizes the biographical and professional
background of Octave Mirbeau.
The translation of Julio Crescencio Acerete, Diario de una camarera,
was published for the first time in Barcelona (Bruguera, 1974) and has
been reprinted several times in the popular collection called Libro Amigo
which, along with Alianza Editorial’s paperback editions and the Austral
de Espasa-Calpe collection, was one of the main tools for the dissemina-
tion of classics used by the Spanish publishing sector during the first years
of democracy.
It is worth noting the huge time gap between the first translation
of the novel in 1901 and the second, which was published in 1974. It is
clear that time is one of the significant factors in the retranslation of clas-
sics. However, in this case historical and political questions reduced the
frequency of retranslation of this novel in Spain. The editor’s foreword,
which appears on page 6 of TT4, explicitly states that Bruguera’s version is
a full translation of the original novel: this is a clear testimony to the great
influence that censorship still exerted over authors, translators and readers.
150 José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez

It is likely that Spanish readers would probably have seen Le Journal d’une
femme de chambre as an anti-Francoist ideological reference not so much
because of Octave Mirbeau, whose cultural presence in Spain was never
particularly strong, but rather due to Luis Buñuel’s screen version of the
book, shot in France in 1964. Buñuel’s numerous brushes with censorship,
particularly after the release of movies such as L’Âge d’or (1930) or Viridiana
(1961), were undoubtedly better known by the general public (Sánchez
Vidal, 1991: 142, 226–229).
The fifth translation of the novel (TT5) is mentioned by Bermúdez
(2009: 795) in her aforementioned article. We refer to the version pub-
lished in Barcelona in 1977 by the publishing house Aymá. We confirm the
suspicions expressed by Bermúdez, according to whom this edition may,
in fact, have been the movie script. We have verified this assumption by
consulting a copy of this version which, in fact, is part of the Voz e Imagen
collection of the same publishing house. The collection aimed to provide
Spanish readers from that era with scripts from the main movies which in
those days were called ‘arthouse cinema’. We have decided to include this
‘translation’ in this chapter as it represented an undeniable cultural endorse-
ment of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre in Spain. Furthermore, we
must not forget that movie releases can prove to be a crucial factor in the
decision to retranslate a piece of work (Monti, 2011: 19). The contrastive
analysis of the script with the original and with the other translations of
the novel is of considerable historical and cultural interest and a question
that we would like to explore in more depth in future research.

The sixth translation of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre

The sixth translation (TT6) was made by María Dolores Fernández Lladó,
a secondary school teacher and translator. Among her other translations,
we can highlight Germinie Lacerteux, by the Goncourt brothers, as well
as Andromaque y Phèdre by Racine. TT6 was published in the Universal
Classics collection by Ediciones Cátedra in 1993 and, to this day, no re-edited
version has come to light. It is an annotated version with an introduction
written by the translator herself. We would like to emphasize the importance
of this fact. Gambier (2011) has stressed the informational value of forewords
The Six Lives of Celestine 151

written by translators. These testimonies offer valuable interpretative keys

to understand both the first versions of the work as well as several criteria
which were adopted by the translator when writing his or her version.
In this regard, Dolores Fernández Lladó’s introduction, in which she
reflects upon the numerous textual variations of the original, is particu-
larly interesting. This variation is a common characteristic of nineteenth-
century novels, which first appeared in journals from that period (La Revue
blanche in the case of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre). In many cases,
the subsequent reception of the novels was somewhat chaotic due to their
publishing success. The rigour and reliability of the source text is an aspect
which is often neglected by the translator, even though the working cri-
teria inherent to the contemporary praxis of translation requires a previ-
ous analysis of the textual reality, particularly in the case of classics. The
establishment of a definitive text in the original language is an excellent
reason to carry out a retranslation (Monti, 2011) and, in the case of this
analysis, has provided us with an important piece of information: the only
edition considered conclusive by French critics is the version published by
Fasquelle in 1900, which had the author’s approval and is the text used by
this translator to produce her Spanish version. We have noted that Michel
(2003: 13) shares this opinion in the preface to his edition of Le Journal
d’une femme de chambre, published by the Octave Mirbeau Society and
nowadays deemed the canonical text. This information enables us to define
the type of textual relationship established between the French original and
the different versions analysed. Furthermore, it also helps us to understand
the variations present in the different translations as an additional element
of the historical reception of the text in Spain, a reception which in no
small measure is due to the textual vicissitudes of the original version in
French. Once more, therefore, historical and sociocultural criteria prove
to be the necessary tools for analysis.
TT6 also presents another interesting line of research: the presence of
cultural footnotes, which are characteristic of all classics published in the
Letras Universales collection by Cátedra, and which are used to facilitate the
interpretation of classic texts for non-specialist readers. The notes by Dolores
Fernández Lladó do not strictly refer to problems in the translation process,
but rather serve as historical evidence of the translator’s presence in the work
and provide important information about the skopos of TT6, as well as about
152 José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez

the possible relationship of TT6 with the other translations of Le Journal

d’une femme de chambre in Spain, in the past, present and in the future.

Proposal for a contrastive textual analysis

From the previous analysis, we may conclude that a contrastive textual

analysis of the translations described above should focus on TT1, TT4
and TT6, the only full versions of the original work. After reading the
three versions, we decided to approach our analysis by following the
two most suitable strategies to create a balance between the different

1) The transmission of narrative orality and the pragmatic approach to

Celestine’s discourse.
2) Stylistic intensification strategies.

The transmission of narrative orality and the pragmatic approach to

Celestine’s discourse

Le Journal d’une femme de chambre is a sociological portrayal of fin de

siècle France in which Mirbeau abandons the characteristics of conven-
tional fiction. In order to do so, he replaces the omniscient narrator,
often found in the literature of Balzac and Zola, with the first person. As
such, the reader is presented with the soliloquy of Celestine, a chamber-
maid who retells her experiences of working life through a mechanism
of recollections and digressions which divides the main action into many
The subjectivity chosen by the author is complemented by the use of
an intermediate register, halfway between colloquialism and formal lan-
guage which is, undoubtedly, one of the main challenges when translating
the novel.
Celestine’s confidential tone may be seen to be conceptually linked
to communicative immediacy (Koch and Oesterreicher, 2007) or, in the
words of Chafe (1985: 105), to ‘involvement’ due to the linguistic register
The Six Lives of Celestine 153

used, which is rich in colloquial turns of phrase and which effectively

reflects the socio-cultural level of a chambermaid.
Therefore, we find a monologue in which clear echoes of oral language
are found. The concept of literary orality presents a medial dichotomy,7
which imposes a set of particular resources that reflect the lack of planned
discourse and the immediacy inherent to this kind of language.
The following extract would undoubtedly be an example of this lack
of planned discourse:

−Ça n’est rien … c’est fini … Comprenez-moi, mon enfant … Je suis un peu maniaque …
À mon âge, cela est permis, n’est-ce pas? … Ainsi, tenez, par exemple je ne trouve
pas convenable qu’une femme cire ses bottines, à plus forte raison les miennes … Je
respecte beaucoup les femmes, Marie, et ne peux souffrir cela … C’est moi qui les cirerai
vos bottines … vos petites bottines, vos chères petites bottines … C’est moi qui les
entretiendrai … Écoutez bien… Chaque soir, avant de vous coucher, vous porterez vos
bottines dans ma chambre … vous les placerez près du lit, sur une petite table, et, tous
les matins, en venant ouvrir mes fenêtres … vous les reprendrez. (JDC, I, 46)
−No es nada … ha terminado … ¿Me entiende usted, hija mía? … Soy algo maniático …
Á mi edad se concibe; ¿no es cierto? A mí no me parece bien que una mujer limpie
sus botas, y menos las mías … Respeto muchísimo a las mujeres, María, y no podría
tolerarlo … Yo limpiaré sus botas, sus botitas, sus adorables botitas … Yo cuidaré de ellas
… Óigame bien… Cada noche, antes de acostarse, llevará usted sus botas á mi cuarto y
las colocará junto a la cama, en una mesita, y todas las mañanas, al abrir mi ventana, las
volverá usted á tomar… (TT1, I, 12)

[–It’s nothing … it’s done … Do you understand me, my child? … I’m a little bit
compulsive … At my age it’s okay; is that not the case? To me it doesn’t seem okay
that a woman cleans her boots, and certainly not mine … I have an awful lot of
respect for women, Maria, and I could not tolerate it … I will clean your boots, your
little boots, your adorable little boots … I will look after them … Listen carefully …
Every night, before you go to sleep, bring your boots to my room and place them
beside the bed, on the bedside table, and every morning, while opening my window,
you take them back … ] (translated from TT1, I, 12).

7 To highlight the medial differences on a visual and phonetic level, we refer to Koch
and Oesterreicher (2007).
154 José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez

−No es nada … Ya pasó todo. No debe asustarse, Marie. Debo confesar que soy un
viejo algo maniático …, pero confío en que usted sabrá comprender que, a mi edad,
eso es algo casi natural. ¿No es cierto? Por ejemplo, no puedo tolerar que las mujeres
limpien sus zapatos …, ¡y mucho menos los míos! Yo respeto de forma especial a
las mujeres, mi querida Marie, y no soporto una cosa así… Deberá dejarme, por
tanto, que yo me cuide de sus botines… Esa será mi tarea. Todas las noches, antes de
acostarse, deberá traer sus zapatos a mi habitación y los colocará cerca de mi cama,
sobre una mesita, pasando a recogerlos todas las mañanas, cuando venga a abrir las
ventanas … (TT4, 1, 34).

[–It’s nothing … It’s all done. You mustn’t be frightened, Marie. I must confess that
I’m an old compulsive man … , but I’m sure you’ll understand that at my age it is
natural. Is that not right? For example, I just can’t tolerate women cleaning their
shoes … and certainly not mine! I especially respect women, my dear Marie, and I
will not stand for something like that. This is why you must let me look after your
little boots … that’ll be my duty. Every night, before you go to sleep, you must bring
your shoes to my room and place them close to my bed, on a bedside table, and come
to collect them every morning when you come to open the windows … ] (translated
from TT4, 1, 34).
−No es nada …, ya pasó. Compréndalo, hija mía … Soy un poco maniático … A mi
edad es natural, ¿verdad? Vea un ejemplo: no me parece bien que una mujer tenga
que limpiarse ella misma sus botas y, por supuesto, menos aún las mías … Respeto
mucho a las mujeres, Marie, y eso no lo puedo tolerar. Seré yo quien lustre sus botines,
sus pequeños botines, sus queridos y diminutos botines … Yo me ocuparé de ellos …
Escuche bien … Por la noche, antes de acostarse, llevará sus botines a mi habitación,
los colocará al lado de la cama, en una mesita y, todas las mañanas, vendrá a recogerlos
(TT6, I. 47).

[–It’s nothing … , it’s done. Understand, my child … I am a little bit compulsive …

At my age it is natural, right? Here’s an example: it doesn’t seem right to me that a
woman cleans her boots herself and, obviously, certainly not mine … I respect women
a lot, Marie, and I cannot tolerate that. It will be me who polishes your boots, your
little boots, your cherished and teeny boots … I’ll take care of them … you hear me …
At night, before going to sleep, bring your boots to my room, place them beside the
bed, on a bedside table, and come to collect them every morning] (translated from
TT6, I. 47).
The Six Lives of Celestine 155

In this micro-story from the first chapter, Celestine recalls one of the strang-
est incidents experienced in her time working for Mr Rabour, a lonely and
libidinous old man with a fetish for her boots. This weakness proves fatal for
his health as Celestine, not long after starting to work in Mr Rabour’s house,
finds the old man dead in the bedroom, embracing the object of his desire.
It is not hard to understand the psychological effect that the boots
had on this extravagant landowner in Touraine. This scene is characterized
by emotional tension, which, from a linguistic perspective, is focused on
two visible narrative strategies:

– The use of ellipsis, which indicates the old man’s excitement.

– The anaphora based on ‘bottines’, which is repeated five times in seven

The translational approach to the term is an essential factor when trans-

mitting the emotional tension of the context. Therefore, the connotative
value of the accompanying adjectives, vos petites bottines, vos chères petites
bottines [your little boots, your dear little boots], is fundamental, as they
are composed of diminutive structures which aim to show the emotional
dimension of the object for Mr Rabour. Maintaining the illocutionary
force of the term is a key factor in transmitting the pragmatic importance
of the situation (Hatim and Mason, 1995: 103–104). It is also crucial to
portray the psychological reality of Mr Rabour and to properly develop
the fictional world of the characters of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre
(with regard to the psychological factors which create the conversational
process, see also Sperber and Wilson, 1986: 41–43).
TT1 and TT6 provide the reader with an effective rendering of these
factors which express the distress of Mr Rabour (sus botas, sus botitas, sus
adorables botitas in TT1; sus botines, sus pequeños botines, sus queridos y
diminutos botines in TT6). Once again, TT4 departs from the illocution-
ary structure of the text, opting for a strategy which is perhaps related to
hypercorrection. In order to avoid repetition of the term, which he per-
haps considered a stylistic oversight, Julio Crescencio Acerete chooses to
use synonyms (zapato vs. botines), and reduces the emotional charge of
the scene by removing the adjectives that effectively accompany bottines
in the French original.
156 José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez

The anaphora used by Mirbeau is a recurring element which is neces-

sary for the construction of the story (Hatim and Mason, 1995: 252), and
which all translators must be aware of so as to not alter the pragmatic world
of the story. TT4 also departs from the original and from TT1 and TT6
with regard to the use of ellipsis, which is a crucial graphical element used
to visualize the deferred orality which expresses Mr Rabour’s anxiety and
which is used for pragmatic purposes.

Stylistic intensification strategies

The style of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre is based on the expressive

needs set by Celestine’s confession, features of which have already been
defined in the previous chapter. The differences noted in the three transla-
tions have led us to conduct a micro-analytical study from the perspective
of the school of equivalence, in which we have considered the connotative
and denotative elements of the language used by the authors, as well as their
referential value (Nida, 1964; Hatim and Mason, 1995).
The following example adequately illustrates the stylistic treatment
of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre, presenting the different strategies
chosen by the translators on a lexical and syntactical level:

Mais cela ne fait rien … Il ne me déplaît pas … Dans sa vulgarité même, il dégage je ne
sais quoi de puissant … et aussi une odeur de mâle … un fumet de fauve, pénétrant et
chaud … qui ne m’est pas désagréable (JFC, I, 56).
Pero no le hace … no me disgusta. De su misma vulgaridad se desprende yo no sé qué
de viril … y también un olor á macho … un tufo de fiera, penetrante y cálido … y que
no me desagrada (TT1, I, 22).

[But he doesn’t do it … he doesn’t displease me. From the very same vulgarity, he gives
off something virile that I can’t put my finger on … and also a macho odor … a pong
of beast, pungent and warm … and it doesn’t displease me (translated from
TT1, I, 22).
The Six Lives of Celestine 157

[…] aunque debo confesar que no me disgusta, pues a pesar de su vulgaridad hay algo
que emana de él; un cierto olor varonil, cálido y penetrante, que me agrada mucho
(TT4, I, 44).

[ … although I must admit that he doesn’t displease me, considering that in spite of
his vulgarity, there is something that emanates from him; a certain male odor, warm
and pungent, which I find very pleasing] (translated from TT4, I, 44).
No me disgusta. En medio de su vulgaridad exhala no sé qué efluvio de poder …, y
también un aroma masculino, un olor a fiera penetrante y cálido … que no me resulta
desagradable (TT6, I, 58).

[He doesn’t displease me. In the midst of his vulgarity he gives off an effluvium
of power that I can’t put my finger on … , and also a masculine odor, a warm and
pungent smell of beast … which is not unpleasant] (translated from TT6, I, 58).

The change of register in TT4 is evident. The connotations concerning the

more primitive and savage side of Mr Lanlaire seem softened in Acerete’s
translation: odeur de mâle → olor varonil [male smell] (compared to aroma
masculine [masculine aroma] in TT6 and an effective olor a macho [smell
of a man] in TT1). Je ne sais quoi [I don’t know what]is an expression that
nudges the text in a colloquial direction and could be seen as another exam-
ple of the simple register used by Celestine. This point has been taken into
account in TT1 and in TT6 but not in TT4, which opts for the translation
as hay algo [there is something].
In this context, the change in syntactic planning in TT4 is striking.
Compared to the juxtaposition of the original and the separation of
clauses using ellipsis, TT4 organizes the discourse by using a concessive
adverbial subordinate clause which is linked to the previous clause. As a
result of this tactic, the length of this discourse calls for a change in punc-
tuation, and therefore the succession of juxtaposed sentences is shortened
using a semicolon, as well as with a new clause. The result is a long and
elegant structure that is not particularly consistent with Celestine’s mono-
logue, and one which also has a pragmatic impact on how the discourse is
158 José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez


This study of the reception of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre in Spain,8

as well its translations and retranslations, leads us to draw the following
general conclusions:

1) The results obtained from our analysis allow us to verify that all of the
principles proposed by Berman (1990) in his hypotheses on retransla-
tion can be universally applied. It is clear that the first translation of
the novel paved the way for the retranslations, since all translations
are unique and there are as many translations as there are translators.
Nevertheless, the journey towards the target text and towards the for-
eignized translation is not a result of the historical evolution of the
translations studied. The concept of orality, as well as the syntactic
and textual planning of TT1, is more in-keeping with the culture and
the intention of the original French language text than the other ver-
sions we analysed. It is clear that, to quote Gambier (2011: 57), we
cannot understand the history of translation as ‘a linear chronological
2) The overview of the translations allowed us to analyse their historical,
social and cultural framework, a framework conditioned by aesthet-
ics and by the translational strategies adopted, as well as the by the
importance of publishing house policies, which dictate the spirit of an
era and set the standards concerning the nature of translation (Venuti,
1995; Wolf, 2007). Criteria related to the book’s readability and chang-
ing perceptions regarding linguistic register (Gambier, 2011) are the

8 We carried out a thorough analsyis and comparison of the different versions offered
by TT1, TT4 and TT6 of the first two chapters of Le Journal d’une femme de cham-
bre. We selected and discussed a crucial number of examples in which the reception
of the discourse experienced significant changes in its pragmatic nature, which are
linked to different criteria for the transmission of orality. Likewise, we found several
contexts in which the stylistic intensification strategies are evident. Due to lack of
space, we have only been able to include two important cases.
The Six Lives of Celestine 159

reasons for embarking on a retranslation and justify the stylistic and

communicative choices of TT4 and TT6.
3) It is indisputable that historical and political factors significantly influ-
enced the circulation of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre in Spain.
The enormous time gap between the first translation of the novel,
published in 1901, and the second genuine translation, published in
1974, can only be explained in polysystemic terms. In other words, the
delay was due to the specific context of Spain at that time, a country
which was subject to Francoist censorship. Although we do not have
explicit proof of its direct impact on the translation of the novel, the
fact the book was not republished for such a long time was clearly due
to its contents.
4) The ageing of a text is a recurring argument when discussing transla-
tion and retranslation (Berman, 1990; Ladmiral, 2011; Gambier, 2011),
and is usually considered to be a good reason to provide contemporary
readers with an updated version of the work through a new transla-
tion, which may or may not take into account the previous edition.
TT1 successfully renders the pauses, exclamations and enjambments
of the monologue, as well as the irony and double entendres which
frequently appear in the novel. Paraphrasing Berman (1990: 2–3), we
could say that it achieves a strategy of systematicity and becomes a
point of union between the source language and the target language.
Consequently, we might ask: what are the reasons for this ageing? We
believe that there are three reasons:
– Linguistic evolution. The use of certain exclamations and expres-
sions (¡Bravísimo! [Very well done!], ¡Quita allá! [No way?!], ¡A
fe mía! [That’s my belief !], ¡Voto al chápiro! [Darn it!], ¡Vaya! [Oh
my!]), as well as certain lexical uses (grosura [fat] = tocino [blubber];
mancebía [brothel] = burdel [whorehouse]) sounds distant and
rather peculiar to contemporary readers. On a morphological level,
we can find several archaic verb forms (Como yo no respondiese [As I
didn’t respond]), and the same could be said regarding syntax: the
use of hyperbaton creates a word order which nowadays is difficult
to reconcile with the kind of informal speech used by Celestine (En
tanto que hablaba, sus párpados se movían, se movían como hojas que
160 José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez

la tormenta agita [As soon as she spoke, her eyelids moved, they
moved like leaves shaken by a storm]). Other questions such as the
accentuation of monosyllables, the use of enclitic words (Heme
aquí [Here I am]) or the translation of proper names (Celestina,
José, Isidoro, Eufrasia) respond to the publishing norms of 1900
and could easily have been modernized. Nonetheless:

Translation does not really age, nor does the language in which it has been
written; it is our contemporary use of language that has distanced itself
from the translation, making the text seem antiquated to us. (Ladmiral,
2011: 38)

– The fact that it has not become a canonical translation. This could
be due to the dissemination of this novel, which has never reached
the status of a genuinely universal classic, and the linguistic nature
of the novel itself. The register used by Celestine has undoubtedly
evolved faster than the register used in other works from the same
era, and therefore it is relatively easy for a translation to become
– The fact that its translators, Augusto Riera and Ramón Sempau,
are not renowned literary translators.

5) The analysis of TT4 leads us to three basic conclusions concerning the

retranslation processes:
– Berman (1990: 6) states that all retranslations emerge in a certain
historical moment: the kairós or the favourable circumstances.
This principle, which is not always applicable, is clearly fulfilled
in this version: Julio Crescencio Acerete seized the opportunity
in that historical moment to offer Spanish readers a comprehen-
sive edition of the novel after the dictatorship of Franco, seventy-
three years after the 1901 version, which was followed by a series
of reprints which, as we have already established, were not always
complete. The length of time that elapsed between the first trans-
lation of the work and the retranslation was considerable, which
makes us question the acceptability of TT1 for readers from the
The Six Lives of Celestine 161

– Our textual analysis has demonstrated that, in the historical evo-

lution of the retranslations of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre,
this version stands out due to the tone and style chosen by Julio
Crescencio Acerete. The structural changes and the syntactic and
pragmatic transformation in relation to the original can be consid-
ered as the translator’s acceptance of the aesthetic canon. Acerete’s
elegant prose provides moments of true literary pleasure, although
it is clear that it loses touch somewhat with the original spirit of the
novel. Thus, Acerete embodies the model of a translator in accord-
ance with the canon, whereas Augusto Riera and Ramón Sempau
can be said to represent the opposing model: that of innovative
translators who create tendencies:
While the contemporary original literature might go on developing new
norms and models, translated literature adheres to norms which have been
rejected either recently or long before by the (newly) established center.
It no longer maintains positive correlations with original writing. (Even-
Zohar, 1990: 48–49)

The reception of TT4 can only be understood, therefore, in polysystemic

terms. The demands made by a reader in those times were not the same as
those of a modern reader, one more accustomed to less stereotypical language
and more open to stylistic ruptures and, in this case, imprecise language,
the conversational ‘noise’ of a chambermaid who recounts her life in her
own words. Thus, Julio Crescencio Acerete, makes a ‘pact’ with the canon.
– The inconsistencies in the planning processes, such as the lack
of respect for anaphora or the sometimes babbling nature of the
chambermaid’s discourse, are the Achilles heel of TT4, ‘because the
lack of textual coherence is often the major cause of the weakness
of a translation’ (Wuilmart, 2011: 263). According to Wuilmart, the
translator’s ability lies in knowing how to reproduce a tendency
and resisting the temptation of beauty and passing trends.
6) The appearance of TT6 has its own kairos, that is, it appeared at a time
when publishing criteria were more demanding in terms of establishing
the original text. In line with Berman’s (1990: 5–6) theories about the
162 José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez

retranslation processes, we could also state that this edition emerges

from défaillance: the dissatisfaction felt by readers of the editions in
the target language encouraged this retranslation in 1993. The inter-
pretation of TT1 was regarded as anachronic and the interpretation of
TT4 as a rhetorical and an unsatisfactory text due to numerous textual
variations and digressions in comparison with the canonical French
edition.9 There was still a need for a translation that could recreate the
spontaneity and lack of planning in Celestine’s speech and which also
offered a rigorous text for Spanish readers. TT6 has filled this gap. Its
translator manages to restore the colloquial tone of the novel which
was lost in TT4. She is also extremely careful to maintain the repeti-
tions and inaccuracies of Celestine and resists the temptation to try to
improve the style which was common in the past. Therefore, we can
regard TT6 as a thoroughly modern translation.10However, Dolores
Fernández Lladó does not always transmit the precarious nature of the
monologue, represented by the use of ellipsis and interjections, which
are sometimes either eliminated or turned into complete sentences.

7) The latest version of Le Journal d’une femme de chambre that we have

analysed is not the last link in the chain, as translation is a process of
hermeneutic recreation.11 The translator manages to understand the

9 The textual differences between TT4 and the other two translations analysed are
plentiful. The information provided by María Dolores Fernández Lladó in the editor’s
note of TT6 reveals the presence of many variations in the different French editions
of the novel. As a result, this leads us to suspect that Julio Crescencio Acerete used an
edition which would currently not be considered final and would, therefore, include
significant changes. We have been unable to locate the translator to find out which
edition he used as a source text.
10 Many theorists who have addressed the topic of translation incorporate the criti-
cal spirit and textual accuracy inherent to many modern translations (Monti, 2011;
Ladmiral, 2011; Gambier, 2011).
11 Translation as a hermeneutic process sees the text in the target language as a reflec-
tion of the original, a hereditary connection with Benjamin’s (1923:19–20) thoughts
regarding translation. Steiner (1992) reflects extensively upon history, tradition and
the hermeneutic process, three basic pillars around which literary translation revolves.
This risky process links translation to the creative process and irrevocably transforms
The Six Lives of Celestine 163

original and thus creates a special communicative relationship with

the author. The variations in this process generate different results
and, consequently, the urge to translate a certain work always remains
strong. Each translator believes they are capable of doing it better or,
at the very least, of doing it their own way (Ladmiral, 2011: 33–34).

We shall conclude these reflections on the versions of Le Journal d’une

femme de chambre with a statement that has been stressed repeatedly by
Toury (1995) and Even-Zohar (1990): each translation, regardless of the
boundaries of publishing requirements, canonical impositions or the
reader’s tastes, is the result of a historical period. Furthermore, due to the
intrinsically hermeneutical nature of the translation process, it is a unique
creation, an interpretation of a piece of music (Gambier, 2011: 62–63) that
does not end here and now but rather awaits new interpretations which
will set their own rhythm and establish their own relationship, both with
the original as well as with the prevailing culture. Regardless of their qual-
ity, they will be a unique act of interpretation that will provide Celestine
with new lives on her journey through Spain.


Primary references

french editions of le journal d’une femme de chambre

Mirbeau, O. (1984). Le Journal d’une femme de chambre. Édition présentée et annotée

par Noël Arnaud. Paris: Gallimard.

the relationship between the translated text and the original. A translation is an
independent piece of work that weaves its own interpretative networks with readers
in the target language by means of a process carried out by the translator.
164 José Luis Aja Sánchez and Nadia Rodríguez

Mirbeau, O. (2003). Le Journal d’une femme de chambre. Preface by Pierre Michel.

Paris: Editions du Boucher.

spanish editions of le journal d’une femme de chambre

Mirbeau, O. (1925). Memorias de una doncella. Translator’s name is not given. Madrid:
Flérida [date of publication according to the National Library of Spain in Madrid].
Mirbeau, O. (1974). Diario de una camarera. Introduction and translated by Julio C.
Acerete. Barcelona: Bruguera.
Mirbeau, O. (1977). Diario de una camarera. By Luis Buñuel. With texts by Marcel
Martin. Barcelona: Aymá, Colección voz imagen.
Mirbeau, O. (1991). Memorias de una doncella, 3rd edn. Translated by Augusto Riera
and Ramón Sempau. Barcelona: Maucci [first edition].
Mirbeau, O. (1993). Diario de una camarera. Introduction, translations and notes by
Dolores Fernández Lladó. Madrid: Cátedra.

Secondary references

Benjamin, W. (1923). ‘The task of the translator’, translated by Harry Zohn. In L. Venuti
(ed.) (2000), The Translation Studies Reader, 15–25. London: Routledge.
Bensimon, P. (1990). ‘Présentation’, Retraduire. Palimpsestes, 4, IX–XIII.
Berman, A. (1990). ‘La retraduction comme espace de la traduction’, Retraduire.
Palimpsestes, 4, 1–7.
Bermúdez, L. (2009). ‘Octave Mirbeau’. In F. Lafarga and L. Pegenaute (eds), Diccio-
nario histórico de la traducción en España. 795–796. Madrid: Gredos.
Chafe, W. L. (1985). ‘Linguistic differences produced by differences between speaking
and writing’. In D. Olson, N. Torrance and A. Hildyard (eds), Literacy, Language
and Learning: The Nature and Consequences of Reading and Writing, 105–123.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chesterman, A. (1997). Memes of Translation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
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part iii
Retranslation and Reception
Susanne M. Cadera

6 Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and its

Thirty-One Spanish Translations

This chapter aims to be a first approach to Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung [The
Metamorphosis] in Spain. Due to the extremely high number of Spanish translations
located, thirty-one different versions, the first question that arises is about the reception
that this work had since the publication of its first translation in 1925 up to the present day
in the Spanish culture system. In order to examine the text’s reception over the last ninety
years, background information such as mentions in newspapers from the different histori-
cal periods, book reviews or studies about this work and its translation etc. are examined
in addition to publication dates of the different translations. This methodology obeys
the contextual perspective of this volume. In addition, following a systemic perspective,
the relationship between the original source text and its different translations over time is
considered to be a reciprocal one. This circular relationship between the original and the
translated text helps us to understand the reception or appreciation of authors, their work
and even their culture. In this chapter investigating the editions of the thirty-one Spanish
translations of Kafka’s Die Verwandlung, I will start with a contextual focus analysing the
evolution or history of the translations in order to proceed to a systemic focus analysing
the reciprocal influence of this particular work.


In this chapter, the focus lies on the different translations and editions
of Die Verwandlung [The Metamorphosis] in Spain in order to analyse
the impact that this short novella1 had had and continues to have on the

1 The literary gender of Die Verwandlung is not very clear. In German, it is categorized
as Erzählung, which would be between a short story and a novel. Longer than a short
story and shorter than a novel in English language it is often categorized as a ‘novella’.
170 Susanne M. Cadera

Spanish culture system. Die Verwandlung, like other works by Kafka, has
been analysed and interpreted in many ways. There are more than 11,000
approaches to Kafka’s work – a sort of Deutungsflut [flood of interpreta-
tions] (Müller, 1994: 7–9) – and one could argue that there is nothing more
to say about it. However, studies from the last twenty-five years have tried
to draw attention to concrete aspects that can help to understand Kafka’s
work better, without offering only one valid interpretation (ibid.: 9–10).
Indeed, Kafka’s work offers so many reading possibilities that each reader has
to find his or her personal interpretation (La Rubia de Prado, 2002: 287).
The aim of the present chapter is not to analyse and interpret Die
Verwandlung once more.2 Nor does it seek to offer detailed microanalyses
comparing the original text with its different translations, as this would
be the subject of another and undoubtedly interesting study. Taking into
account the surprisingly large number of Spanish (re)translations, the
aim of this first approach to Die Verwandlung in Spain is to describe the
evolution of the different translations, the confusion about the authorship
of some versions, and the function of some special editions. According
to the theoretical and methodological framework of the present volume,
this analysis leads to the evaluation of the impact of translations in each
specific historical moment. In addition, in order to complete the study of
the reception of Die Verwandlung in Spain, literary studies and historical
newspaper articles have been consulted. As mentioned in the first chapter of
this volume, new translations of the same literary work can indicate histori-
cal, ideological, social and cultural changes, but they can also produce new
literary conceptions in the target culture if their impact has been important.
Following the systemic and contextual point of view of this volume, the
relationship between the original source text and its different translations
through time is a reciprocal, circular one. This circular relationship between
the original and the translated text helps us to understand the reception or
appreciation of authors, their work and even their culture. In this chapter

2 Research in German about Kafka’s life and literary work is compiled in the two
volumes of the Kafka-Handbuch (Binder, 1979). Recent research can be consulted
in Liebrand (2006). In English, see for example Hall and Lind (1970) or Duttlinger
Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and its Thirty-One Spanish Translations 171

investigating the editions of the thirty-one Spanish translations of Kafka’s

Die Verwandlung, I will start with a contextual focus analysing the evolu-
tion or history of the translations in order to proceed to a systemic focus
analysing the reciprocal influence of this particular work.

Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung: A brief history of its first


Written in 1912, Kafka’s Die Verwandlung was finally published in October

1915 in a German journal called Die Weißen Blätter. Between 1913 and 1921,
this journal published literary works by young contemporary authors as
well as essays on political and cultural issues. However, it was not easy
to publish the text. Kafka tried to publish Die Verwandlung first in the
publishing house Kurt Wolff Verlag, named after its founder and editor
who contacted Kafka in April 1913 requesting from him manuscripts for a
new series of contemporary avant-garde literature called Der Jüngste Tag
[The youngest day] (Unseld, 1984: 86–91). Kafka first sent the piece Der
Heizer [The Stoker] with the promise to send the copied manuscript of
Die Verwandlung soon. He also proposed that these two works should be
published along with Das Urteil [The Verdict] in a single volume, although
Das Urteil had already been published in 1913 by Kafka’s friend Max Brod
in the yearbook for literature, Arkadia, promoted by the publishing house
Rowohlt Verlag (Binder, 1979: 269). However, probably because of Wolff ’s
hurry to bring the new series to the market, he did not reply to Kafka’s
proposal and in the same month only published Der Heizer, as the third
volume of Der Jüngste Tag. Over the next two years, Kafka did not receive
any request to send the manuscript of Die Verwandlung to Kurt Wolff
Verlag. Meanwhile, the new editor of the literary journal Neue Rundschau,
Robert Musil, contacted Kafka asking him for a manuscript to publish.
Kafka finally sent Die Verwandlung, probably in March 1914. Although
the manuscript was accepted one month later, in July 1914, Kafka received
a request from Musil that the text should be shortened because it was
172 Susanne M. Cadera

too long to be published in the journal (Unseld, 1984: 91–97). However,

Kafka refused to shorten the novella and, after this negative experience,
in March 1915 he sent the manuscript to the journal Die Weißen Blätter,
also edited by Wolff. In reply, he received the same reply from the Neue
Rundschau: Die Verwandlung was too long to be published in one edi-
tion of the journal and the editorial board had decided to stop publishing
works in partial form in various volumes. It thus seems incomprehensible
that Die Verwandlung appeared suddenly in its entirety in October 1915 in
Die Weißen Blätter without Kafka being informed. The way in which the
work was finally published shows how policies and marketing strategies
often prevail in the publication process. The reason for this decision was
the imminent literary award, Fontane Preis, which was to be given to the
writer Carl Sternheim, who himself could not receive any money for the
prize because of his enormous private fortune. The idea was that Sternheim,
who admired Kafka’s work, should hand over the money to Kafka (ibid.:
102–104). Kurt Wolff, the editor of Die Weißen Blätter, who was conscious
of the need for publicity for his publishing house, offered Kafka the pub-
lication of Die Verwandlung in book form in the series Der Jüngste Tag,
immediately after its appearance in the journal. Die Verwandlung came out
on the market and was advertised in the press, just before the presentation
of the Fontane Preis in December 1915. Its success was guaranteed and Die
Verwandlung was subsequently reprinted in 1916 and 1918 (ibid.: 109).

The Spanish translations

With this specific term, I refer to the translations published in Spain from a
diachronic perspective. The translations into Spanish which were published
in Latin America are therefore not included, in line with the theoretical and
methodological framework of this volume which focuses on retranslations
in a specific socio-historical context which, in the case of this chapter, is
Spain since the beginning of the twentieth century. The thesis that there is
a reciprocal influence between the target text and the target culture leads
Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and its Thirty-One Spanish Translations 173

us to reconsider retranslations in their specific socio-historical period of

time wherein different agents always interact: translators, editors and pub-
lishing houses are inevitably conditioned by the social historical, cultural
and aesthetic movements that characterize the period in which the text is
retranslated. Translations can also influence the target culture, thus lead-
ing to the adoption of new aesthetic and literary devices, genres or styles
etc., whereas retranslations indicate a certain impact on the target culture
and, therefore, are mostly related to the reception of a particular work in
a specific time and place. For this reason, the Spanish translations of Die
Verwandlung published in Latin America will not be included, although
the text has exerted a notable influence on Latin American authors and
intellectuals and the considerable number of translations and retranslations
published in Mexico, Argentina or Chile prove this influence. Although
some of these translations did actually reach Spain or were even republished
there, the socio-historical and cultural background of the translators of
these versions would have been quite different to that of their counterparts
in Spain. At certain times in recent history, Latin American culture and
literature have been much more influenced by French, Anglo-American
or German authors than by the literature produced in Spain. The so-called
‘Boom’ of Latin American literature during the 1960s is a notable example
of the creation of new literary devices combining indigenous tradition and
thought with the European literary tradition. In my view, Die Verwandlung
is a prototypical case of a work that exerted this kind of influence on Latin
American literature (for example, in the case of some of Julio Cortázar’s
short stories). On the contrary, at this same time in history, Spain was
emerging from a dictatorship characterized by strict literary censorship and
access to foreign literature was necessarily much more limited. As stated
previously, this chapter will focus expressly on the Spanish translations, as I
believe that an analysis of the Latin American translations of Kakfa’s work
would be the proper subject of another independent study. Therefore, in
the present chapter, I will only include the translation attributed to Jorge
Luis Borges since it was also published in Spain as well as in Argentina and,
as we will see later, it has a very peculiar background story.
With its thirty-one Spanish translations located in the framework
of the RETRADES research project, Kafka’s Die Verwandlung could be
174 Susanne M. Cadera

considered to be one of the most retranslated and re-edited foreign short

novels or novellas of the twentieth century in Spain. Maybe because of the
difficulties and laborious tasks involved in locating and registering all of
these translations, this great number is not mentioned in any of the studies
about the translations or the reception of Kafka’s work.
The translations have been found following our established research
method in order to locate firstly the earliest translation, that introduced the
literary work in the target culture, and secondly its retranslations, where dif-
ferent databases, catalogues and search engines are explored. As mentioned
previously in this volume, the starting point is always the World Bibliography
of Translation, Index Translationum, created in 1932. This database contains
up-to-date bibliographical information on books translated and published
in about 100 languages of the UNESCO Member States between 1979 and
2009, which can be consulted online.3 The references registered before 1979
can be found in the printed editions of the Index Translationum. In Spain,
it is available in the Biblioteca Nacional de España [The National Library
of Spain] in Madrid. In the case of Kafka, an author who wrote his work
between 1911 and 1924, the different volumes of the printed edition have
had to be consulted. The Index Translationum is one of the most useful
databases for historical translation research but its information has to be
completed by other search options because not all translations are always
registered. In addition, more recent translations, published after 2009 are
not yet available in the online catalogue. The next steps in order to complete
the initial information consists of searching for additional translations in
different Spanish library catalogues,4catalogues of Spanish publishing houses
and the revision of studies or critical works about the author and his work.
If we consult previous studies of the translations of Kafka’s Die
Verwandlung, none of them mention all of its Spanish translations and
most of them merely quote just a few translations or even contain inaccurate
information. If we assume that the existence of several retranslations clearly

3 <http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-URL_ID=7810&URL_DO=DO_
TOPIC&URL_ SECTION=201.html> accessed 7 June 2016.
4 In addition to the National Library of Spain, the online-catalogue REBUIN (Red
de Bibliotecas Universitarias Españolas), a network of all university and scientific
libraries in Spain, is also very useful.
Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and its Thirty-One Spanish Translations 175

suggests the influence and impact achieved by a literary work, the case of Die
Verwandlung’s role in the Spanish culture system through its translations
has been underestimated, at least in studies about its translations, as can be
observed by reference to the following bibliographical works in this field .
The Diccionario histórico de la traducción en España [Historical Dictionary
of Translation in Spain] edited by Lafarga and Pegenaute (2009) mentions five
translations into Spanish of Die Verwandlung. One of them is attributed to
Galo Sáez, whose name figures in the second edition of the first translation.
However, according to the information of the current editor of the publishing
house, Galo Sáez was probably the printer and not the translator (Pestaña,
1999). Melero (2005) quotes the first translation that was re-edited by dif-
ferent publishers and the existence of three more recent retranslations. The
Bibliografía selectiva de las traducciones de obras literarias del alemán al español
desde 1990 (2002) [Selective Bibliography of German Literary Work translated
into Spanish since 1990] only mentions the translation by Carlos Fortea edited
in 1998 (second edition) by the publishing house Debate in Madrid, while
there were another thirteen translations between 1990 and 2002.
The first Spanish translation of Kafka’s Die Verwandlung was published
in 1925 in the journal Revista de Occidente, founded by Ortega y Gasset,
ten years after the first publication of the original in the German journal
Weisse Blätter. In this first version, titled La metamorfosis, the name of the
translator does not appear. It was published in two parts, the first part in
volume 24 and the second in volume 25.5 This fact may be due to the length
of the text, which was, as mentioned before, the main problem when Kafka
tried to publish it in German journals, which used to publish short works
by young or unknown authors (Binder, 1979; Unseld, 1984). Twenty years
later, the Revista de Occidente re-edited this first translation in book form
within a special collection called Novelas extrañas [Strange novels]. The
translator was not mentioned in this edition. Due to the fact that in this
edition we can find the name of Galo Sáez, the translation was subsequently
attributed to him. However, as mentioned before, this assertion was later
rejected as the name coincides with that of the printer in charge of the

5 Melero (2005) and Pestaña (1999) state that La Metamorfosis was published in volume
18 and 19, but this is not the case.
176 Susanne M. Cadera

Revista de Occidente (Pestaña, 1999). There are some clues that might sug-
gest that the translator could have been Margarita Nelken (1896–1966),
a writer, politician and art critic whose parents were of German origin
(Pestaña, 1999; Melero, 2005; Lafarga and Pegenaute, 2009), but there is
no documental proof of this, because the archives of the journal Revista
de Occidente were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War (Pestaña, 1999).
In 1938, the publishing house Losada, in Buenos Aires, edited a book
entitled La metamorfosis y otros relatos [The Metamorphosis and Other
Stories] translated by the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. Borges’s
admiration for Kafka such as his activity as translator from English and
German into Spanish are well known, and maybe therefore nobody ques-
tioned the authorship of this translation. Authors such as Caeiro (1979)
or Calvo (2000) even attribute the anonymous translation, published in
1925 and 1945 by the Revista de Occidente, to Borges. The first suspicion
that Borges was neither responsible for this translation nor the translation
published in 1938 in Buenos Aires was aroused when Sorrentino (1997,
1998, 1999) analysed the language use of the translation. Specific linguis-
tic and lexical devices characteristic of the Spanish used in Spain and not
used in Argentina allow him to conclude that Borges never translated Die
Verwandlung. Borges himself later confirmed this thesis in an interview
with Sorrentino (1998: 11, my translation):6

Sorrentino: I seemed to notice in your version of Kafka’s Metamorphosis that you

differ from your usual style…
Borges: Well, that’s because I am not the author of the translation of that
text. […] That translation must be – I think because of some ele-
ments of expression – by a Spanish translator. What I did translate
were the other stories by Kafka that are in the same volume published
by Losada. But, to simplify – maybe because of merely typographi-
cal reasons – they decided to attribute the translation of the whole
volume to me, and they used a probably anonymous translation that
was already in circulation.

6 All translations are by the author unless stated otherwise.

Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and its Thirty-One Spanish Translations 177

The apparently new translation of Die Verwandlung that was included in an

edition with other stories that Borges had really translated is nothing less
than the first anonymous translation published in 1925 by the Revista de
Occidente. There are very few stylistic or lexical changes (Pestaña, 1999). In
addition to this illegitimate and astonishing publishing practice, the longev-
ity of the first translation is remarkable. Different publishers in Argentina
and Spain have re-edited the translation attributed to Borges during nearly
seventy years. The latest Argentinian edition dates from 2005 (Altaya) and
the latest Spanish one from 2000 (Planeta). Meanwhile, Alianza re-edited
the same anonymous original translation without attributing it to Borges
between 1966 and 1998. In 2011, Alianza published a revised version of
this first translation, and the fourth and latest edition dates from 2015.
In addition, other publishers included the translation in anthologies of
Kafka’s work, in bilingual editions or in editions with other stories. The
latest edition that we have found of the original anonymous translation
dates from 2005 (La metamorfosis. Informe para una academia. Madrid,
EDIMAT). Thus, we can conclude that this first translation has persisted
over eighty or even ninety years, including the revised version, in spite of
its anachronistic language style.
Taking into account that La metamorfosis attributed to Borges is the
first anonymous version and not a new translation, there are thirty-one dif-
ferent Spanish translations, thirty retranslations which have normally been
re-edited several times. In order to illustrate the enormous diversity of trans-
lations and editions, in the following table figures the translator, the title, the
publisher, the publishing place and the publishing period currently located.

Table 6.1 

Translator Title Publisher Place Date

TT1 Anonymous La metamorfosis Revista de Madrid 1925,
Occidente 1945
Madrid 1966–
Alianza 1998
Madrid 2011–
Alianza (revised 2015
178 Susanne M. Cadera

Translator Title Publisher Place Date

TT2 Kruger, R. La metamorfosis 7 Edaf Madrid 1975–
TT3 Fernández La metamorfosis Akal. Lengua y Madrid 1980–
Galiano, Pilar literatura 2009
TT4 Izquierdo, La metamorfosis Orbis, Seix Barcelona 1982–
Julio y otros relatos Barral, Orígen, 2003
TT5 Alarcón, Tina La metamorfosis8 Edimat libros Madrid 1983–
TT6 Rottner, Jordi La metamorfosis Teorema Barcelona 1983–
Edicomunicación 1986
TT7 Cóndor La metamorfosis Alba Madrid 1984–
Orduña, 1999
TT8 Moreno, La metamorfosis, Taifa Barcelona 1985
Tomás En la colonia
TT9 Camargo, La metamorfosis Cátedra Madrid 1985–
Ángeles y otros relatos 2009
El País Madrid 2002
TT10 Boluda, Alicia La metamorfosis Plaza Joven Madrid 1988
TT11 Salmerón, La metamorfosis Espasa-Calpe Madrid 1990–
Miguel y otros relatos de 2015
animales Planeta Barcelona 2000–
TT12 Laurent, La metamorfosis Edicomunicación Barcelona 1994–
Alberto 1999
TT13 Gauger, La metamorfosis Vicens-Vivens. Barcelona 1997–
Carmen y otros relatos Lengua y 2011

7 In the title of this edition, we can only find a reference to La metamorfosis but the
volume also includes La condena [The Verdict], La muralla china [The Chinese Wall],
Un experto del trapecio [A Trapeze Artist] and Un virtuoso del hambre [A Hunger
Artist]. In later editions, all of the stories are included in the title.
8 This includes Informe para una academia [Report for an Academy].
Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and its Thirty-One Spanish Translations 179

Translator Title Publisher Place Date

TT14 Fortea, Carlos La metamorfosis Mediterráneo Madrid 1997
Debate Madrid 1998
version with
developed by
José Hamad)
TT15 Dieterich, La metamorfosis Acento Madrid 1998
TT16 Solar, Juan La metamorfosis Galaxia Barcelona 1999
José del Gutenberg
TT17 Cugajo, La metamorfosis Jorge A. Mestas. Madrid 1999–
Martín Ediciones 2003
TT18 Berg, Ruth La metamorfosis Astri Barcelona 2000
TT19 González La metamorfosis Biblioteca Madrid 2000
García, José Nueva
TT20 Galvéz, Pedro La metamorfosis Bibliotex Madrid 2001
y otros relatos
TT21 Frodden, La metamorfosis Bayard Madrid 2003
TT22 Hernández La metamorfosis Siruela. Madrid 2001–
Arias, José y otros relatos Colección 2011
Rafael escolar de
TT23 Solar, Juan La Círculo de Barcelona 2003–
José del transformación9 lectores 2005
Delbolsillo Barcelona 2005–
TT24 Baldocchi, La metamorfosis Edebé Barcelona 2004

9 This translation can be considered a retranslation because Solar revised his first
translation and changed the title.
180 Susanne M. Cadera

Translator Title Publisher Place Date

TT25 Hidalgo La metamorfosis Akal (didactic Madrid 2005
Bayal, version)
TT26 Lorenzo, La Funambulista Madrid 2005
Guillermo transformación
TT27 San León La metamorfosis Castalia Madrid 2008
TT28 Fernández, La Navona Barcelona 2009–
Xandru transformación 2015
TT29 Camargo, La Cátedra Madrid 2011–
Ángeles transformación y 2014
y Bernd otros relatos10
TT30 Hernández, La metamorfosis NØrdicalibros Madrid 2015
TT31 Marsol, La metamorfosis Astro Rey Barcelona 2015

The reception of Kafka’s Die Verwandlung in Spain

Considering that the more retranslations there are of a text, the greater
its impact on the target culture will be, this allows us to study the recep-
tion which Die Verwandlung had and continues to have in Spain. Since
the so-called Konstanzer Schule [School of Konstanz] represented by the
philologists Wolfgang Iser, Hans Robert Jauß, Karlheinz Stierle and Rainer
Warning who developed Reception Theory in the late 1960s (Warning,
1994), the focus on the readership and how readers perceive a certain
literary work has been taken into account in literary studies. Separating

10 This translation can also be considered a retranslation because Camargo revised her
first translation with Kretzschmar and decided to change the title.
Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and its Thirty-One Spanish Translations 181

the focus from a merely hermeneutic point of view where interpretations

are found in the text itself, Reception Theory changes the paradigm, and
places the reader’s considerations at the centre of attention. Jauß (1967:
171) defends a new focus in the history of literature using reception as the
centre of interest. Reception theory is therefore principally used to study
the history of literary works through time and their impact on the read-
ership. It is not surprising that this focus is also of interest in Translation
Studies. Translation such as literature in its original language can cross
borders and can influence the target culture’s readers, even beyond the
literary text itself. Consequently, the receiver of a translated text plays
an active part in the reading and interpreting process (Enríquez Aranda,
2007). Reception in Translation Studies should first study the history of
translations (first translation, retranslations, re-editions) in order to inves-
tigate their impact from the first edition up to latest one. In addition, it
should study information about how those translations have been received
and interpreted. This aspect can be studied through literary studies or
critical works, newspaper articles, readership behaviour, importance in
the educational systems etc.
In the case of Die Verwandlung in Spain, the question arises as to why
there are thirty-one different translations. However, this question is difficult
to answer since there is not much information available about publishing
polices or decisions. Perhaps analysing and comparing all thirty-one trans-
lations could give us an idea about their differences and help us to come
to some conclusions about the evolution of those translations regarding
quality, exactness, language correction or new interpretations. This kind
of study, which would be really necessary for a complete understanding
of Die Verwandlung in Spain, would inevitably be too complex and too
long to be included in this chapter. The present chapter is a first approach
to the reception of Die Verwandlung in Spain considering the context
and time period of its translations as a methodological starting point in
order to assess the impact that the work had and continues to have on the
Spanish culture system. Reception will be analysed firstly through the
contextual situation of the retranslations, and secondly through specific
mentions of the text in newspapers published in the time periods of the
different retranslations.
182 Susanne M. Cadera

Reception through retranslation

Coming back to Die Verwandlung, the very fact that there are thirty-one
different published translations in the Iberian Peninsula indicates its enor-
mous impact. As shown in Table 6.1, during the last ninety years, Spanish
translations of Kafka’s Die Verwandlung have been published and repub-
lished almost continuously, which provides further evidence of its great
influence on Spanish culture. It is also remarkable that the work arrived
in Spain only ten years after its first publication in Germany, through its
1925 translation. In this epoch, contact between the two cultures was much
slower, above all when the author was not even very famous in German-
speaking countries. German literature tended to reach Spain during the
nineteenth century and even the first half of the twentieth century in
an indirect way, that is, via France, where German literature was usually
translated much earlier. Some authors (Pestaña, 1999; Melero, 2005) claim
that the first Spanish translation of Die Verwandlung was also inspired by
a former French translation. However, studies about Kafka’s reception in
France show that the first French translation of Die Verwandlung appeared
three years later, in 1928, in the journal Nouvelle Revue Française, translated
by Alexandre Vialatte who also translated Vor dem Gesetz [Before the Law],
Der Prozeß [The Trial] and Das Schloss [The Castle] during the period
before the Second World War (Gernig, 1999: 48–49). Thus, Kafka’s work
arrived first in Spain through its 1925 anonymous translation.
The largest period without any new editions or new translations
extended from the first and second edition of the anonymous translation
(1925–1945) and its re-edition in the sixties (1945–1966), coinciding partly
with Francisco Franco’s dictatorship (1939–1975). During this period, cen-
sorship prevailed over all texts originally written in Spanish and transla-
tions into Spanish scheduled for publication. The most common type of
censorship was the control exerted before publishing the texts for the first
time by submitting them ‘to boards of censors who decided which texts
were to be granted the publication license’ (Pegenaute, 1994: 88).
In 1945, the publishers of the Revista de Occidente submitted the trans-
lation of Kafka’s Die Verwandlung without indicating the name of the
translator to the censor. This is documented in the Archivo General de
Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and its Thirty-One Spanish Translations 183

la Administración (AGA) [General Administration Archive] located near

Madrid in Alcalá de Henares where all written, graphic, radio and cinema
documentation from the censorship period in Spain can be consulted.
José Ortega Spottorno, the editor of Revista de Occidente, presented La
metamorfosis on 12 February 1945 and applied for a print run of 3,000
copies. Only nine days later, on 21 February 1945, the censor authorized
the publication of the translation without any restrictions.11
In spite of this permission, La metamorfosis was not republished until
1966. The publishing house Alianza submitted the same translation again
to censorship on 21 December 1965 applying the print of 10,000 volumes.
Seven days later, on 28 December 1965, Alianza obtained the publishing
authorization and the book came onto the market in April 1966.12
The gap between the 1945 and 1966 editions must be due to reasons
other than censorship. Censorship was applied when texts differed from
what was considered ideologically and morally correct for the Franco
regime. This was obviously not the case of La metamorfosis. However, the
Spanish post-war-period continued until the late 1960s and was charac-
terized by profound economic difficulties. The paper industry was not
free from these circumstances, and publishing houses had to set priorities
(Pegenaute, 1994: 88–89). According to Pegenaute (ibid.: 92), there was
a quite negative attitude towards foreign literature in general, especially
during the first period of Franco’s regime.
Considering that the translation attributed to Borges is not a new
translation, the first retranslation appears just in the year of the end of
Franco’s dictatorship, in 1975. This translation by R. Kruger was published
by Edaf, which was originally an Argentinian company but which since
1957 had also been established in Spain. It appeared with three other stories
(The Chinese Wall, A Trapeze Artist and A Hunger Artist) and right from
the beginning, it is obvious that it is a new translation. The Spanish lan-
guage is appropriate for its time in terms of lexical or syntactical uses and
expressions. The following quotations from the opening of the novella in
both the first anonymous translation and the first retranslation illustrate
the differences concerning language:
11 Expediente [file] 641–45, Archivo General de la Administración, Alcalá de Henares.
12 Expediente [file] 9426–65, Archivo General de la Administración, Alcalá de Henares.
184 Susanne M. Cadera

First anonymous translation Back translation

Al despertar Gregorio Samsa una Upon waking up one morning, after
mañana, tras un sueño intranquilo, a torubled sleep, Gregor Samsa found
encontróse en su cama convertido en himself in his bed turned into a
un monstruoso insecto. Hallábase monstruous insect. He found himslef
echado sobre el duro caparazón de su lying upon the hard shell of his back,
espalda, y, al alzar un poco la cabeza, vió and on lifting his head a little, he saw
la figura convexa de su vientre oscuro, the convex shape of of his dark belly,
surcado por curvadas callosidades, cuya furrowed by curved calluses, whose
prominencia apenas si podía aguantar prominence could almost not be endured
la colcha, que estaba visiblemente by the blanket, which was visibly about
a punto de escurrirse hasta el suelo. to slip down to the floor. Countless legs,
Innumerables patas, lamentablemente painfully thin in comparison with the
escuálidas en comparación con el grosor ordinary thickness of his legs, offered his
ordinario de sus piernas, ofrecían a sus eyes the spectacle of unrest without any
ojos el espectáculo de una agitación sin consistency.
–¿Qué me ha sucedido? (TT1: –What has happened to me?
Anonymous translation 1925)
First retranslation Back translation
Cuando una mañana se despertó. When he woke up one morning, Gregor
Gregorio Samsa, después de un sueño Samsa, after a restless sleep, found
agitado, se encontró en su cama himself in his bed transformed into a
transformado en un espantoso insecto. horrible insect. He was lying down on
Se encontraba tumbado sobre el chitinous shell of his back and on lifting
quitinoso caparazón de su espalda y al his head, he saw the convex shape of his
levantar la cabeza, vio la forma convexa dark-coloured belly, crossed by curved
de su vientre de color oscuro, cruzado corns whose relief could almost not be
por curvadas durezas, cuyo relieve casi endured by the blanket, which was about
no podía soportar la colcha, que estaba to slide down to the floor. Numerous
a punto de deslizarse hasta el suelo. legs, pitifully thin, compared to the
Numerosas patas, lastimosamente normal thickness of his legs, showed to
delgadas, comparadas con el grosor him the spectacle of a movement without
normal de sus piernas, presentaban meaning.
ante su mirada el espectáculo de un
movimiento sin sentido.
¿Qué es lo que me ha pasado? (TT2: R. What has happened to me?
Kruger 1975)
Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and its Thirty-One Spanish Translations 185

As can be observed, each translation reveals the language use of its time.
For example, the enclitic reflexive pronoun se used by past tense verbal
forms in the first translation (encontróse [he found himself ], hallábase [he
found himself ]) was still used at the beginning of the twentieth century,
whereas fifty years later reflexive pronouns were separated and appeared
before the verb (se encontró, se encontraba). A more up-to-date use of lan-
guage can be observed by comparing the more antiquated expressions such
as hallábase (TT1) and se encontraba (TT2), callosidades [calluses](TT1)
and durezas [corns] (TT2) or prominencia [protrusion] (TT1) and relieve
[prominence].(TT2). The ageing of a text is considered one of the most
obvious reasons to provide contemporary readers with a new translation
that conforms to contemporary language use and may or may not take
into account previous translations (Berman, 1990; Gambier, 2011). This
may be the reason for this retranslation by Kruger and all further transla-
tions. Nevertheless, in the case of the translation history of Kafka’s Die
Verwandlung it is interesting to observe that the first anonymous transla-
tion with its anachronistic language use survived until 1998, that is to say
seventy-three years, when Alianza last published it in its original version.
After 1998, Alianza revised the translation changing all enclitic reflexive
pronouns to the current use, but did not make any changes at a lexical level.
This new version is still available on the Spanish market and the latest edi-
tion dates from 2015. Some publishing houses still attribute it to Borges
ignoring investigations about the authorship of this translation.13 One could
argue that in spite of thirty new translations, the first anonymous one seems
to be the canonical translation, if we consider that it is the version that has
been most widely read by Spanish readers. Nevertheless, the existence of
so many new translations is unequivocal proof of the constant demand by
readers. As can be observed in Table 6.1, there were often even two (or three
in 2005) retranslations at the same time (in 1983, 1985, 1997, 1999, 2000,
2001, 2003, 2015). This is even more surprising because most of those new
publication dates do not have any relation to anniversaries, literary awards

13 See for example: <http://www.galaxiagutenberg.com/libros/la-metamorfosis.aspx>

accessed 1 April 2016.
186 Susanne M. Cadera

or other events that normally motivate publishing houses to bring a new

translation on the market. The last two translations (2015) are obviously
related to the centenary of the first publication of Die Verwandlung in
Germany in 1915. Nevertheless, the respective publishers seem to be sure
that these new translations will be successful in terms of sales numbers
because they must know very well that there are currently other transla-
tions on the market and even more are available in bookshops.
Another indication that Die Verwandlung has an enormous impact
on Spanish culture are the special editions for young readers. TT13, TT17,
TT22 and TT25 (see Table 6.1) are new translations, only published in
special editions for young people. The retranslation by Carlos Fortea, first
published in 1997 by Mediterráneo, was re-edited in 1998 by Debate with
exercises developed by José Hamad. Those special editions are due to the
fact that today, Kafka’s Metamorphosis is so deeply rooted in the Spanish
culture system that it is listed as essential reading in secondary education
and it forms part of the official university access exams in Spain in the syl-
labus known as Universal Literature.14
With its thirty-one translations, Kafka’s Die Verwandlung is accessible
to a very broad readership if we bear in mind that even the earliest transla-
tions can still be found in bookshops and remain available although there
are also more recent translations on the market.

Reception through newspapers

As La metamorfosis was introduced in Spain before Franco’s regime

through its translation in 1925, in 1936 it was well known among the

14 It is included in Cañamares (2015), a book aimed at preparing Spanish students

for the university entrance examination and there are also several web pages where
the syllabuses of the examination can be consulted: <http://estudis.uib.es/digita-
lAssets/293/293673_​lectures_lu.pdf> and <http://www.upm.es/sfs/Rectorado/​
Vicerrectorado​%20de%​20​Alumnos/Acceso/Bachillerato%20LOE/Modelos%2​ 0de%‍​
20Examen​/13%20VALIDO-LITERATURA%20UNIVERSAL.pdf> accessed
20 March 2016.
Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and its Thirty-One Spanish Translations 187

intellectuals of the time. In different newspaper databases we can find

references to La metamorfosis. Consulting the database of the Hemeroteca
Digital, Biblioteca Nacional Española [Digital Newspaper Archive, National
Library of Spain, http://hemerotecadigital.bne.es], the novella is men-
tioned nine times in articles between 1925 and 1945. Several newspapers
from Madrid announced the publication of La metamorfosis in the Revista
de Occidente:

El Sol (24 June 1925, page 2)15

La Época (2 July of 1925, page 3)16
El Imparcial (24 July 1925, page 7)17
La Libertad (29 July 1925, page 7)18

On 1 May 1928, the specialist literary journal La Gaceta Literaria published

a special issue on German books in Spain. In one of the articles, Máximo
José Kahn mentioned, among German philosophers and writers, some of
the works of Franz Kafka: Un artista del hambre [A Hunger Artist] and La
metamorfosis, both published in Revista de Occidente. He also mentioned
that Kafka’s novels Das Schloß [The Castle] and Der Prozeß were not yet
translated into Spanish but the works were known. After his death in 1924,
Kafka was mentioned several times emphasizing the importance of his writ-
ing. On 11 June 1931, Kahn published the following note in the newspaper
Crisol, where he clearly referred to the translations of Die Verwandlung and
of Der Hungerskünstler [A Hunger Artist]:

André Gide, Thomas Mann and four other authors have published a call to arouse
the interest of the educated public in the posthumous works of Franz Kafka, perhaps

15 <http://hemerotecadigital.bne.es/issue.vm?id=0000309874&page=7&search=&
lang=es> accessed 2 April 2016.
16 <http://hemerotecadigital.bne.es/issue.vm?id=0001000948&page=3&search=&
lang=es> accessed 2 April 2016.
17 <http://hemerotecadigital.bne.es/issue.vm?id=0000966636&page=7&search=&
lang=es> accessed 2 April 2016.
18 <http://hemerotecadigital.bne.es/issue.vm?id=0002749596&page=7&search=&
lang=es> accessed 2 April 2016.
188 Susanne M. Cadera

the most gifted and mysterious author of the latest generation. He is known in Spain
due to the translations of his stories published in the Revista de Oriente. (p. 4)

In 1934, ten years after Kafka’s death, the newspaper Luz published a short
article about his work including La metamorfosis. This article included a
quotation from the literary critic Denis Saurat declaring Kafka to be the
most important writer after Nietzsche and representative of the modern
mentality (27 July 1934, p. 8).19 In 1936, El Sol published a review of the
novel El hombre que no tuvo ángel de guardia [The Man without a Guardian
Angel] (Madrid, 1936) by Antonio Cano, comparing it to La metamorfosis
(15 April 1936).20 All those references to La metamorfosis in Spanish newspa-
pers clearly show that the work was well known before the Spanish Civil War
(1936–1939), at least among the writers and readers of those newspapers.
In comparison with the announcement of the publication of the trans-
lation in 1925, there is no reference registered in the Digital Newspaper
Archive of its republishing in 1945. Between 1937 and 1954, there is no
reference to Franz Kafka. It is reasonable to think that during the Spanish
Civil War, newspapers dedicated their space to the current events rather
than to cultural spaces. The first mention of Kafka dates from June 1955 and
is published in the Boletín de la Dirección General de Archivos y Bibliotecas
[Bulletin of the General Direction of Archives and Libraries].This Bulletin
was an official publication of this institution, which depended on the
Spanish Educational Ministry and was founded just after the end of the
Spanish Civil War in 1939. It embodied the ideology of Franco’s dictatorial
regime in cultural issues and aimed to fill the role of guidance, encourage-
ment and information among staff of the institution.21 During Franco’s
Regime (from 1939 to 1975), there were thirty-one entries about Kafka in
this bulletin, but only two of them refer explicitly to La metamorfosis. The
1955 edition reported about a curious survey carried out in Italy on the books

19 <http://hemerotecadigital.bne.es/issue.vm?id=0003583308&page=8&search=&
lang=es> accessed 3 April 2016.
20 <http://hemerotecadigital.bne.es/issue.vm?id=0000575949&search=&
lang=es> accessed 3 April 2016.
21 <http://hemerotecadigital.bne.es/details.vm?lang=es&q=id:0002567480>
accessed 14 April 2016.
Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and its Thirty-One Spanish Translations 189

that should go on a special ‘Noah’s Ark’ for the best books. According to
the results, Kafka’s Die Verwandlung, Der Prozeß and Das Schloß would
be included. In the 1964 edition, a secondary reference about Kafka and
Rilke was also included (Falk, 1963).
In order to complete this information about the reception of La meta-
morfosis during the Franco Regime, I consulted the archives of two newspa-
pers that were published in this period: ABC and La Vanguardia. Between
1955 and 1959, it was only mentioned five times in the ABC and twice in La
Vanguardia. In the entire period during Franco’s Regime, it was mentioned
fifty times in ABC and only six times in La Vanguardia (in 1957, 1959, 1965,
1967, 1974 and 1975). Surprisingly La Vanguardia did not announce the new
edition of the anonymous first translation in 1966 by Alianza, whereas in
ABC there were several references in the same year about it. However, in
1967 some interesting information about the reception of the 1966 edition
appeared in La Vanguardia: In a book ranking, the novella was placed in
fourth position, after the works of the intellectuals and philosophers José
Ortega y Gasset, Unas lecciones de metafísica, [Some lessons on Metaphysics]
Fernando Vela, Mozart and Raymond Aron, Ensayo sobre las libertades [An
Essay on Freedom] (3 August 1967, p. 11). In ABC (30 June 1966, p. 95), the
author (with the initials P. C.) who reviewed the new publication by Alianza,
attributed the translation to Borges arguing that it was the same translation
edited by Losada in Argentina and expressed his or her incredulity that
Alianza had omitted the name of such a great translator as Borges. This
remark proves that the confusion about the authorship of this first translation
really began with its publication in Argentina and its attribution to Borges.
In general, ABC newspaper seems to be more interested in cultural
themes. In addition to publicizing the book, we can also find intertextual
references in articles about other writers or articles commenting on the book
itself. Since its re-edition in 1966, we can observe the enormous impact
of La metamorfosis. Following the entries from the newspaper archives,
in ABC it was mentioned twenty-four times between 1966 and 1969 and
twenty times in the last period of Franco’s regime (1970–1975). In addi-
tion, the fact that the 1966 re-edition was republished seven times until
the end of the Franco’s dictatorship in 1975 – which means one edition
per year, except in 1973 – shows the enormous success of this work during
190 Susanne M. Cadera

a period where the arrival of foreign contemporary literature was not the
norm by any means.
Since the end of Franco’s regime until the present day, mentions of
La metamorfosis are practically innumerable although there is not much
information accessible from more recent newspapers. The most complete
archives are still ABC and La Vanguardia. However, the great number of
mentions proves that La metamorfosis is still important and of great inter-
est in the Spanish cultural panorama: between 1975 and 2016 it appeared
141 times in La Vanguardia, 553 times in ABC and 267 times in the post-
Francoist newspaper El País, which was published for the first time in 1976.
Referring to the reception of Kafka’s work in Spain, Martínez and Yelin
(2013) studied translations and literary journals and concluded that it was
possible to distinguish four periods. The first period would be the discovery
of his work through the translation of his work. The second period would be
the canonization of Kafka’s work through literary journals. The third period
would be the elevation of Kafka’s work by Spanish critics to the status of a
literary style in itself. The last one would be the relative silence concerning
Kafka’s work through the years between 1983 and 1999. However, it is not
clear why Martínez and Yelin take into account translation in the first period
and not in the following ones. At least concerning Die Verwandlung, in the
supposed period of silence, between 1983 and 1999, thirteen retranslations
were published (see Table 6.1), three of them aimed at young readers, in
addition to newspaper articles where this work has been mentioned in this
time gap (nearly 239 times in ABC and 39 times in La Vanguardia).


This chapter aims to be an initial approach to the reception of Kafka’s Die

Verwandlung in Spain because of the discovery of the extraordinarily high
number of thirty-one different translations into Peninsular Spanish. This
fact first led me to explore the reason or the need for such a number of
translations. However, the study of the publication dates and the charac-
teristics of the different editions could not answer this question. I would
Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and its Thirty-One Spanish Translations 191

even argue that the Spanish translation history of Die Verwandlung is an

example of the impossibility of proving objective reasons for the appearance
of retranslations, which was the requirement in early retranslation studies.
In later studies about the retranslation phenomenon, several authors have
argued that there are multiple reasons and that it is difficult to enumerate
truly valid reasons (Venuti, 2004; Brownlie, 2006; Paloposki and Koskinen,
2010; O’Driscoll, 2011). However, even those multiple reasons are impossible
to find out in the case of the Spanish versions of Die Verwandlung. There
is no answer to the simple questions as to why two or three translations
appeared in the same year or why new translations were published, when
other translations were still on the market. However, finding out the reasons
maybe does not lead to any important conclusions about the influence of
the work. Publishing policies are important factors for the edition of new
translations, but they are usually related to business expectations. Moreover,
those expectations depend on the reader’s preferences. The simple fact of
the existence of thirty-one Spanish translations of Die Verwandlung in a
period of ninety years proves, on the one hand, the contemporary nature of
the text and, on the other hand, that the work has been received in Spain
continuously since its first translation. This leads us to study the retransla-
tion phenomenon from a contextual and systemic point of view in order
to evaluate its influence in the Spanish culture system. Through studying
external aspects related to different historical or social conditions and
aspects related to the Spanish editions of the different translations, we can
conclude that there is evidence that the work had and continues to have an
enormous impact on the Spanish culture system. This is demonstrated by
the fact that the Die Verwandlung is still retranslated. As seen in Table 6.1,
there have been fourteen retranslations from 2000 onwards, the last two
in 2015. Moreover, there are five editions with new translation aimed at a
young readership and used as essential reading in Spanish secondary schools.
Another clear indication of its importance is the fact that it forms part of the
official University access exams in Spain in the syllabus Universal Literature.
The reception of the work is also evident in its quotations in historical
and contemporary newspapers. Articles emphasizing the importance of
the work and its influence on Spanish writers demonstrate its reciprocal,
circular influence. The work is not only received passively; it is studied by
Spanish young people, commented on continuously by critics and its special
192 Susanne M. Cadera

narrative techniques and particular symbolism survive through Spanish

writers taking the Spanish versions of Die Verwandlung as an example.
I would like to conclude this chapter with another piece of evidence of
Kafka’s presence in the Spanish culture system: The Spanish term kafkiano
in its two meanings – both ‘belonging to Kafka’ and ‘in Kafka’s style’ –
has been accepted in the official dictionary of the Royal Academy of the
Spanish Language (DRAE, <http://www.rae.es>), a normative dictionary
that contains terms belonging to current Spanish language use.


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Kafka en la cultura contemporánea. Granada: Universidad de Granada.
Liebrand, C. (ed.) (2006). Franz Kafka. Neue Wege der Forschung. Darmstadt: WBG
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
Martínez Salazar, E., and J. Yelin (eds) (2013). Kafka en las dos orillas. Antología de la
recepción crítica española e hispanoamericana. Zaragoza: Universidad de Zaragoza.
Melero, N. (2005). ‘Los traductores de La metamorfosis’, Hieronymus complutensis:
el mundo de la traducción 12, 87–92.
Müller, M. (ed.) (1994). Franz Kafka. Romane und Erzählungen. Stuttgart: Phillip
Reclam Verlag.
O’Driscoll, K. (2011). Retranslation through the Centuries. Jules Verne in English.
Oxford: Peter Lang.
Paloposki, O., and K. Koskinen (2010). ‘Reprocessing texts. The fine line between
retranslating and revising’, Across Languages and Cultures 11(1), 29–49.
Pegenaute, L. (1994). ‘Censoring translation and translation censorship: Spain under
Franco’, Translation and Re-location of Meaning. Selected Papers of the CETRA
Research Seminars, Translation Studies 96, 83–96.
Pestaña Castro, C. (1999). ‘¿Quién tradujo por primera vez La metamorfosis de Franz
Kafka al castellano?’, Espéculo: Revista de Estudios Literarios, 11, 19.
Sorrentino, F. (1997). ‘La metamorfosis que Borges jamás tradujo’. Diario La Nación,
9 March.
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Espéculo: Revista de Estudios Literarios, 10, 11.
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Espéculo 12, 13.
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Andrea Schäpers

7 Georg Büchner’s Fiction in Spain:

Translations of Lenz

This chapter aims to provide an introduction to the Spanish translations of Lenz, Georg
Büchner’s most modern description of an eighteenth-century poet’s descent into madness.
It begins with a short overview of his life and work and then focuses on the only prose text
Büchner created. Some details are given about the work’s reception both in Germany and
in Spain, but special interest is drawn to the translations and retranslations offered to the
Spanish reader. The six translations found in the inventory created from different databases
and biographical catalogues all have their specific backgrounds and focus on particular
aspects. It is interesting to see how the translators’ choices affect their versions of the text
and thus have an impact on the reception of the author’s work in Spain.


In 2013, Germany commemorated the 200th birthday of the precocious

writer Georg Büchner, who was born in 1813 in a little town in the Grand
Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt. In 1837 at the age of twenty-three, he died
unexpectedly from typhoid fever in Zurich. Nonetheless, his brief literary
career gave birth to works that firmly belong to universal literature and it is
no coincidence that the literary prize for German language authors carries
his name (Georg-Büchner-Preis). Moreover, his dramas are still performed
in the most prestigious theatres around the world. In the play Dantons Tod
[Danton’s Death] Büchner expresses the disappointment about how the
French Revolution was carried out. His ironic comedy Leonce und Lena
[Leonce and Lena] is far ahead of its time and anticipates the Theatre of
196 Andrea Schäpers

the Absurd1 and Büchner’s unfinished masterpiece, Woyzeck, constitutes

a dramatic fragment in which, for the first time in German literature, the
protagonists belong to the working class. It is considered to be the precur-
sor of the social drama that would be interpreted and developed later by
writers such as Hauptmann or Brecht.
The young poet was closely related to Romanticism and the Sturm
und Drang ideas and felt a special attachment to the common people
and the folk songs and he can be seen as both revolutionary and roman-
tic (Goltschnigg, 2001: 241). Büchner is indebted to both Goethe and
Schiller and admired Shakespeare, but rejected idealism and advocated
radical realism. At the age of 20, he founded the clandestine Gesellschaft
für Menschenrechte [Society for the Rights of Men] and in 1834 he pub-
lished – in co-authorship with the Protestant Pastor F. L. Weidig – the
social revolutionary pamphlet Der Hessische Landbote [The Hessian Rural
Messenger] in which he made a call to arms to the Hessian peasantry to
rise up in insurrection: Friede den Hütten, Krieg den Palästen [Peace to
the cottages, war to the palaces]. This text is regarded as one of the most
radical ones prior to the Communist Manifesto which Marx and Engels
published in 1848. Büchner was pursued by the police and imprisoned, but
he was able to escape the fate of his associates, his friend Karl Minnigerode
and Weidig himself, who was tortured and committed suicide in prison.
After taking refuge for a short time in his family’s home in Darmstadt, he
settled in Strasbourg in 1835 and then in Zurich where he read his PhD in
Medicine and died some months later.
Because of his ideology, he is often identified with the literary move-
ment represented by a group of German revolutionary writers called Junges
Deutschland [Young Germany]. The publication of many authors associ-
ated with this movement, such as Heinrich Heine, Ludwig Börne and
others, including Büchner’s friend and fellow writer, Karl Gutzkow, was
banned by the German authorities in 1835 due to their liberal ideas that were

1 In the words of García Adánez (2009: 131, my translation), it is ‘apparently his light-
est and friendliest work but, actually, it reveals a form and dramatism as grotesque,
radical and modern as the rest of his works’. From now on, all translations are by the
author unless stated otherwise.
Georg Büchner’s Fiction in Spain 197

considered anti-Christian and impudent. Nevertheless, Büchner drifted

apart from this movement. Despite his strong social and revolutionary
consciousness, his struggle was more oriented to an internal level where a
deep melancholy emerged that was expressed in his letters to his friends
and his fiancée, Minna Jaeglé:

A single prolonged sound from a thousand throats of larks passes through the heavy
air of summer, heavy clouds moving over the land, the deep roar of the wind resounds
like their melodious steps. The spring air has brought me from my lethargy. I’ve been
afraid of myself. I always had the feeling of being dead.2


Büchner’s only narrative text is regarded as one of the most important

works of German literature in terms of its reception and textual influence.
It describes a historical period in the life of Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz,
an eminent writer of the Sturm und Drang movement and a former friend
of Goethe. Lenz was invited by his friends to stay for some time in a small
village in Alsace in order to recover from a mental illness he was beginning
to suffer. He stayed at the house of the Protestant pastor Johann Friedrich
Oberlin, known as a pedagogue and reformer, who took the poet into his
care. The story begins with the arrival of Lenz at the Steintal valley, Den 20.
ging Lenz durchs Gebirg [The 20th, Lenz walked through the mountains]
and ends laconically when they carry him back to Strasbourg a few weeks
later, So lebte er hin [And so he lived on].
Büchner focuses the narration on Lenz’s illness and tells us about its
evolution and dynamics. We witness the gradual deterioration of Lenz’s
health, his increasing fears and attempts to conquer them as well as his
absolute resignation at the end and the inner emptiness in which he remains.

2 Quoted by the psychiatrists González Herrera and Martín López-Andrade (2010:

10–11) from one of Büchner’s letters (1992: 233).
198 Andrea Schäpers

Along with the psychological pathology of the protagonist, Büchner men-

tions in his story the subject of art theory and inserts a monologue by Lenz
about art that is in line with the aesthetic positions of the Sturm und Drang
movement rejecting both idealism and a misunderstood realism. Another
important issue is the description of nature, especially at the beginning of
the narration.
Lenz’s walk through the Vosges Mountains before he arrives at Pastor
Oberlin’s house is illustrated by the description of landscape, since it reflects
the mood of the protagonist and is full of hard-hitting and despairing

The 20th, Lenz walked through the mountains. Snow on the peaks and upper slopes,
gray rock down into the valleys, swathes of green, boulders, and firs. It was sopping
cold, the water trickled down the rocks and leapt across the path. The fir boughs
sagged in the damp air. Gray clouds drifted across the sky, but everything so stifling,
and then the fog floated up and crept heavy and damp through the bushes, so slug-
gish, so clumsy. He walked onward, caring little one way or another, to him the path
mattered not, now up, now down. He felt no fatigue, except sometimes it annoyed
him that he could not walk on his head. (3)3

Even though the novella Lenz is considered to be the first literary descrip-
tion of schizophrenia, Büchner does not intend to describe the vicissitudes
of a mentally ill person from the point of view of later developments in
psychiatry, as González Herrera and López-Andrade (2010: 12) point out,
but rather to look into the helplessness of man regarding his fate and facing
the ‘terrible fatalism of history’.
Lenz is a fragmentary text, a fact which is due to its genesis and to what
we have inherited from Büchner’s original. There is no original manuscript
left. When Büchner died, his fiancée Minna Jaeglé sent a handwritten copy
she had made to Gutzkow and the editor published the text in 1839 in eight
issues in the magazine Telegraph für Deutschland under the title of Lenz.
Eine Reliquie von Georg Büchner [Lenz. A relic by Georg Büchner]. This
‘relic’ is the only testimony of the narration and all subsequent editions
are derived from it.

3 For the translation of Büchner’s Lenz passages we use the American version of Richard
Sieburth (2004).
Georg Büchner’s Fiction in Spain 199

Büchner’s Lenz has been described as an ‘experiment in speculative

biography, part fact, part fabrication – an early nineteenth-century example
of the modern genre of docufiction’ (Sieburth, 2004: 167), and Büchner
used several documentary sources. The most direct of these sources was a
diary written by J. F. Oberlin immediately after Lenz’s departure where the
pastor informed meticulously about the writer’s stay, giving dates, names
of people and other kinds of details. Büchner had access to the report
through a friend and took large verbatim passages from it, which in total
represent a fifth of his narration.4 Other passages belong to a later stage
of writing and it is known that the more literal ones were supposed to be
modified afterwards. For this reason, the text we know today is considered
to be a draft that roughly presents its definitive format (the beginning and
ending of the narration), but in other parts would still have been further
revised. There is even a working note by the author that shows that in one
of the parts he would have investigated other sources, since he made the
following reference: Siehe die Briefe [See the letters].5

The reception of Lenz in Germany

Until the end of the nineteenth century, Büchner’s work had been nearly
forgotten in Germany. Naturalistic writers such as Gerhart Hauptmann first
rediscovered him, as did the Expressionists (Martin, 2002: 521) and, later
on, Bertolt Brecht reclaimed him for the Epic Theatre. When in 1912 Hugo
von Hofmannsthal included Büchner in his anthology of Deutsche Erzähler
[German Narrators], he was considered a canonical author. One of the most

4 Together with Oberlin’s diary Büchner recurred also to Goethe’s commentaries

expressed in Dichtung und Wahrheit [Poetry and Truth] about his early friend-
ship with Lenz, besides other sources as some letters of Lenz and a text by Daniel
Ehrenfried Stöber, the father of one of his friends, entitled Der Dichter Lenz [The Poet
Lenz] published in 1831 in the magazine Morgenblatt für gebildete Stände. [Morning
Post for the Educated Classes] Büchner took some information from this text and
used it in his novella.
5 <http://www.buechnerportal.de/aufsaetze/lenz> accessed 5 February 2016.
200 Andrea Schäpers

famous and quoted passages from Büchner’s Lenz is the following: Müdigkeit
spürte er keine, nur war es ihm manchmal unangenehm, dass er nicht auf dem
Kopf gehen konnte [He felt no fatigue, except sometimes it annoyed him that he
could not walk on his head] (5). Arnold Zweig (1923) considered that this sen-
tence meant the beginning of modern European prose (Neuhuber, 2009: 65).
The novella Lenz is regarded as a precursor of Expressionism and Franz
Kafka was fascinated by Büchner and his work (Gutiérrez Girardot, 1981).
The literary figure of Lenz influenced historical perception of its author
and some believe that there is a sort of parallelism between the character
and Büchner himself. There has even been some speculation about the
possibility that Büchner could have suffered from the same pathology he
described in his work.6
The subject of Lenz has been reused and reshaped in different texts
that Neuhuber (2007: 70) considers witnesses of the ‘productive recep-
tion’ and appropriation of the novella, as there are numerous adaptions in
narrative, poetic, cinematic, operatic, dramatic and even pictorial form.7

The arrival of Lenz in Spain

Büchner’s work arrived in Spain with some difficulties. It was in 1954, during
Franco’s regime, when the publisher Eduardo Figueroa Gneco petitioned
the Director General de Propaganda at the Spanish Ministry of Information

6 <http://www.buechnerportal.de/aufsaetze/lenz> in the chapter entitled ‘Reception’,

accessed 5 February 2016.
7 Neuhuber (2007: 70–71) references more than seventy literary texts (dramatic, poetic
and narrative ones) influenced by Büchner’s Lenz (i.e. the poem Lenz by Peter Huchel
(1927), the theatre work Büchners Lenz from Jürg Amann (1984) or appropriations
of contents or stylistic peculiarities like Den 20. Jänner from Karsten Hoffmann
(1991) and also the illustrations of different editions of Lenz made by artists such as
Günter Böhmer, Hans Hermann Hagedorn, Baldwin Zettl and Anton Watzl, but
especially the drawings of Alfred Hrdlicka reproduced in the Spanish translation by
María Teresa Camacho which we will discuss under the following points. See also
Stephan and Winter (2006).
Georg Büchner’s Fiction in Spain 201

and Tourism, to obtain permission for the importation of the Spanish

version of Woyzeck edited by Losange in Buenos Aires and translated by
Manfred Schönfeld. The request for importation was rejected and the trans-
lator’s introduction was furiously underlined in red by the censor in those
passages referring to subjects such as Freemasons, Jews, equal rights for all
citizens regardless of their social class, Christianity or sexuality.8 Further
on in the text of the play, the censor underlined some passages concern-
ing the same topics that did not receive his approval. It was not until 1966
that Büchner’s dramatic works could be edited in Spain, this time with the
approval of the office of censorship.9 Büchner’s Lenz is not mentioned in the
censorship registers filed in the Spanish General Administration Archive
in Alcalá de Henares, so it is not possible to know whether there was any
frustrated attempt to publish the work in Spain during the Francoist period.
Adopting the title of Pym’s article (2009), we agree with his goal to
‘humanize translation history’ and are especially aware of the influence
translators can have upon the ‘rewritings’ they undertake. In the following
chapter, we will describe the translations of Lenz published in Spain in a
diachronic manner, like a Kometenschweifstudie [Comet’s tail study] (Frank
and Turk, 2004) based on a corpus of several translations of Büchner’s text
into Spanish, in order to learn the reasons why the work has been retrans-
lated several times and the circumstances that determined the form and
characteristics of the translated texts.

The Spanish translations of Lenz

In order to establish an inventory of the translations and retranslations of

the novella Lenz in Spain, I reviewed the archives of the National Library
of Spain and I also consulted the relevant entry in the Diccionario histórico

8 File 2270 of 1954 registered at the Spanish General Administration Archive, catalogue
number 21/10711.
9 File 7640 of 1966 registered at the Spanish General Administration Archive, cata-
logue number 21/17705.
202 Andrea Schäpers

de la traducción en España [Historical Dictionary of Translation in Spain]

(Lafarga and Pegenaute, 2009) and searched the online database of the
Index Translationum, which contains cumulative bibliographical informa-
tion on books translated and published in about 100 UNESCO Member
States between 1979 and 2009. Our bibliographical research revealed
that there were six different Spanish translations of Lenz between 1976
and 2010.

Table 7.1:  Spanish translations of Lenz

Year Translator Title Place Publisher

1976 Rodolfo Enrique Lenz Buenos Corregidor
Modern Aires
1981 Rafael Gutiérrez Lenz Barcelona Montesinos
(1997) Girardot Traducción y prólogo de
Rafael Gutiérrez Girardot
1992 Carmen Gauger Obras completas de Georg Madrid Trotta
(2011) Büchner
1999 Anonymous Lenz Barcelona Planeta – De
Versión bilingüe abreviada Agostini
y simplificada
2006 María Teresa Lenz Madrid Nórdica
Ruiz Camacho Con ilustraciones de Libros
Alfred Hrdlicka
2010 Rosa Marta Lenz Sevilla Bienza, D. L.
Gómez Pato Edición, estudio crítico
y traducción por Rosa
Marta Gómez Pato

To date, there has only been one complete edition of Georg Büchner’s works
in Spanish. This first complete edition was published in Spain in 1992 and
was re-edited by Trotta without any changes in 2011. The translation is by
Carmen Gauger and the edition includes a critical study signed by Knut
Forssmann and Jordi Jané.
Georg Büchner’s Fiction in Spain 203

The first Argentinian translation (TT0)

The first Spanish translation known was published in 1976 by Corregidor

in Buenos Aires. The translation and the prologue were made by the
Argentinian poet, storyteller and essayist Rodolfo Enrique Modern, a
Professor of German Literature at the University of Buenos Aires, who
defended his doctoral thesis on Büchner’s Lenz. This translation is not
registered in Spain and does not appear in the archives of the National
Library. Since we are interested in studying Büchner’s reception based on
the translations of his work in Spain, we did not include the Argentinian
version in our study, although it might be interesting to compare this
translator’s solutions in a future research project.

Rafael Gutiérrez Girardot (TT1)

It was another Latin-American author, the Colombian Rafael Gutiérrez

Girardot, who introduced Büchner’s narrative work in Spain with his trans-
lation of the novella Lenz. The essayist and expert in Hispano-American
literature was born in 1928 and came to Madrid in 1950 in order to study
Philosophy with Xavier Zubirí.10 In 1953, he moved to Freiburg im Breisgau
in Germany following a personal invitation by Martin Heidegger and
started his studies at the University of Freiburg where he read his PhD about
the poetic and prose works of Antonio Machado. After successive stays in
Sweden, Germany (Bonn) and Colombia (Bogotá) he moved once again to
Germany where he was appointed Professor at the Department of Hispanic
Studies at the University of Bonn and stayed there until his death in 2005.
Gutiérrez Girardot translated numerous German works into Spanish,
such as Friedensfeier [Celebration of Peace] by Friedrich Hölderlin (1994),

10 For further details about life and work of Rafael Gutiérrez Girardot see <http://
html>, on the occasion of his death in 2005.
204 Andrea Schäpers

Dionysos-Dithyramben [Dionysian Dithyrambs] by Friedrich Wilhelm

Nietzsche (1995) and a monographic about the philosophical and poetic
works of Nietzsche (2000).
The first version of Lenz to appear in Spain in 1981 was by the publisher
Montesinos and was re-edited in 1997 with identical contents. The transla-
tion, the prologue and the footnotes were by Rafael Gutiérrez Girardot.
It gives exhaustive information about the author Georg Büchner and his
protagonist, the ‘failed poet’ Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz (1751–1792),
as well as about the background and the genesis of the novella Lenz.
Regarding the German version of the text upon which the transla-
tion is based, the translator inserts the following footnote at the end of
the prologue:
The original manuscript of Lenz is lost. Only a ‘clean copy’ made by Minna Jaeglé
is known. Until very recently the known and used edition has been the one by Fritz
Bergemann, Werke und Briefe, Wiesbaden, 1958. The new historical-critical edition of
Büchner’s works (1967–1971) has surpassed this edition. For this translation we have
used the text of the historical-critical edition by Werner R. Lehmann published with-
out apparatus of variants by the same publisher, Werke und Briefe, Munich, 1980. (p. 45)

The existence of comments by the translator(s) in a prologue, the fact that

they include footnotes and the way they use and comment upon them indi-
cate a possible translation method they could have used, as Hurtado Albir
(2001: 241) explains, defining it as ‘the way in which the translator manages
the original text as a whole and develops the translation process following
certain principles’. In Gutiérrez Girardot’s version, there are no translator’s
comments about the footnotes and the latter are not abundant; there are
just four notes explaining cultural markers (proper names of historical
characters and a reference to a work of art, as well as an explanation of a
technical term). The fact that he was a philologist and an expert on German
literature and culture might suggest that he was essentially guided by an
academic concern in the Spanish version, but the study that precedes the
translation is not excessively erudite and rather shows a personal interest
in Büchner and the circumstances that surrounded the writer Lenz of the
Sturm und Drang movement. It seems that the translator was conscious
about the fact that his Spanish version introduced the German work in
Spain and that Spanish readers needed this information to understand
the narration better.
Georg Büchner’s Fiction in Spain 205

The emblematic beginning is rendered in the first version published

in Spain in the following way:

El 20 de enero Lenz caminaba por la sierra. Las cumbres y altas llanuras de las mon-
tañas, cubiertas de nieve; bajando los valles, piedra gris, superficies verdes, rocas y
pinos. Hacía un frío húmedo, el agua corría por las rocas y saltaba sobre el camino.
Las ramas de los pinos colgaban pesadamente en el aire húmedo. Por el cielo cruza-
ban nubes grises, pero todo tan denso, y entonces emergió la niebla y pasó grávida y
húmeda por el zarzal, tan inerte, tan burda. Él siguió indolentemente, no le importaba
el camino, ya hacia delante, ya hacia atrás. No percibía cansancio, sólo que a veces le
era desagradable no poder andar de cabeza. (TT1: 49).

[The 20th, Lenz walked through the mountains. Snow on the peaks and upper
slopes, gray rock down into the valleys, swathes of green, boulders, and firs. It was
sopping cold, the water trickled down the rocks and leapt across the path. The fir
boughs sagged in the damp air. Gray clouds drifted across the sky, but everything so
stifling, and then the fog floated up and crept heavy and damp through the bushes,
so sluggish, so clumsy. He walked onward, caring little one way or another, to him
the path mattered not, now up, now down. He felt no fatigue, except sometimes it
annoyed him that he could not walk on his head.] (3)

Due to the limited extension of this chapter, only a few comments regard-
ing the different translations can be made. Gutiérrez Girardot’s version is
of high quality, but it is remarkable in this extract that the translator varied
the penultimate sentence saying ya hacia delante, ya hacia atrás [now for-
ward, now backward] and by doing so, did not reproduce the way Lenz is
walking through the mountains going up and down the paths, bald auf-
bald abwärts [now up, now down]. And the fact that he chose the words
pinos [pines] for Tannen [firs] and zarzal [bramble patch] for Gesträuch
[shrubbery or bushes] might divert the perception of the Central European
landscape that surrounds Lenz when he walks through the mountains
evoking a rather Mediterranean countryside.

Carmen Gauger (TT2)

The second translation of Lenz published in Spain is included in the afore-

mentioned complete edition of Büchner’s works that dates from 1992 and
was re-edited without any changes in 2011. It contains the early texts of the
206 Andrea Schäpers

author, some of which were written in his school years, the pamphlet The
Hessian Rural Messenger, the drama Danton’s Death, the novella Lenz, the
comedy Leonce and Lena and the drama Woyzeck. Furthermore, it publishes
the text of Büchner’s doctoral thesis at the University of Zurich, On Cranial
Nerves, letters of the author and other documents such as his personal
description published when he was wanted for high treason and the death
notice written by his friend Wilhelm Schulz. In the introduction, Knut
Forssmann and Jordi Jané give information about the author’s biography
and the historical-political context, as well as background information for
a better interpretation of Büchner’s works.
The translator, Carmen Gauger, studied Classical, Romance and French
Philology at the Complutense University in Madrid and the German uni-
versities of Tübingen and Freiburg. She translates principally from German
into Spanish and has translated such diverse authors as Franz Kafka, Peter
Handke, Joseph Roth, Theodor Fontane, Carl Gustav Jung, Richard von
Weizsäcker, Hans Küng or Christa Wolf.
Gauger (TT2: 39) explains that her Spanish version is based:
entirely on the German text called the ‘Munich edition’ (G. Büchner, Werke und
Briefe, Munich, 1988), and that it is based on facsimiles, first impressions and the great
historical-critical edition of Werner Lehmann (‘Hamburg edition’: W. Lehmann,
Georg Büchner, Sämtliche Werke und Briefe…, Munich, 1967).

Nevertheless, for her translation, Gauger uses a later German version instead
of the one Gutiérrez Girardot uses, since the emblematic beginning of
the story, Den 20. ging Lenz durchs Gebirg, is different. While writing in
Spanish El 20 Lenz pasó por la sierra [The 20th, Lenz walked through the
mountains], Gauger keeps to what more recent authors consider to be the
‘authentic’ version of the novella published in several issues in the magazine
Telegraph für Deutschland. The first versions of the book added the month
of January (Den 20. Jänner) because they thought that it was an error by
the publisher and based this change on Pastor Oberlin’s diary who indeed
noted the month of January in his report. From the 1980s onwards, this
detail about the date was removed (Will, 2000: 20).
The translator, referring to the complete works of Büchner, mentions
that the footnotes refer to ‘geographical names, mythical or literary figures
or, in general, to passages that need an explanation’ (TT2: 40). Nevertheless,
Georg Büchner’s Fiction in Spain 207

her translation of the novella Lenz does not contain any notes although
it does contain several intertextual references to names and works that
could have been commented on (as other translators did). She begins the
narration as follows:
El 20, Lenz pasó por la sierra. Cumbres y altas laderas cubiertas de nieve, abajo, en los
valles, piedra gris, espacios verdes, rocas y abetos. Hacía un frío húmedo, el agua escur-
ría lentamente por las rocas y saltaba al camino. Las ramas de los abetos se doblaban
por el peso en el aire saturado. Nubes grises recorrían el cielo, pero todo tan denso,
y, luego, la niebla se evaporaba y al subir, pesada y húmeda, rozaba los arbustos, tan
lenta, tan torpe. El continuó con indiferencia, no le interesaba el camino, ya subiera,
ya bajara. No sentía cansancio, sólo le desagradaba a veces no poder caminar cabeza
abajo. (TT2: 137)

[The 20th, Lenz walked through the mountains. Snow on the peaks and upper
slopes, gray rock down into the valleys, swathes of green, boulders, and firs. It was
sopping cold, the water trickled down the rocks and leapt across the path. The fir
boughs sagged in the damp air. Gray clouds drifted across the sky, but everything so
stifling, and then the fog floated up and crept heavy and damp through the bushes,
so sluggish, so clumsy. He walked onward, caring little one way or another, to him
the path mattered not, now up, now down. He felt no fatigue, except sometimes it
annoyed him that he could not walk on his head.] (3)

My intention is not to evaluate the global quality of any of the translations

analysed in this chapter, but this passage seems more capable than the first
one of reproducing the natural surroundings when Lenz walked through
the mountains and his accelerated and delirious way of moving up and
down the paths. It also seems more appropriate to talk about abetos [fir
trees] and arbustos [bushes] in Spanish rather than pinos [pine trees] and
zarzales [brambles] in order to evoke the Central European landscape of
the Vosges. And maybe the translation of the last sentence where Lenz is
wishing to walk on his head sounds more natural in Spanish than Gutiérrez
Girardot’s version.

Bilingual version: Planeta Agostini (TT3)

Following the chronological order of the publications of Lenz in Spanish,

we find a little book edited by Planeta Agostini in 1999. It presents both
208 Andrea Schäpers

the original German version and the Spanish translation printed on oppo-
site pages. There is no information about the German edition the transla-
tor used, but some aspects might show that it could have been the same
used by Gutiérrez Girardot, because the beginning of the story is the same
including the specification of the month of January (El 20 de enero…) and
uses the name Kaufmann to identify Lenz’s friend during the first meeting
with Pastor Oberlin, when other versions use a dotted line while referring
to the person concerned.
It is interesting to learn what the back cover of the book says (TT3):
The guided readers that accompany the GERMAN course of PLANETA-
AGOSTINI make some of the most representative works of German literature
accessible to students. The texts have been simplified in order to be easier to under-
stand, without losing the interest of the original work. And the German text is
accompanied by the Spanish translation and so contributes to better understanding.

The collection is divided into three levels of difficulty and this one belongs
to level 1 (the easiest one). This version constitutes a new text based on
Büchner’s Lenz, an adaptation for a very specific readership. The German
text printed on the left side has been shortened and simplified, so there
are no complicated sentence structure forms and hardly any subordinate
clauses. Indirect speech is converted to direct speech, the verb tenses are
modified changing the Präteritum tense into the Perfekt, since it is thought
to be easier to understand and to use for a beginner. However, these sim-
plifications lead to a large number of grammatically wrong passages, for
example using wrong adjective declinations (Jetzt schämt er sich, dass er die
gute [the correct form should be guten] Leute erschreckt hat, TT3: 10), and
also expressions that are not commonly used such as the following passages
in italics (Lenz kommt wieder zu sich und bekommt das ganze Bewusstsein
seiner Lage wieder. Es ist ihm nochmal gut. TT3: 10).
There are many footnotes in this bilingual version; all of them appear
in the German text and mostly refer to basic aspects of language and gram-
mar. Since this version is made for German language students, its purpose
is different from the others we studied and it does not aim to introduce a
canonical German literary work to the reader. It helps to understand better
the German text and does not attempt to create an aesthetically pleasing
Georg Büchner’s Fiction in Spain 209

text that sounds well. Nevertheless, the purpose is not completely achieved,
because of the great number of grammatical errors that occurred by short-
ening and simplifying the text and sometimes teaching ‘incorrect’ German.
By simplifying the structures, it also eliminates Büchner’s character-
istic writing which is accelerated and distressed when it speaks about his
protagonist’s mood, and the translated text becomes flat and inert. Let us
see the emblematic beginning of the narration and the famous sentence
when Lenz wishes to walk on his head, which is presented in a very differ-
ent way because of the characteristic features mentioned above:
Am 20. Januar geht Lenz durchs Gebirge. Die Gipfel und hohen Bergflächen sind im
Schnee. Es ist nasskalt. Das Wasser rieselt die Felsen hinunter und springt über den
Weg. Am Himmel gibt es graue Wolken. Er geht gleichgültig weiter. Er spürt keine
Müdigkeit, nur ist es ihm manchmal unangenehm. Es gibt etwas, das ihm nicht aus
dem Kopf geht. Er fühlt sich beängstigt. (TT3: 4)

El 20 de enero Lenz va a través de las montañas. Las cumbres y las altas mesetas mon-
tañosas están nevadas. Hace un frío húmedo. El agua corre rocas abajo y salta por
los caminos. En el cielo hay nubes grises. Él continúa indiferente. No siente ningún
cansancio, sólo se siente a veces incómodo. Hay algo que no se le va de la cabeza. Se
siente angustiado. (TT3: 5)

[The 20th, Lenz walks through the mountains. The peaks and upper slows are in
snow. It is sopping cold. The water trickles down the rocks and leaps across the path.
There are grey clouds in the sky. He walks onward without caring. He does not feel
any fatigue, only sometimes he feels uncomfortable. There is something that he
cannot get out of his head. He feels distressed.]

Another serious consequence that deforms the translation of Büchner’s

work is the modification and addition of sentences and explanations that
try to clarify the background of the story. For example, the key sentence in
the beginning of the narration telling us that Lenz felt annoyed because he
could not walk on his head is changed saying that there is something that
he could not forget. These interpretations are often free and unfounded.
In addition to this, both the German and the Spanish versions subdi-
vide the text into paragraphs adding explanatory subtitles (obviously with
the purpose of helping to understand the text), but on some occasions
they do not faithfully reproduce the work’s contents. This is the case in
210 Andrea Schäpers

the passage where Lenz knows that a child has died and he clings to this
like an obsession and tries to bring her back to life:
Am dritten Hornung hörte er, ein Kind sei gestorben, er fasste es auf wie eine fixe
Idee. (21).

On the third of February he heard a child had died in Fouday, he clung to this like
an obsession. (51)

The bilingual version adds the explanation that the dead child was called Friederike:

Am 3. Februar hört er ein Gerede. Ein Kind ist in Fouday gestorben. Es hieß Friederike.
(TT3: 37)

[The 3rd of February he hears a commentary. A child has died in Fouday. She was
called Friederike.]

Indeed, the dead child in the real story was called Friederike and this was
stated by Pastor Oberlin in his diary, but the child’s name is not given in
this part of Büchner’s narration but in a later one, so the bilingual version
is anticipating this information.
Later on, the bilingual version adds the subtitle Lenz verwechselt die
Magd und Friederike [Lenz confuses the maid with Friederike] (TT3:
42–43) to another chapter and explains in Spanish that through his use
of the word Frauenzimmer (formerly used for ‘woman’) Lenz refers to the
maid employed in Oberlin’s house with whom Lenz apparently falls in love,
and that he confuses her with the dead child called Friederike and that is
why he is so obsessed with the name. Maybe the author of the translation
confuses the word Frauenzimmer with Zimmermädchen [maid].
Lenz erhob das Haupt, rang die Hände, und sagte: Ach! Ach! göttlicher Trost. Dann
frug er plötzlich freundlich, was das Frauenzimmer mache. (…) Ich bin ein Mörder.
Oberlin versetzte: vielleicht lebten alle diese Personen noch, vielleicht vergnügt; (…).
Oberlin sagte, er wisse von nichts, er wolle ihm aber in allem helfen und raten, er
müsse ihm aber Ort, Umstände und Person angeben. (23) [italics added].

Lenz levanta la cabeza, tuerce las manos y dice: ‘¡Ah, divino consuelo!’ De repente
pregunta amablemente: ‘¿Qué hace la criada?’ Oberlin dice: ‘No sé nada de eso. No
la he visto. Pero quiero ayudarle. ¿Qué quiere saber de ella?’
Georg Büchner’s Fiction in Spain 211

[Lenz raises his head, twists his hands and says: ‘Ah, divine consolation!’Suddenly he
politely asks: ‘What is the maid doing?’Oberlin says ‘I don’t know anything about
that. I haven’t seen her. But I want to help you. What do you want to know about her?’]

Oberlin está confundido, pero comienza a comprender la nueva situación de Lenz.

Está enamorado de la criada. Pero Oberlin no conoce la historia de la niña muerta de
Fouday. (TT3: 43)

[Oberlin is confused, but he starts to understand Lenz’s new situation. He is in love

with the maid. But Oberlin does not know the story of the dead child in Fouday]

The passage in italics constitutes a mistaken interpretation, since the pro-

tagonist is not referring to the maid asking for the Frauenzimmer, but to
Friederike Brion, a Lutheran minister’s daughter who Goethe had fallen
in love with and to whom Lenz was also attracted. Friederike’s name was
quoted several times in Oberlin’s report, but Büchner’s text published
in the magazine Telegraph für Deutschland only mentioned it once and
the genetic study of the work suggests that it might have been a passage
Büchner could have revised and possibly eliminated the proper name in
his definitive version as he did with Kaufmann.11
In its effort to ‘correct’ Büchner’s text and to complete it by align-
ing it to Oberlin’s diary, the people responsible for the first Lenz editions
(starting with the edition published in 1850 by Ludwig Büchner, Georg’s
brother), completed the narration with the information contained in the
pastor’s report. Recent editions, with greater historiographical awareness,
are again based on the only authentic text left of the novella that does not
contain the month of January in the beginning of the narration and practi-
cally does not use any names of historical people.

María Teresa Ruiz Camacho (TT4)

The translation by María Teresa Ruiz Camacho was made in 2006. The
publisher Nórdica Libros thereby offered readers a carefully produced

11 The love affair with Friederike is a main subject in Stöber’s text, but it stays in the
background in Büchner’s novella (Martin, 2002).
212 Andrea Schäpers

edition with coloured illustrations by the Viennese painter and sculptor

Alfred Hrdlicka that also includes extracts from Goethe’s autobiogra-
phy Dichtung und Wahrheit [Poetry and Truth] about his former friend
Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz. The translator, about whom we have not
been able to obtain any biographical or professional details, has carried
out other translations from German for the same publisher: Unerzählt
[Untold] by Winfried Georg Sebald (2007), a travel guide to London
for children, Londres para niños [London for children] (2011) translated
from the German edition Komm mit! London für Kinder [Come with us!
London for children] by the Czech Jindra Capek (2010) and in 2013 the
wordless novel Mi libro de horas [My book of hours] with woodcut images
by the Flemish Frans Masereel of 1920 and an introduction by Thomas
Mann from the 1926 German edition.
There is no translator’s comment about the German version she used.
The introduction is signed by the illustrator Alfred Hrdlicka in which
he mentions Georg Büchner’s way of writing that inspired him for his
illustrations. He aims to confront the literary work with the reality of
the authentic writer Lenz and describes him as a precursor of Büchner,
with the same geniality, expressive and extremely sensitive, passionate and
near to ‘hebephrenia’, the madness of youth. The illustrator addresses the
work Der Hofmeister [The Preceptor] by the Sturm und Drang writer and
explains that this work is Lenz’s self-portrait and that the idealism of youth
and sexual necessity are two poles that attract and repel one another, and
destroy with ‘fatality’ the drama’s characters (TT4: 7).
Hrdlicka’s illustrations, which are very violent and have an intense
sexual content, influence the reading and guide the interpretation of
the narration towards a carnal vision of the protagonist and his illness.
Furthermore, the drawings seem to monopolize this aspect and, with the
symbolism of the images, express the artistic concept based on the carnal-
ity of man (Neuhuber, 2009: 243).
The translator is relegated to a secondary position behind the illustrator
and does not comment on her translation or the few footnotes she inserts,
that are nearly all explanations of historical figures and works of art. It is
surprising that the Spanish explanations contain some mistakes that sug-
gest that the footnotes have been translated from German, for example,
Georg Büchner’s Fiction in Spain 213

Christus und die Jünger von Emmaus. Título del cuadro del holandés Malers
[sic] Carel van Savoy (1621–1665) [Christ and the Emmaus disciples. Title
of the painting by the Dutch painter Carel van Savoy (1621–1665)] (TT4:
34). The expression del holandés Malers seems to be wrongly translated
from the German des holländischen Malers without noticing that Malers
is not part of the proper noun but the noun Maler [painter] in a genitive
declination adding an ‘s’ (in Spanish, it should have been del pintor holan-
dés [by the Dutch painter]).
The beginning of the story does not seem to be based on any of the
earlier translations. In its first sentence, it follows the norms established
by the recent publishers of Lenz by not mentioning the month of January
and the last sentence represents a very natural wording in Spanish:
El día 20 iba Lenz por la montaña. Las altas cumbres y las cimas cubiertas de nieve;
valle abajo, rocas parduscas, llanuras verdes, peñascos y abetos. Hacía un frío húmedo,
el agua murmuraba en su descenso por las rocas y salpicaba el camino. Las ramas de
los árboles se vencían por el peso en el aire acuoso. Unas nubes negras avanzaban por
el cielo, sin embargo todo tan denso y, además, la niebla desprendía vapor y atrave-
saba pesada y húmeda entre los arbustos, tan lenta, tan torpe. Continuó andando
indiferente, no le importaba nada del camino, ya fuera subir, ya fuera bajar. No sentía
el cansancio, lo único que a veces le resultaba molesto era no poder andar cabeza
abajo. (TT4: 11)

[The 20th, Lenz walked through the mountains. Snow on the peaks and upper
slopes, gray rock down into the valleys, swathes of green, boulders, and firs. It was
sopping cold, the water trickled down the rocks and leapt across the path. The fir
boughs sagged in the damp air. Gray clouds drifted across the sky, but everything so
stifling, and then the fog floated up and crept heavy and damp through the bushes,
so sluggish, so clumsy. He walked onward, caring little one way or another, to him
the path mattered not, now up, now down. He felt no fatigue, except sometimes it
annoyed him that he could not walk on his head.] (3)

Rosa Marta Gómez Pato (TT5)

The last translation, which is a bilingual one, was made by Rosa Marta
Gómez Pato. It dates from 2010 and was published by Bienza, D. L. in Seville.
214 Andrea Schäpers

Gómez Pato is a professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela

where she teaches Modern and Contemporary German Literature. She is
also responsible for the edition of this text as well as the critical analysis
and the translation itself. The fact that she is a teacher influences her trans-
lation method and justifies her personal interest in offering the reader an
academic, commented version.
In the critical analysis, the chapter entitled ‘About this edition’, the
translator gives the following information about the textual version she
based her translation upon:

The present edition includes the translation of Lenz. The original manuscript is lost.
Today there is a copy made by Minna Jaeglé, published and edited posthumously
by Karl Gutzkow in January 1839 in the magazine Telegraph für Deutschland enti-
tled Lenz. Eine Reliquie von Georg Büchner (Lenz. A relic by Georg Büchner). Our
translation is based on the edition by Hubert Gersch that follows that first edition
published by the writer Karl Gutzkow 1839. (TT5: 8)

Her edition includes a chronology with the historical events related to the
author’s most important biographical details that aims to put the work
in context. At the end of the study, there is a basic bibliography and a list
of translations of Büchner’s works into the official Spanish languages:
Castilian, Catalan, Galician and Basque. She incorporates here the transla-
tions of Rafael Gutiérrez Girardot (in the 1981 and 1987 editions) and the
versions made by Carmen Gauger (1992) and María Teresa Ruiz Camacho
(2006). Among the translations of Büchner’s works into the other co-official
languages of Spain, there is only one version of Lenz that was rendered into
Catalan by Jordi Ibáñez Fanés in 1988.
The following words can be seen as a sufficient justification for wishing
to offer a new translation of Lenz only a few years after the one published
by Ruiz Camacho in 2006:
Through this analysis and translation of Lenz into Spanish, we aim to publish a text
for those who wish to read it once again and to learn some more about the author
and his work and to those who do not know it. We hope that it can serve as a work-
ing manual and support material for students and teachers. This is why an extensive
critical apparatus and footnotes that aim to help the reading of the text and make it
easier to understand accompany our translation. (TT5: 8)
Georg Büchner’s Fiction in Spain 215

Gómez Pato does not omit references to the translations by Gutiérrez

Girardot and Gauger and agrees with the interpretation the latter offers
in her analysis prior to the translation (TT5: 34).
Here is the beginning of the story of Lenz in Gómez Pato’s translation:

El día 20 Lenz caminó por las montañas (1). Las cumbres y las llanuras altas cubiertas
de nieve; abajo los valles, peñascos grises, campos verdes, rocas y abetos. Hacía un frío
húmedo, el agua se deslizaba por las rocas y saltaba hacia el camino. Las ramas de los
abetos colgaban pesadas en el aire húmedo. Nubes grises atravesaban el cielo, pero
todo tan cerrado, y luego la niebla ascendía y acariciaba pesada y húmeda los arbus-
tos, tan perezosa, tan torpe. Lenz continuó indiferente, no le importaba el camino,
ora hacia arriba, ora hacia abajo. No sentía cansancio, sólo a veces le molestaba no
poder caminar cabeza abajo.

(1): El texto comienza con la descripción de la caminata de Lenz hacia el valle de

Steintal, y se cierra al final igualmente con la partida y el alejamiento del lugar del
protagonista. Ambos pasajes conforman el marco de la narración y confieren a la
obra una estructura circular y cerrada. (TT5: 63).

[The 20th, Lenz walked through the mountains. Snow on the peaks and upper
slopes, gray rock down into the valleys, swathes of green, boulders, and firs. It was
sopping cold, the water trickled down the rocks and leapt across the path. The fir
boughs sagged in the damp air. Gray clouds drifted across the sky, but everything so
stifling, and then the fog floated up and crept heavy and damp through the bushes,
so sluggish, so clumsy. He walked onward, caring little one way or another, to him
the path mattered not, now up, now down. He felt no fatigue, except sometimes it
annoyed him that he could not walk on his head.] (3)

[Translation of the footnote: The text begins with the description of Lenz’s walk
towards the Steintal valley and also ends with the departure and removal of the pro-
tagonist from the location. Both passages constitute the framework of the narration
and give the work a circular and closed structure.]

Her version contains thirty-five footnotes and the first one is inserted in
the first sentence of the text work as seen above: It is immediately clear
that the footnotes are motivated by the academic and didactic purpose
mentioned previously. In Translation Studies, there are widely differing
views concerning the usefulness and appropriacy of using footnotes in a
literary work and some of those used here might be considered excessive
216 Andrea Schäpers

or superfluous to the understanding or interpretation of the text, as the

following example with detailed geographic information shows:

Gegen Abend kam er auf die Höhe des Gebirgs, auf das Schneefeld, von wo man
wieder hinabstieg in die Ebene nach Westen, er setzt sich oben nieder. (6)

Al atardecer llegó a lo alto de la montaña, al nevero, desde donde se volvía a descender

a la llanura por el oeste, se sentó allí arriba. (2)

(2): La acción se localiza aquí en el Campo de Fuego (Champ du Feu), la montaña más
alta del norte de los Vosgos cerca de Waldersbach, también Waldbach. La Cordillera
de los Vosgos es un sistema montañoso al noroeste de Francia, frontera natural entre
las regiones de Alsacia y Lorena. Tiene una extensión aproximada de 190 km de norte
a sur y transcurre paralela al Rin. (TT5, 65)

[Toward evening he came to the mountain ridge, to the snowfield from which he
once again descended westwards into the plain, he sat down at the crest.] (5)

[Translation of the footnote: The action is located at the Champ du Feu, the high-
est mountain of the northern Vosges near Waldersbach, also called Waldbach. The
Vosges Mountains are a range of mountains in northeastern France that forms a
natural border between the Alsace and Lorraine regions. It has an extension of
approximately 190 km from the north to the south and runs parallel to the Rhine.]


My aim in this study has been to show that Büchner’s text has been retrans-
lated for different reasons producing new texts that depend to a large extent
on the individual choices made by the translators or the publisher in order
to achieve a specific function and occasionally determined by the contextual
circumstances and the paratext of the translation. Having analysed the five
translations currently published in Spain of the nineteenth-century novella
Lenz by Georg Büchner, our attention is drawn to how long it took for
Spanish readers to have access to this emblematic work by the German
author. Although there was a Spanish language version published in 1976
Georg Büchner’s Fiction in Spain 217

in Argentina, it was not until 1981 that readers in Spain were able to read
Büchner’s novella thanks to the translation by the Colombian Gutiérrez
It seems likely that the first Argentinian translation was due to the
academic interest of its translator, Rodolfo Enrique Modern, who wrote his
doctoral thesis in Germanic Philology about Büchner’s work. The second
version, by Gutiérrez Girardot, fulfilled the function of introducing the
work in Spain. Since the translator was also a philologist, his personal and
academic interest was demonstrated by writing an extensive prologue that
served to inform readers about the historical and genetic background of the
novella. Carmen Gauger’s translation has been useful because she offered
Spanish readers the first complete edition of Büchner’s work.
The bilingual version of 1999 is especially interesting, since it had a
completely different purpose and does not have the same status within the
textual corpus we have studied. It was remarkable due to the great number
of grammatical mistakes it contained and the liberty with which Büchner’s
literary work was changed, with some serious consequences that might
have influenced the reception of the author and this work in Spain. This
bilingual version of Lenz offers a completely different text compared to
the original work, which is certainly due to its didactic aims. Nevertheless,
the simplified German text that is supposed to help to study the foreign
language contains many mistakes and, therefore, does not fully comply with
this purpose. It is also aimed at awakening interest in the literary work,
but as it simplifies the writing, gives free interpretations and disfigures
the textual macrostructure by dividing it into chapters with explanatory
subtitles, it does no justice to the original work or to the writer.
The last two translations that have been published subsequently in a
very short period of time (2006 and 2010) each have some features. The
first one, by María Teresa Ruiz Camacho, offers readers a very aesthetically
pleasing edition including some striking illustrations by Alfred Hrdlicka
that overshadow the translated text to a certain extent, which shows how
much a translation can be determined by its paratext, in this case, the
illustrations. It seems that the translation is due to an editorial decision
to present a new aesthetic view of Büchner’s Lenz without any presence
of the ‘voice of the translator’ (Alvstadt and Assis, 2015). The most recent
218 Andrea Schäpers

one, by Rosa Marta Gómez Pato, presents a philological approach to the

translation with extensive and well-researched extratextual information
that brings the work back to academic surroundings.
Finally, it could be interesting to compare the introduction of
Georg Büchner’s Lenz in other European countries, such as France or the
United Kingdom, where the first translation dates from 1966, in order to
see whether some of the results of this study can be extrapolated to the
European Literary System as a whole.


Primary references

Büchner, G. (1976). Lenz. Traducción de Rodolfo Modern. Buenos Aires: Corregidor.

Büchner, G. (1981/1997). Lenz. Traducción y prólogo de Rafael Gutiérrez Girardot.
Barcelona: Montesinos.
Büchner, G. (1984/1998/2002). Lenz. Editor: Hubert Gersch. Stuttgart: Reclam.
Büchner, G. (1992/2011). Obras completas de Georg Büchner. Traducción de Carmen
Büchner, G. (1999). Lenz. Versión bilingüe abreviada y simplificada. Barcelona: Pla-
neta – De Agostini.
Büchner, G. (2004). Lenz. English Translation by Richard Sieburth. Brooklyn, NY:
Büchner, G. (2006). Lenz. Traducción de María Teresa Ruiz Camacho. Con ilustra-
ciones de Alfred Hrdlicka. Madrid: Nórdica Libros.
Büchner, G. (2010). Lenz. Edición, estudio crítico y traducción por Rosa Marta Gómez
Pato. Sevilla: Bienza, D. L.
Büchner-Portal. <http://www.buechnerportal.de> accessed 15 January 2016.

Secondary references

Alvstad, C., and A. Assis (2015). ‘Voice in retranslation: an overview and some trends’,
Target, 27(1), 3–24.
Georg Büchner’s Fiction in Spain 219

Frank, A. P., and H. Turk (2004). Die literarische Übersetzung in Deutschland. Göttinger
Beiträge zur internationalen Übersetzungsforschung, 18. Berlin: Erich Schmidt.
García Adánez, I. (2009). ‘En los márgenes del canon y al borde de la sinrazón. Georg
Büchner y el mundo al revés de Leonce und Lena’. Revista de Filología Alemana,
Anejo I, 131–149.
Goltschnigg, D. (2001). Georg Büchner und die Moderne. Texte, Analysen, Kommentar.
Tomo 1: 1875–1945. Berlin: Erich Schmidt, 2001.
González Herrera, A., and M. López-Andrade, L. (2010). ‘Lenz. G. Büchner: deses-
peranza y fragmentación’. Cuadernos de Psiquiatría Comunitaria, 10(2), 9–24.
Hofmannsthal, H. von (1912). Deutsche Erzähler. Leipzig: Insel Verlag.
Hurtado Albir, A. (2001). Traducción y traductología. Madrid: Cátedra.
Lafarga, F., and L. Pegenaute (eds) (2009). Diccionario histórico de la traducción en
España. Madrid: Gredos.
Martin, A. (2002). Die kranke Jugend. J. M. R. Lenz und Goethes Werther in der
Rezeption des Sturm und Drang bis zum Naturalismus. Würzburg: Königshausen
& Neumann.
Neuhuber, C. (2007). ‘Zur Rezeption der Lenz-Erzählung Georg Büchners’. In
D. Sevin (ed.), Georg Büchner: Neue Perspektiven zur internationalen Rezeption,
65–79. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag.
Neuhuber, C. (2009). Lenz-Bilder: Bildlichkeit in Büchners Erzählung und ihre Rezep-
tion in der bildenden Kunst. Vienna: Böhlau.
Pym, A. (2009). ‘Humanizing translation history’. Hermes. Journal of Language and
Communication Studies, 42, 23–48.
Stephan, I., and H.-G. Winter (2006). Zwischen Kunst und Wissenschaft. Jakob Michael
Reinhold Lenz. Bern: Peter Lang.
Will, M. (2000). ‘Autopsie’ und reproduktive ‘Phantasie’: Quellenstudien zu Georg
Büchners Erzählung ‘Lenz’. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.
Arturo Peral Santamaría

8  Ossian and Werther in Spain

Scholars have considered Ossian’s reception in Spain to have been very superficial, as his
influence was only detectable in some authors and his impact on Spanish Romanticism
was very limited. This might be true in terms of direct reception, but thanks to the pres-
ence of Ossianic fragments in the novel Die Leiden des Jungen Werther [The Sorrows of
Young Werther] by Goethe, which has been very popular since the nineteenth century
to the present, the images and themes published by Macpherson have had a surprisingly
intense presence in different cultural manifestations. In this chapter, we aim to observe the
Wertherian indirect reception of Ossian in Spain through translations, the press and music.

Ossian and his direct influence in Spain

Between 1760 and 1763, a young man called James Macpherson (1736–1796)
published several volumes of poetry that shocked Pre-Romantic Europe.
This Scottish author claimed to have found Gaelic compositions by a third-
century bard called Ossian and that the works he was offering the world
were nothing but translations of these poems. The ensuing controversy was
assured: some considered them authentic, which would demonstrate that
the ancient inhabitants of Northern Europe were capable of producing art
that was just as complex and sophisticated as the better known civiliza-
tions of Southern Europe. Others, on the contrary, considered the poems
to be a very elaborate hoax. The poems became very fashionable and their
circulation in other nations helped spread all around Europe an aesthetic
focused on describing the heroic virtue and sentiment of the past and the
wonder and violence of nature. In the words of Monk (1960: 126):
222 Arturo Peral Santamaría

Everyone that read, read Ossian; nothing could have been more on a level with the
taste of the age. Most readers found there what they sought: sentiment, and a new
and mysterious kind of beauty.

In his work entitled The Reception of Ossian in Europe (2004), Howard

Gaskill included a collection of articles about the reception of Ossian
in different European nations which reveal the importance these that
poems had at the time. It starts with a timeline created by Paul Barnaby
(pp. XXI–LXVIII) that sets the contexts for the various publications of
the poems since the appearance of Fragments in 1760 to the present day.
One can immediately understand the enormous impact of the poems over
time thanks to this study.
Spain was slow to join the cultural changes that were taking place
across the rest of the continent, and the voice of the Scottish bard Ossian
was not heard there until 1787, when the newspaper Espíritu de los mejo-
res diarios que se publican en Europa [Spirit of the best newspapers pub-
lished in Europe] published an anonymous translation from the French of
Casimiro Varon’s Invocación á la luna, á imitación de Ossian [Invocation
of the moon, in imitation of Ossian] (12 June 1787), a text that followed
the Ossianic style. Indeed, most twentieth-century researchers who have
studied the reception of Macpherson’s works in Spain believe that it was
actually very limited. As evidence of this fact, they often quote the Spanish
writer Juan Valera, who once said that ‘the melancholy song of Oscar’s
father was seldom heard in Spain’ (cited by Peers, 1925: 121, and Montiel,
1974: 38).1 Only four books containing exclusively Ossianic poetry have
been published in Spain. The first one of them appeared in 1788 and was
translated directly by José Alonso Ortiz from the original English text
published by Macpherson and it contained two versions (in prose and
verse) of the poems Carthon and Lathmon. The next book to appear in
Spanish was Fingal, translated by Pedro Montengón in 1800, and based
on the Italian version of Melchiore Cesarotti. It was not until 1880 that a
new translation appeared, an anonymous version entitled Los poemas de

1 From now on, all translations are by the author unless stated otherwise.
Ossian and Werther in Spain 223

Ossian [The Poems of Ossian] which was based on the French edition by
P. Christian. The last edition appeared in 1883 and was translated by Ángel
Lasso de la Vega and was subsequently republished between 1923 and 1926.
It was based on the previous Spanish translation of 1880 and incorporated
some other fragments that were included in the French text by P. Christian
and were absent from the anonymous edition. This Spanish edition was
undoubtedly the most widespread in Spain.
Apart from these four editions, we can find Ossianic poems in certain
poetry anthologies, such as the one published by Juan Nicasio Gallego
(1829), another one edited by Chocomeli Codinas with the title Gaul
(1874), or the two by Jaime Martí-Miquel (Granos de Oro, in 1883; Poemas
de los principales autores extranjeros, in 1885), as well as some assorted
translated poems that appeared in the press. Nevertheless, if we only pay
attention to the translations of Ossianic poems that appeared in Spain,
we would conclude that the reception of these works was very limited
However, reception can take place in more subtle and indirect ways.
In the specific case of Ossian, we can find a different way of entering Spain
and that was through Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s novel Die Leiden des
jungen Werther [The Sorrows of Young Werther].2 This book is intimately
related to Macpherson’s poems, as Goethe, influenced by the fashion of
the time, had shown great interest in the Gaelic poems.

Die Leiden des jungen Werther and Ossian

This German novel was first published in 1774 and was based on Goethe’s
personal experiences while working at Wetzlar, where he fell in love with
Carlotte Buff, the bride of Chancellor Kestner, and where his friend Carl

2 In this article, I will be using the 2001 Reclam edition of the novel.
224 Arturo Peral Santamaría

Wilhelm Jerusalem committed suicide. The novel shows how the young
Goethe was influenced by the works of Samuel Richardson (Martín Cinto,
2007: 80), as it is an epistolary novel that can almost be read as the diary
of Werther. The book depicts the actions and feelings of Werther, who is
in love with Lotte, a lady engaged to an older man called Albert. Werther,
frustrated by not being able to possess his beloved, ends his own life. The
novel reached such a degree of fame that many men copied Werther’s
style of dress and it also provoked an unusual tendency towards suicide
all over Europe.
In Goethe’s book, the main character shows himself to be inter-
ested in many authors, but Homer stands out as a prominent figure in
his readings. With time, however, he shows a growing predilection for
Ossian. The first appearance of Ossian in the novel is when someone asks
rather timidly if he has any interest in the poems of the Caledonian bard
(Neulich fragte mich einer, wie mir Ossian gefiele! [Recently some fellow
asked me how I like Ossian!, translation by Michael Hulse (1989: 51)],
in the letter dated 10 July). His interest in sentiment and nature grow,
and he even declares that Ossian hat in meinem Herzen den Homer ver-
drängt [Ossian has ousted Homer from my heart (ibid.: 95)], in his letter
of 12 October. Later on, in the most climatic scene of the novel, Lotte
asks Werther to read the translations he has been working on lately,
and the young man recites some fragments from ‘Songs of Selma’ and
Gaskill (2013: 303) has stated that around seven per cent of Goethe’s
novel is a translation of the poems, and that the most probable source
text used by the German writer was the Works of Ossian, which appeared
in 1765 and was possibly the most influential edition of Macpherson’s
poetry in Europe (Gaskill, 1991: XXIII). This edition was part of the
library of Goethe’s father (Gaskill, 2013: 306), and that is how he must
have had access to the poems. In Lamport’s (1998: 98) opinion, Werther’s
shift of interest from Homer, a classical writer, to Ossian, would mark ‘a
decisive stage in his psychic disintegration’; he also writes that for this
character, ‘Homer would represent clarity and sanity, Ossian gloom
and suicidal melancholy’. According to Stuart (1999: 2), ‘the Ossianic
Ossian and Werther in Spain 225

imagery is part of a consistent pattern in the whole text’. In her opinion,

Werther and Lotte are influenced by authors such as Galotti, Klopstock,
Homer … Ossian would be a very important part of this pattern because
the bard seems to balance Werther’s interest in Homer in the first part
of the novel and because the poems introduce an ecstatic mood to the
Werther appears as the translator of the poems, and Stuart (1999: 7)
considers his work ‘a substantial artistic achievement’ due to its poetic
richness. In this author’s opinion, Goethe alters the text to achieve a more
poetic effect, especially by omitting elements and searching for euphony
(ibid.: 6–7). J. M. Coetzee (in Gaskill, 2013: 303) describes more changes
in Goethe’s translation in the following terms:
Goethe normalizes locutions that sound dialectal or ornamentally archaic or simply
eccentric; he classifies the logical relations between sentences by inserting conjunc-
tions; he elides phrases that do not work; he brings down to earth lofty locutions
(thus ‘ascends the deep ‘becomes simply ‘rows’ ); he improves on bland phrasing
(‘those that have passed away’ becomes ‘grave-dwellers’); he regularizes Macpherson’s
irregular (pseudo-Gaelic) word order; he interprets enigmatic Gaelic idioms rather
than just reproducing them; and he does some mild bowdlerizing (‘white-bosomed
Colma’ becomes‘pale Colma’).

If we compare the fragment of ‘Berrathon’ that Goethe uses in the novel

on two occasions (in the letters of 12 October and 20 December), we can
observe some of these changes. In both cases, Werther quotes the same
passage, but in the first case (Der Wanderer wird kommen, kommen, der
mich kannte in meiner Schönheit, und fragen: Wo ist der Sänger, Fingals
trefflicher Sohn? Sein Fußtritt geht über mein Grab hin, und er fragt ver-
gebens nach mir auf der Erde, 101 [Tomorrow the traveller shall come, he
shall come, who beheld me in beauty, and he shall ask: ‘Where is the singer,
where is he, the excellent son of Fingal?’ His eye shall seek me in the field
around, but he shall seek me in vain on earth (Hulse, 1989: 193)]), the
text is in some way a composition of different fragments of the opening
of ‘Berrathon’. Therefore, it seems freer than the second one, which we can
observe in Table 8.1 next to the English original. I also present a fragment of
‘Songs of Selma’.
226 Arturo Peral Santamaría

Table 8.1

‘Berrathon’ (Macpherson, 1765, v. I, Werther, letter of 20 December (p. 141)

pp. 356–357)
Why dost thou awake me, O gale, it seems ‘Warum weckst du mich, Frühlingsluft? Du
to say; I am covered with the drops of buhlst und sprichst: ich betaue mit Tropfen
heaven? The time of my fading is near, des Himmels! Aber die Zeit meines Welkens
and the blast that shall scatter my leaves. ist nahe, nahe der Sturm, der meine Blätter
To-morrow shall the traveller come, he herabstört! Morgen wird der Wanderer
that saw me in my beauty shall come; his kommen, kommen der mich sah in meiner
eyes will search the field, but they will Schönheit, ringsum wird sein Auge im
not find me? Felde mich suchen und wird mich nicht
finden’ .
‘Songs of Selma (Macpherson, 1765, Werther, letter of 20 December (p.133)
v. I, pp. 291–292)
Star of the descending night! fair is thy Stern der dämmernden Nacht, schön
light in the west! thou lifest thy unshorn funkelst du in Westen, hebst dein strahlend
head from thy cloud: thy steps are stately Haupt aus deiner Wolke, wandelst stattlich
on thy hill. What dost thou behold in deinen Hügel hin. Wornach blickst du auf
the plain? The stormy winds are laid. The die Heide? Die stürmenden Winde haben
murmur of the torrent comes from afar. sich gelegt; von ferne kommt des Gießbachs
Roaring waves climb the distant rock. Murmeln; rauschende Illen spielen am Felsen
The flies of evening are on their feeble ferne; das Gesumme der Abendfliegen
wings, and the hum of their course is on schwärmet übers Feld. Wornach siehst du,
the field. What dost thou behold, fair schönes Licht? Aber du lächelst und gehst,
light? But thou dost smile and depart. freudig umgeben dich die Wellen, und baden
The waves come with joy around thee, dein liebliches Haar. Lebe wohl, ruhiger
and bathe thy lovely hair. Farewell, thou Strahl. Erscheine, du herrliches Licht von
silent beam! – Let the light of Ossian’s Ossians Seele!
soul arise.

The letter of 12 October is not only interesting due to its Ossianic quota-
tion but also because the whole letter deals with the poems published by
Macpherson. In a certain way, it summarizes the Ossianic elements that
seem most appealing to Werther: sublime nature (misty and tempestuous
skies, the moon, the rough sea, the solitary heath, the mountain, the cave
and the stream), supernatural images (spirits manifesting themselves in
the wind, the ghosts of fallen warriors) and melancholy or heroic figures
(the woman weeping on her fallen lover’s grave, the bard addressing the
evening star when he finds nothing but the graves of his forefathers, the
victorious warriors returning from battle).
Ossian and Werther in Spain 227

Werther in Spain

In Martín Cinto’s (2007: 81–85) opinion, Goethe’s arrival in Spain took place
at a very late stage due to political, social and intellectual circumstances. The
first mention of the book in this country appeared when a man called José
Bladeau presented a translation to the authorities to try to publish it under
the title Cartas morales sobre las pasiones [Moral letters about passions].
The censor did not approve the book and used these words to discredit it:

And so it is clear that the body of the work does not correspond to the prospect nor
the title it has on the cover, and is thereby of little use in reading. There are infinite
books that deal with this interesting matter with clarity, method and distinction,
and specially in accordance with our mother Church […], and therefore can be read
with much benefit, without the inconvenience of exciting the same passions, as will
happen with this work, that teaches with great passion to embrace and kiss, and all
other caresses that arise with unruly love… (Montesinos, 1982: 30)

A bilingual French-Spanish version from the Louis publishing house in

Paris was circulating at the beginning of the nineteenth century (Pageard,
1958: 11), but there would be no Spanish translation until 1819, when it was
published almost simultaneously in Valencia with the title of Werther and
in Barcelona as Las pasiones del joven Werther (ibid.: 13). After this date,
the book became popular and many translations appeared: there were four
editions between 1819 and 1821, and it was one of the most translated novels
around the 1830s. Unfortunately, Goethe was only well known among the
general reading public: the high-brow public would not acknowledge him
until later thanks to the influence of Faust (ibid.: 20–25). Nevertheless,
Werther became more and more popular during the second half of the
nineteenth century. As for the number of editions of Werther, Martín
Cinto (2007: 86–87) identified thirty-two different versions between
1803 and 1991. I conducted a search for the book in the catalogue of the
National Library of Spain in February 2016 and found 132 different edi-
tions between 1849 and 2015.
Trying to fill the gap left since Martin Cinto’s research, from 1991 to
2015 I have recorded fourteen translations with no information about the
Spanish translator in the catalogue, eleven new translations and twenty-three
reprints. Checking the whole list of the catalogue, the National Library
228 Arturo Peral Santamaría

does not include any information about the translator in thirty-one of

these publications, which could either be reprints (which may or may not
include the name of the translator, as the catalogue might be incomplete) or
new translations without any information about the translator. Among the
translations that do include the name of the Spanish author, the version that
we find most often is the one by José Mor de Fuentes – it has reappeared at
least seventeen times in publishing houses such as Espasa-Calpe or Alianza
Editorial, and as late as 2012. The second most republished translation is the
one by José María Valverde, which has been published on thirteen different
occasions between 1963 and 2012. The next most frequently republished
translation is the one by Rafael Cansinos Assens (nine times between 1944
and 1985), followed by the version of José Valor (with eight editions between
1966 and 2004), Manuel José González (seven times between 1982 and
2013), and finally Berta Vias Mahou (with five editions from 2000 to 2014).
Retranslations and reprints appear almost on a yearly basis from 1961
to 2015, which would prove that Werther has become a very popular pub-
lication in Spain and that it has a very long tradition in the Spanish book
industry. Therefore, ‘The Song of Selma’ and ‘Berrathon’ are the most pub-
lished Ossianic poems in Spain, even if they are not in their complete form.
This ‘summary’ of Ossianic elements has probably also had an enormous
impact on the ideas of Ossianism in Spain. I have been able to compare
eleven of the most translated Spanish versions, and have observed that the
only one of them which presents the poems in verse form is that of Mor
de Fuentes. The following extract, again from ‘Berrathon’, exemplifies this.
The verses rhyme in couplets and either have seven or eleven syllables:
¿Para qué, cefirillo, despertarme?
¿Para qué con halagos engañarme?
Maná celeste mis sentidos baña;
El plazo vuela y mi verdor empaña;
Ya asoma la tormenta
Y brama y se acrecienta.
Y llega y me despoja
De mi lozana hoja.
Mañana ha de venir el viandante
Que logró verme en la beldad brillante.
Su vista con ahínco ha de buscarme,
Y otea la campiña, y no ha de hallarme.3

3 For the original English and German texts, see Table 8.1.
Ossian and Werther in Spain 229

I have also seen a great similarity between three translations: the versions
by Roger de Elil (1942), Ignacio Tellería and Emilio de Miguel (1963) and
Revista de Occidente (which I have found in a reprint by Salvat in 1969),
and have limited my comparison to the Ossianic fragments of the different
versions. Table 8.2 can serve to exemplify this resemblance.

Table 8.2

Roger de Elil (1942) Ignacio Tellería and Revista de Occidente

Emilio de Miguel
‘Songs of ¡Estrella del ¡Estrella del ¡Estrella del
Selma’ crepúsculo, cuán crepúsculo, que crepúsculo, que
bellamente brillas resplandeces soberbia resplandeces soberbia
en el ocaso! ¡Cómo en Occidente, que en Occidente, que
levantas tu cabeza asomas tu radiante asomas tu radiante
radiante a través de faz por entre las faz por entre las
la colina! Dime ¿qué nubes y te paseas nubes y te paseas
ves en la llanura? Los majestuosa sobre la majestuosa sobre
ruidos diurnos han colina! … ¿Qué miras la colina! … ¿Qué
cesado: los vientos a través del follaje? miras a través
guardan silencio: Los indómitos vientos del follaje? Los
el eco del torrente se han calmado; se indómitos vientos
parece desvanecerse: oye lejano el ruido se han calmado; se
las olas calmadas se del torrente; las oye lejano el ruido
mecen al pie de las espumosas olas se del torrente; las
rocas; el zumbido de estrellan al pie de las espumosas olas se
los insectos flotando rocas, y el confuso estrellan al pie de las
en los aromas del rumor de los insectos rocas y el confuso
atardecer vibra en el nocturnos se cierne rumor de los insectos
silencio de los aires. sobre los aires. ¿Qué nocturnos se cierne
Estrella brillante, miras, luz hermosa? en los aires. ¿Qué
dime, ¿qué ves en Sonríes y sigues tu miras, luz hermosa?
la llanura? Pero ya camino. Las ondas Sonríes y sigues tu
tu dulce claridad se elevan gozosas camino. Las ondas
desciende poco a hasta ti, bañando tu se elevan gozosas
poco hacia la línea del brillante cabellera hasta ti, bañando tu
horizonte. Las olas del (pp. 479–480). brillante cabellera
mar se abren gozosas (pp. 152–153).
para recibirte y bañar,
oh hija del cielo, tu
plateada cabellera (p.
230 Arturo Peral Santamaría

‘Berrathon’ ¿Por qué me ¿Por qué me ¿Por qué me

despiertas, aliento despiertas, soplo despiertas, soplo
embalsamado de la embalsamado de la embalsamado de la
primavera? Tú me primavera? Tú me primavera? Tú me
acaricias y dices: acaricias y me dices: acaricias y me dices:
Traigo conmigo el ‘Traigo conmigo ‘Traigo conmigo
rocío del cielo. Pero se el rocío del cielo; el rocío del cielo;
acerca ya el tiempo de pero pronto estaré pero pronto estaré
las flores marchitas, se marchito, porque marchito; porque
acerca ya la tempestad pronto vendrá la pronto vendrá la
que me ha de deshojar. tempestad que tempestad que
Mañana llegará el arrebatará mis hojas. arrebatará mis hojas.
caminante, llegará Mañana llegará el Mañana llegará el
el que me vió en el viajero; vendrá el viajero; vendrá el
tiempo de mi belleza, que me ha conocido que me ha conocido
y sus ojos se buscarán en toda mi belleza; en toda mi belleza;
por el campo, y no me su vista me buscará su vista me buscará
encontrarán (p. 883). en torno suyo: me en torno suyo, me
buscará y no me buscará y no me
encontrará.’ (p. 487). encontrará.’ (p. 161).

It is easy to see that the two latter versions are exactly the same, except for a
change in a preposition (sobre [on] becomes en [in]). Therefore, I suppose
that different publishing houses purchased the translation and edited it
without citing the translators (a very common practice before the Spanish
Copyright Law of 1987 and one which unfortunately is still practised by
some publishing houses). However, the resemblance between the version
of Roger de Elil and the one by Tellería and de Miguel is quite remarkable.
The first extract on the table is so different that they seem to be two clearly
separate versions. However, the fragment of ‘Berrathon’ seems so close that
one could argue that the latter is a rewriting of the former. Apparently,
some parts of the version of 1963 might have been copied and paraphrased
from the one of 1942.
This indicates that to create a list of book editions and translations
of Werther in Spain can be a rather complicated task: one would have to
compare the texts of more than 130 versions (including the anonymous
versions). To date, no such comprehensive study has been conducted.
Ossian and Werther in Spain 231

Werther and Ossian in the press

After checking the Digital Archives of the National Library of Spain on

22 June 2015 in search of the term ‘Ossian’, I found 1,906 results, of which
four directly related Goethe’s work to Ossian, and fifteen cases in which his
name appears in lists of great authors, always next to that of Homer. This
relation between the Greek author and the Caledonian bard is clearly due
to Werther’s literary inclinations. The first of the four results that clearly
link the German character with Ossian appears in La abeja [The Bee], in
the edition of 1866 (108), where we can find the novel Werther as a feuil-
leton. It does not include the name of the translator. Based on the date of
this publication, the translation could be a new translation or a reprint of
one of the previous nine translations before the year 1866.
The next result appears in El Nuevo regimen (2 May 1898: 3). In this
number, we only find the end of the novel as a sort of abridged feuilleton in
a section called Galería de escritores célebres [Gallery of renowned authors]
accompanied by the following introduction to Goethe and his works:

In the last number, we introduced his Faust, the best of his dramatic works. In this
one, we want to present Werther, the best of his novels. We have hesitated about the
convenience of publishing the beginning or the end of the book, and finally have
decided to include the end because it gives a better idea of the nature of the book.

Although editing only the last part of the novel can spoil the effect of the
surprise of Werther’s ending to possible readers, Ossian appears as an ele-
ment that provokes deep emotions in the characters of the novel in the
most important part of their story, as can be seen in the following descrip-
tion: ‘Both he and she were victims of a terrible agitation; they saw their
own misfortune in the destiny of the heroes of Ossian, and together they
lamented it.’ Ossian is presented, therefore, as a force able to fire up violent
reactions in sensitive readers. The next reference can be found in Almanaque
rosa, the annual publication of Editorial Juventud between 1926 and 1939.
The 1933 edition is dedicated to commemorating the centenary of Goethe,
and it includes the whole text of the novel Werther. The translation does
not include information on the translator.
232 Arturo Peral Santamaría

Table 8.3 compares both translations published in the press. The first
one stands out because its contents seem very different from the German
original or Macpherson’s text. It could be a translation from a French ver-
sion, which used to be a common practice in Spain. The translation of
Almanaque rosa seems close to the German text. It even emulates its punc-
tuation as it presents long sentences where the English text contains short
and simple sentences. It is probably a translation from the German.
Table 8.3

Spanish version from La Abeja Spanish version from Almanaque rosa

Estrella compañera de la noche, cuya ¡Estrella del crepúsculo que
frente sale brillante de entre las nubes de resplandeces soberbia en occidente,
poniente, y que estampas tus majestuosos que asomas tu radiante faz por entre las
pasos en el firmamento azulado, ¿qué miras nubes y te paseas majestuosa sobre la
en la llanura? callan los tempestuosos colina! … ¿qué miras a través del follaje?
vientos del día, parece alejarse el ruido los indómitos vientos se han calmado;
del torrente, las olas se amansan, y bañan se oye lejano el ruido del torrente; las
blandamente los piés de la roca; los espumosas olas se estrellan al pie de
insectos nocturnos, conducidos por sus las rocas y el confuso zumbido de los
ligeras alas, llenan con su susurro el silencio insectos nocturnos se cierne en los aires.
de los aires. estrella brillante, ¿qué miras ¿Qué miras, luz hermosa? Sonríes y
tu en el a llanura? pero yo te veo bajar, sigues tu camino. Las ondas se elevan
sonriendo sobre los bordes del horizonte. gozosas hasta ti, bañando tu brillante
las olas se reúnen gozosas á tu alrededor, cabellera. ¡Adiós, rayo de luz dulce y
y bañan tus refulgentes cabellos. adios, sereno! ¡Y tú, sublime luz del alma de
estrella silenciosa, que el fuego que me Ossian, brilla y aparece a mis
anima brille en tu lugar. ojos!

The third text linking Ossian and Werther in the press is an article entitled
Al margen de un centenario. Walter Scott, caballero de Escocia [On the verge
of a centenary. Walter Scott, gentleman of Scotland], by the author and
politician José María Alfaro Polanco in the newspaper El Sol (19 July 1932,
p. 2). The quote is as follows: ‘So, when James Macpherson presented – to
the emerging Romanticism – the old bard called Ossian, Goethe would
write the well-known lines: “Ossian has ousted Homer from my heart!”
(my translation, except for the quote from Goethe)’. We can see that the
Ossian and Werther in Spain 233

author is quoting the letter from 12 October that I have already commented
upon when discussing the relation between Ossian and Werther.
The last text is a poem titled La historia de Werther, by Emilio Ferraz
Revenga and published by Mundo Gráfico (18 July 1912), a popular and
modern weekly magazine from the early twentieth century. The poem has
eight stanzas of four verses each. The verses rhyme in assonant couplets, and
sometimes it might seem a bit forced. The verses are of irregular length –
most are decasyllabic, but there are also others of nine or eleven syllables.
The poem tells the story of Werther, and the stanza when Werther reads
his translations to Lotte is as follows:

Derramaron raudales de lágrimas, [They spilled torrents of tears,

¡qué emoción tan intensa y tan honda Such an emotion, intense and Deep
embargó tiernamente sus almas filled with tenderness their souls
leyendo muy juntos de Ossian las while reading together the poems of
estrofas! Ossian!]

Ossian through Massenet’s Werther

I have also found fourteen articles in the Digital Archives of the National
Library of Spain linking Werther and Ossian, but in a quite different way.
They speak about the play Werther, by Jules Massenet (1842–1912), a popular
French composer who adapted Goethe’s novel into an opera. In this work,
Wertherreads the poems of Ossian to Charlotte during the third act, and it
is framed in a lied that resembles Schumann’s style – it actually resembles
In der Fremde [In a foreign land] (Coquis, 1965: 113).
This work might be said represent Massenet at his best, and it under-
went a curious critical and popular fate in France where it was represented
at least fifty times after its premiere in 1893, but was then forgotten until
1903 (ibid.: 114). In the play, Ossian only reads the fragment of ‘Berrathon’.
Table 8.4 shows the fragment as contained in Massenet’s script (in Tieghem,
1917: vol. I, 308).
234 Arturo Peral Santamaría

Table 8.4

Ossianic fragment in Werther, by Massenet English translation4

Werther (prenant le manuscrit) Werther (taking the manuscript)
Traduire … Translate!
Ah ! bien souvent mon rêve s’envola Ah! How often my dream takes flight
Sur l’aile de ces vers, On the wing of these verses,
Et c’est toi, cher poète, And it’s you, dear poet,
Qui bien plutôt étais mon interprète! Who quite son, was my interpreter!
Toute mon âme est là. All my soul is there.
(Lisant) (Reading)
Pourquoi me réveiller, ô souffle du Why awaken me, oh breath of spring?
Pourquoi me réveiller ? Why awaken me?
Sur mon front je sens tes caresses. On my brow, I feel your caresses,
Et pourtant bien proche est le temps And yet, very close is the time
Des orages et des tristesses ! Of storms and of sorrows!
Pourquoi me réveiller, ô souffle du Why awaken me, o breath of spring?
Demain, dans le vallon, viendra le voyageur. Tomorrow in the valley will come the
Se souvenant de ma gloire première, Remembering my first glory.
Et ses yeux vainement chercheront ma And his eyes vainly will seek my
splendeur: splendour,
Ils ne trouveront plus que deuil et que They will find only mourning and
misère. suffering!
Hélas! Alas!
Pourquoi me réveiller, ô souffle du Why awaken me, o breath of spring?

Of the fourteen articles about this work, the first two appear in El país (2
December 1907: 4; 30 December 1907: 2) and do not include information
about the author. Both cases announce the representation of the opera with
Mattia Battistini (1856–1928) in the role of Werther, the first time in Madrid
and the second in Barcelona. The opera must have been a success, especially
the Ossianic lied, because we can read in the articles the following reviews:

4 Translated by Lea Frey <http://www.ariadatabase.com/translations/werther09a_

pourquoi.txt> accessed 18 March 2016.
Ossian and Werther in Spain 235

‘The famous verses of Ossian, repeated by acclamation’ (2 December 1907: 4);

‘Battistini had to repeat the verses of Ossian and when he finished he
received another thunderous ovation’ (30 December 1907: 2).
The next review of Massenet’s Werther was written by C. Roda in
La época (20 January 1908). On this occasion, it was Giuseppe Anselmi
(1876–1929) who would play Werther. However, the critic did not show
as much enthusiasm for Anselmi as the critics who reviewed Battistini’s
work in Madrid and Barcelona. However, he describes his representation
of the Ossianic fragment in the following terms: ‘He sings with an emo-
tion and an inner strength that are not often seen in him.’ There is another
review of Anselmi’s work published in El imparcial (7 February 1912). It
describes in very positive terms his representation of Werther in the Royal
Theatre of Madrid:
Let it also be said by those spectators of good faith who applauded him in all of the
scenes and even more so in that dialogue, the tragic and bitter farewell of two soul-
mates who confess themselves to be under the spell of the verses of Ossian in a kiss full
of love that lasts as long as a ray of lightning […] that was the greatest triumph of the
night; Anselmi repeated that beautiful scene amidst a storm of cheers and applause.

We find more praise for Anselmi and the same statement that the Ossianic lied
was repeated at the end of the representation by public request in El liberal (7
February 1912: 3) and La correspondencia de España (8 February 1912, number
19720: 4). After these reviews, no more mentions of Massenet’s work are to
be found, except for the programmes of concerts in which the Ossianic lied
was going to be represented, which appear in five different newspapers. We
can also find advertisements for albums that contain the ‘Song of Ossian’ by
Massenet and the time of broadcast of the same song on the radio in 1933.


As we have seen, Goethe’s novel has had an enormous presence in the

Spanish book market, with new translations appearing constantly and old
translations being republished in notable quantities. Although they are
236 Arturo Peral Santamaría

incomplete, the Ossianic poems contained in the German novel, along with
Werther’s summary of Ossianic images, have reached the Spanish public
in ways that Macpherson never did. Due to Goethe’s growing interest in
Ossian, reflected in the transition from his initial preference for Homer,
some of the poems included in the Works of Ossian (1765), which is probably
the most important edition of Macpherson’s poetry in Europe, reached not
only German but also Spanish readers. In this context, once again we find
proof of the enormous influence of translation in cultural transmission and
exchange. The act of translation in this case is actually twofold, as the main
figure, Werther, also translated the Ossianic poems into German in order
to express his own feelings and to share them with Lotte. This Ossianic
poetry is even used by Goethe in the most exciting and intense moments
of the novel as a means to express his deepest feelings. Thus, these poems,
albeit modified in the translation process in order to achieve a more poetic
effect, became widely known among young German readers. Moreover,
German translations then formed the basis for all of the subsequent Spanish
translations mentioned in this chapter. Finally, the presence of Werther in
magazines and newspapers and the success of Massenet’s opera also show
that the Caledonian bard must have been a well-known figure in both low-
brow and high-brow circles. Ossian has accompanied Werther onto Spanish
readers’ bookshelves in a very silent way: a tale from old times modernized
thanks to an eighteenth-century German classic.


Barnaby, P. (2004). ‘Ossianic timeline’. In H. Gaskill (ed.), The Reception of Ossian in

Europe, XXI–LXVIII. London: Continuum,
Chocomeli Codina, A. (1874). Gaul. Poema de Ossian. Traducciones varias. Madrid:
Libreria de Victoriano Suarez.
Coetzee J. M. (2013). ‘Storm over Young Goethe’. In H. Gaskill (ed.), Translation and
Literature. Versions of Ossian: Reception, Responses, Translations, vol. 22, part. 3,
302–321. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Ossian and Werther in Spain 237

Gallego, J. N. (1994). Obras completas I. Obra poética. Edición de Ana María Freire
López. Zamora: Instituto de estudios zamoranos Florián de Ocampo.
Gaskill, H. (ed.) (1991). Ossian Revisited. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Gaskill, H. (ed.) (2004). The Reception of Ossian in Europe. London: Continuum.
Gaskill, H. (2013). ‘Arise, O Magnificent Effulgence of Ossian’s Soul! Wertherthe
Translator in English Translation’. In H. Gaskill (ed.), Translation and Literature.
Versions of Ossian: Reception, Responses, Translations, vol. 22, part. 3, 302–321.
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Goethe, J. W. (2001). Die Leiden des jungen Werther. Stuttgart: Reclam.
Goethe, J. W. (1989). The Sorrows of Young Werther. Penguin: Harmondsworth. Trans-
lated by Michael Hulse.
Lamport, F. J. (1998). ‘Goethe, Ossian and Werther’. In H. Gaskill and F. Stafford (eds),
From Gaelic to Romantic: Ossianic Translations, 97–106. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Lasso de la Vega, A. (1883). Poemas gaélicos. Madrid: Biblioteca Universal.
Marchena Ruiz de Cueto, J. (1892). Obras literarias de D. José Marchena. Tomo I; reco-
gidas de manuscritos y raros impresos con el estudio crítico-biográfico del Doctor D.
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September 2016.
Martí-Miquel, J. (1883). Granos de oro: Poesías de los principales autores extrangeros
puestas en rima castellana. Madrid: Góngora.
Martí-Miquel, J. (1885). Poemas de los principales autores extranjeros puestos en rima
castellana. Madrid: Establecimiento Tipográfico de F. Góngora.
Martín Cinto, M. (2007). ‘Recepción de Werther en España’. In J. J. Zaro (ed.), Traduc-
tores y traducciones de literatura y ensayo (1835–1919), 73–94. Granada: Comares.
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England. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.
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Montengón, P. (1800). Fingal y Temora/ poemas épicos / de Ossián, antiguo poeta céltico.
Madrid: Oficina de Don Benito García y Compañía.
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Notes on Contributors

josé luis aja sánchez  is Lecturer in Italian Language and Culture at

the Department of Translation and Interpreting at Comillas Pontifical
University in Madrid and a freelance translator in the publishing industry.
His research is focused on traductology, applied linguistics and literary
studies, specifically on two fields: the translational treatment of literary
orality and the study of the reception of the translations from a historical
perspective. He is the author of several articles in this field and is a member

susanne m. cadera  is Professor of German Language, Culture,

Literature and Comparative Translation Studies at the Department of
Translation and Interpreting at Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid.
She has collaborated on international projects and currently leads the
INTRA research group and the research project RETRADES (Studies on
Textual and Cultural Interaction: Retranslations). Her recent publications
focus on features and translations of fictive orality in narrative texts and
on contextual translation studies.

patricia martín matas  is Lecturer in Translation and Communication

Studies at the Department of Translation and Interpreting at Comillas
Pontifical University in Madrid. She has also taught at San Jorge University
and was a teaching assistant at the University of Connecticut. Her research
interests lie in the fields of English postcolonial literary translation and
comparative literature.

arturo peral santamaría  is Lecturer in Translation at the

Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid and at the Institute of Modern
Languages and Translation of the Complutense University in Madrid.
He is a member of the research projects INTRA, RETRADES (Comillas) and
INTRAL (Complutense) and has published several articles on the translation
and reception in Spain of authors from the eighteenth and nineteenth cen-
turies. He is a translator of English and French, and has translated authors
240 Notes on Contributors

such as Walter Scott, Robert Aickman, Norman Lewis, Annie Saumont

and Édouard Launet into Spanish.

ana maría roca urgorri  is currently a translator at the Spanish

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. After graduating in
Translation and Interpreting from Comillas Pontifical University in
Madrid, she taught both as a lecturer at the university and as a Fulbright
Teaching Assistant at Lycoming College in the United States. Her previ-
ous research and her ongoing doctoral dissertation, which she is writing as
a member of the RETRADES project, focus on ideological manipulation
and minorities in literary translation.

nadia rodríguez  is Professor of French Language, Culture and

Literature, Comparative Translation Studies, Documentation and
Terminology at the Department of Translation and Interpreting at Comillas
Pontifical University in Madrid. Her research interests lie in the fields of
comparative literature and legal translation and she has collaborated on
the international project Qualetra.

andrea schäpers  is Lecturer in German Language and Translation

Studies at the Department of Translation and Interpreting at Comillas
Pontifical University in Madrid. She has twenty-five years of experience
in the private sector, working as a sworn translator, interpreter and proof
reader. Her research interests lie in the field of literary translation, especially
nineteenth-century authors and translation didactics.

andrew samuel walsh  is Lecturer in English, Translation and

Communication Studies at the Department of Translation and Interpreting
at Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid and has also taught at the
University of Granada and the Autonomous University of Madrid. His
research interests lie in the fields of literary translation and comparative
literature and he is the author of two books and several articles and schol-
arly papers in this field.

acceptability criteria  143 dynamic equivalence  38, 48, 49

aesthetic canon  115–116, 118, 120, 135, dysphemism  35, 48, 49
142, 161
ageing  9, 20, 159, 185 editorial factors  142, 146
annotated version  150 Epic Theatre  199
equivalence  42, 120, 156
bilingual version  28, 207, 208, 201, 217 European Literary System  218
bridge language  149 exogenetic translation  147
extratextual information  218
canon  1, 15–16, 56, 59–60, 115–118, 120,
135, 139, 142, 161 fictive orality  85, 239
canonical text  23, 28, 36, 151 first translation  6, 85, 86, 91, 94, 97, 101,
canonical translation  160, 185 102, 104, 108, 110, 115, 118, 121,
censor  15, 60, 67, 94, 115, 120, 122, 124, 122, 134, 141, 144, 149, 158, 159,
124–134, 182, 183, 201, 227 160, 169, 175, 177, 179, 180, 181,
censorship  2, 10, 66–67, 69, 70, 73, 74, 185, 189, 191, 218
77, 78, 83, 91–92, 94, 109, 115, footnotes  151, 204, 206, 208, 212, 214, 215
120–126, 130, 133–134, 135, forewords  26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 149, 150
145–146, 149, 150, 159, 173, fragmentation 103
182–183, 183, 201 Francoist censorship  149, 159
commented version  214 full translation  149
contrastive textual analysis  152
conversational process  155 General System Theory  11
cultural endorsement  150
cultural markers  204 hermeneutics  162, 163, 181
cultural product  69, 77, 118, 141, 142, 146 historical identity  143
cultural system  10, 135, 141, 143, 146 homophobia  66, 69–72, 74, 76
hypercorrection 155
défaillance  162
description of nature  198 idealism  132, 196, 198, 212
descriptive-contrastive model  142 ideological approach  68, 142
digression  118, 145, 146, 152, 162 ideological and sociological
dilution  28, 33, 48 connotations 145
docufiction 199 illocutionary force  155
242 Index

illustrations  200, 212, 217 195, 197, 199–200, 203, 217,

implicit references  143 221–223
importation  123, 201 re-edited version  150
interdiscursive dialogue  143 reprints  160, 227, 228
Retranslation Hypothesis  2, 6–8, 14, 54
kairós  135, 160, 161 retranslation process  6, 160, 162
Kometenschweifstudie  201 revised version  148, 177
rewriting  10, 13, 115, 120, 201, 230
literary orality  153 Romanticism  196, 221, 232

macroanalytical factors  143 self-censorship  2, 47, 49, 67, 78, 93,

manipulated translations  146 94, 110
Manipulation, School of  10 shortened version  145
microstructural level  143 skopos  146, 147, 151
Social System Theory  13
narrative orality  152 sociology  12, 13, 142
neologism 143 sociological approach  142
sociological portrayal  152
orality  99, 106, 156, 158 source text  6, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 39, 54, 55,
original text  10, 29, 31, 33, 34, 35, 39, 61, 63, 92, 94, 96, 98, 108, 110, 142,
91, 103, 104, 109, 136, 139, 161, 143, 151, 162, 169, 170, 224
170, 204 Spanish Civil War  27, 48, 176, 188
overtranslated  39, 40 Sturm and Drang Movement  196, 197,
198, 204, 212
paratext  32, 35, 216, 217 stylistic intensification strategies  152,
planning processes  161 156, 158
political correction  45 System Theory  12, 13
polysystemic terms  159, 161
pragmatic approach  152 textual analysis  8, 161
primary orality  99, 102, 104, 106, 110 textual corpus  217
publishing market  85, 139, 141, 147 textual macrostructure  217
Theatre of the Absurd  195–196
Queer Studies  36, 37, 48 transcription 143
translation process  7, 11, 13, 14, 15, 77, 86,
racism  23, 41 118, 120, 142, 146, 151, 163, 204, 236
readability 158 translator’s comments  204, 212
realism  118, 130, 196, 198 transmission of orality  158
reception  1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 14, 16, 21, 22,
27–30, 31, 33, 38, 40, 48, 85, universal classic  39, 150, 160
86, 90, 96, 109, 115, 120, 139–143, updated version  159
145, 148, 151, 158, 161, 169–170,
173–174, 180–182, 186, 189–191, voice of the translator  7, 217
New Trends in Translation Studies
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