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“Will you be as gods?” (U 3.38): Joyce Translating Flaubert

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 47, Number 4, Summer 2010
pp. 521-535 | 10.1353/jjq.2010.0015



This essay begins by considering a cluster of instances from Joyce’s early works (the student essays, Stephen Hero, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) in which the author acts as the translator of phrases borrowed from Gustave Flaubert. It goes on to analyze the ways in which those Joycean acts of translation have themselves been interpreted by his French translators. Joyce’s translations—particularly in A Portrait—deviate from their originals in ways that interrogate the traditional meaning of originality. The acts of translation staged in A Portrait—wherein they are delegated to Stephen Dedalus—reflect Joyce’s understanding of the potential for originality inherent in even that most intertextual of creative processes. This understanding would come to assume a central role in Joyce’s subsequent writing: his variations on Flaubert in his first published novel betray an insouciant and playful disrespect for the primacy of originals that adumbrates the more generalized and radical intertextuality of his later works. Whether subtle or flamboyant, Joyce’s departures from his source text pose problems for his translators: in its final stages, the essay examines how these snippets of text are rendered back into their original language and how the existing various translations shed light on Joyce’s own compositional choices.

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