- Reading, Translating, Rewriting: Angela Carter’s Translational Poetics by Martine Hennard Dutheil de la Rochère
It is widely known that Angela Carter’s interest in the fairy tale spanned from her fictional rewritings in The Bloody Chamber (1979) to her role as editor of The Virago Book of Fairy Tales (1990) and The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales (1992). She read the fairy tale across many languages and cultures. However, with the notable exception of Anna Watz’s article, “Angela Carter and Xavière Gauthier’s Surréalisme et Sexualité” (2010), which acknowledges Carter’s involvement with Surrealism through translation, Carter’s practice of translation has often been relegated to the background of criticism. Martine Hennard Dutheil de la Rochère’s Reading, Translating, Rewriting: Angela Carter’s Translational Poetics (2013) challenges this tendency by placing translation at the foreground of Angela Carter’s engagement with the fairy tale.
Carter’s writing was vast and varied, ranging from nonfiction, essays, and journalism to translation, editing, book reviews, short stories, theater, performance texts, radio plays, novels, short stories, and poetry. Her reading was as diversified as her writing, moving beyond geographic, linguistic, and cultural boundaries to draw from multiple traditions. For example, Maggie Tonkin’s Angela Carter and Decadence: Critical Fictions/Fictional Critiques (2012) and Rebecca Munford’s Decadent Daughters and Monstrous Mothers: Angela Carter and the European Gothic (2013) attest to a growing recognition of Carter’s debt to European literature; both critics acknowledge the ambiguities that arise from Carter’s eclectic sources and the resulting textual hybridity and cultural interplay in her writing.
Such transnational, translingual, and transgeneric migrations of narrative are essential territories for fairy-tale scholarship. Hennard investigates the contours of these different “trans” in relation to Carter’s deep relationship with the cross-cultural imagination through the lens of translation. Hennard cites the work of Homi K. Bhabha (1994), as she explores how translation not only underlies the dissemination of fairy-tale narrative but is also intertwined with a sense of in-betweenness in Carter’s writing. She demonstrates how translation feeds Carter’s poetics on many levels, even extending beyond text into territories of intermedial and intersemiotic production. For Hennard the practice of translation is intertwined with creation, as it allies creative reading with creative writing (2). The word translation expands in meaning throughout Hennard’s study, as she redeploys the term to propose fresh insights into Carter’s engagement with the fairy tale.
The book provides an extensive introduction and first chapter that investigate the range of Carter’s reading and translation practices and examine Carter’s numerous “French connections,” often integrating striking discoveries from the [End Page 158] Angela Carter archive housed at the British Library. Hennard’s research attests to her extensive knowledge of the field of fairy-tale studies yet maintains an astonishing level of readability. The work is accessible to undergraduate and graduate students, while at the same time proposing observations that will interest the most experienced fairy-tale scholars. There is also close attention to textual detail, an essential aspect of any work that deals with translation. The work, however, is not limited to the practice of translation as such but also places emphasis on how this activity informs Carter’s poetics.
Hennard investigates different tale versions, with chapters dedicated to texts known as “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Bluebeard,” “Puss in Boots,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Cinderella.” In each chapter she explores Carter’s readings, writings, and translations as a web of intertwined works that can be read collectively. Hennard also places these works in the tradition of textual production, editing, and research on fairy-tale texts, with a concentration on Carter’s evolving relationship with the work of Perrault and Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. The headings for each chapter attest to patterns of contextualization and textual metamorphosis. For example, the title of Chapter 2 is “Updating the Politics of Experience: From ‘Le Petit Chaperon rouge’ to ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and ‘The Company...