Borges and Translation
Publication Year: 2002
Published by: Vanderbilt University Press
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I first presented my ideas on Borges and translation in a conferenceheld at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, organized by Guillermo Guicci in 1996. I continued discussing various aspects of myongoing research in lectures and conferences in Peru, Australia,Germany, and the United States, as well as in graduate seminars...
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On September 5, 1953, the author of Fictions and The Aleph wrote a letter to settle the final details of a lecture he would deliver on the Kabbalah. Almost as an afterthought, Jorge Luis Borges offers biographical information requested by his host. After indicating his birth in Buenos Aires in 1899, he introduces himself as the translator of Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, and Henri Michaux. The note continues with other aspects...
Chapter 1: Borges on Translation
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Borges affirmed, in earnest, that an original can be unfaithful to a translation. He vehemently objected to claims that certain translations he admired are “true to the original” and derided the presuppositions of purists for whom all translations are necessarily deceitful in one way or another. Borges would often protest, with various degrees of irony, against the assumption—ingrained in the Italian adage traduttore traditore—that a translator is a traitor to an original...
Chapter 2: Borges as Translator
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One of Borges's first literary exercises, as a seven-year-oldboy, was a translation of sorts. He filled a notebook with transcriptions of Greco-Roman myths in the charmingly clumsy English of a gifted child learning to write in a foreign language. In his version of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth, a theme that would inspire some of his most famous pages, the young Borges retains several names in Spanish, as if he felt a special affection...
Chapter 3: Translation in the Creative Process
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The majority of Borges’s short stories include at least one character who translates, and these characters are often the protagonists. Many of his fictions are presented as implied translations, many translated excerpts or fragments are inserted into the body of his writings, and many real and imagined translations play either hidden or transparent roles in the gestation or contents of his fictions. Borges’s translations offer illuminating insights into his creative process, and his general approach to translation is fundamental to our understanding of his art...
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In public dialogues Borges would readily admit to any connection made by his interlocutors between his own creations and the works of others. His standard response to those who would identify a link between one of his writings and a literary antecedent was to acknowledge the influence and to blame his lack of memory for the borrowing. At other moments he would own up to the charge of plagiarism with ironic pride: “I do not write, I rewrite. My memory produces my sentences. I have read so much and I have heard so much. I admit it: I repeat myself...
Afterword: Borges and Philosophy
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According to an influential view, Borges’s most important achievements in literature involve his philosophical insights. To some critics holding this view, translation may seem a side issue, a curiosity. I think Borges was a fabulist, that translation is at the heart of his concerns as a writer, and that his philosophical concerns—even when they inform a story or a poem—are a function of his literary ones...
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Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2002