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Jean Pavans: The Inspired Translator of James in French
Adeline R. Tintner
When, in 1990, Leon Edel's Henry James: A Life was translated into French as Henry James: Une Vie by Editions du Seuil, Paris, it increased the current tremendous interest in James's work, especially concerning the question of his sexual orientation. However, the translation did not initiate that interest, for, even before that, Jean Pavans, a young dramatist, novelist, and translator, had by 1984 translated a number of James's works. Pavans was born in 1949 at Tunis and had published novels and pastiches, as well as plays, based on his experiences not only in Paris, but also in America (see his La Traversée americaine), all of which show the indisputable influence of Henry James. Pavans has the reputation now of being "I'un des principaux specialistes en France."
Pavans's play, Retour à Florence (Return to Florence), staged in 1986 and based on James's 1879 short story, "The Diary of a Man of Fifty," shows a change of locations and a new emphasis on the psychological interrelationships among the four persons involved in the drama--the two Biancas loved by two suitors of different generations. But before that Pavans had already begun to translate works of James for a press called La Différence and in 1984 had translated The Sacred Fount (La Source Sacrée), Parisian Sketches (Esquisses Parisiennes), two volumes of The Complete Stories, 1864-1888 (Nouvelles Completes) during the years 1990 to 1992, and The American Scene in 1993. Meanwhile, others began to translate works by James, but Pavans kept up his intense activities dominated by his extremely sensitive and understanding relationship with all of James's works. His own travel volume concerned with his sojourns in the United States was inspired by James's travels, and additional presses have opened their doors to his continued translations: The Outcry (Le Tollé) (Aubier), 1995; "A London Life" (Une vie à Londres) (Librio), 1997; The Papers (Les Journaux) (Grasset), 1997; The Turn of the Screw (Le Tour d'écrou) (Flammarion), 1998; and The Ivory Tower (La Tour d'ivoire) (Payot), 1998. This year there have appeared translated by Pavans five tales more or less unknown to French readers: "The [End Page 54] Modern Warning," "Collaboration," "The Special Type," "Broken Wings," and "The Story In It." (These have been collected in a volume called L'Espèce particulière et autres nouvelles [Flammarion].) Mora Montravers (Grasset) is also due to appear in 1999. Should any reader or scholar be interested in more information about these translations, as well as Pavans's projects for the future, he or she might contact the author at his present publishers, Editions Payot & Rivage, 106 Boulevard St. Germain, Paris, VI, France, and also Flammarion, 26 rue Racine, 75006, Paris.