CLASSIC CHANDLER TRANSLATIONS PUBLISHED BY BARRAL EDITORES (BARCELONA)
Reception date: 20 December 2011
In a singularly thorough introduction to the scholarly Cátedra edition of Raymond Chandler’s El largo adios, editor Alfredo Arias justifies why he chose the most recent translation by José Luis López Muñoz (2002) over previously published translations. He mentions the “pioneering” María del Carmen Márquez de Odriozola version of 1958 and the existence of a version, impossible for him to locate, by Flora W. de Setaro dated 1962. He also touted the virtues of the most immediately preceding translation: “the classic version by José Antonio Lara (El largo adios, originally published by Barral Ediciones, Barcelona, 1973; then by Bruguera and subsequent publishers), [is] the source which most of us who have been captivated by this novel have drunk from” (2005: 59; all quotes from Spanish are my translation, unless otherwise indicated).
Other testimonies of the “classic” nature of the four Chandler novels brought out by Barral Editores (Barcelona) in 1972 and 1973 can be found among Spanish and Latin American scholars, writers and subsequent translators of the novel. For instance, Argentinian scholar and writer Carlos Alberto Morán, in his 1975 article “Lectura Latinamericana de Raymond Chandler”, compiled a listing of all into-Spanish translations published thus far and commented on how inconsistent the quality of these editions and translations were. About the the quality of the translations, Morán had this to say about the Barral Editores classic translation of Farewell, My Lovely, entitled Adiós, muñeca (Buenos Aires: Barral Editores-Editorial Corregidor, 1973): “In our country Rodolfo Walsh has perhaps written the best versions of his tales. In Barcelona, Josep Elías has, using the Catalonian underworld as the basis for the language he used.” (my translation, 1975: 38). Here is an example of the kind of Barcelona underworld language that Carlos Alberto Morán admired:
Carlos Abio first pointed out how Elías intensified (i.e. used more morally laden terms in the target text than in the source text) the sexual, religious and political terms as well as the vulgarisms (2004), and there is evidence in the passage above of how Elías intensified colloquialisms (what kind of guy> qué clase de chorbo; This guy is good<Vaya cacumen, muchacho). However, he also intensified slang terms (put the bite on him< sacarle morcilla; call some cops<llamar a algún bofia) and even used slang terms in the target text when there were none in the source text (So he sends his own car/Así que te mandó el tegui). Elías' text constitutes a very unique instance of the theoretical possibility that a translation can contain intensified language use, where translations tend to attenuate or at best preserve the expressive forms of the source text (Franco and Abio, 2009).
José Luis López Muñoz, addressing the IX Jornadas en torno a la Traducción Literaria in the Casa del Traductor in Tarazona in 2001, discussed the versions of Chandler's The Big Sleep which preceded his own freshly-published version for Alianza Editorial. Like Arias, he also tracked the earliest translation to 1958, and went on to describe the long life of "the translation of The Big Sleep that has been used since 1972" (2001: 105). The José Antonio Lara translation originally published by Barral Editores was used by seven different publishers over the course of nearly 30 years: "In the 80s it was published by Bruguera, Planeta and Plaza & Janés; in the 90s by Debate, again by Plaza & Janés, Círculo de Lectores y RBA collectable editions" (2001: 105).
Perhaps the culminating event that fully consolidated the "classic" status of the Barral Editorial translations of the three novels mentioned above and also of The Little Sister, translated as La hermana pequeña by Josep Vinyoli, was the publication of revised versions in Debate's Obras Completas in 1995. This authoritative edition contains all of Chandler's novels (vol. 1) and short stories (vol. 2).
Despite the classic status of the four translations in terms of target language and culture reception in Spain and Latin American countries, three of them are seriously flawed. For example, the José Antonio Lara translation of The Long Goodbye mentioned by Arias is a blatant copy of the 1962 Flora W. De Setaro translation he could not locate (Buenos Aires: Fabril Editora, 1962). This is obvious in the novel's second paragraph as evidenced by the exactly copied text:
The third example of a flawed Barral translation is Joan Vinyoli's translation of The Little Sister, entitled La hermana pequeña, which was produced indirectly from an abbreviated French version. An important segment comprised of nearly 600 words is missing from chapter 26; this segment contains Phillip Marlowe's lament about Los Angeles and its growing population of miscreants and corrupt officials which Dolores Gonzales punctuates lyrically by saying "You are bitter tonight, amigo" (358). Chapter 26 is reassigned number 25 because the earlier chapter 13 was suppressed in its entirety except for one sentence; this segment contains another bitter lyrical description of Los Angeles which Marlowe punctuates by interrupting himself a number of times, saying "You are not human tonight, Marlowe" (268-9) Both descriptions of Los Angeles are literary high points of the novel, but they were stripped from the French version and subsequently from the Spanish version that used it as a source text. Both of these sections take place while Phillip Marlowe is driving down Sunset Boulevard. Here is an example from another one of Marlowe's drives down the Strip in which the abbreviated French translation is clearly noticeable, then reproduced in the Spanish version.
Having examined samples from the Barral Editores translations of four Raymond Chandler novels in 1972 and 1973, I will now go on to describe the unique circumstances in which they were produced. In order to fully understand that, we must examine some of editor Carlos Barral's immediately preceding life events, the creation and operations of Barral Editores, the translators who undertook the work, and the dissemination of the translations, which I will do in what follows. A complete portrayal of this simple background will help grasp how Barral Editores managed very quickly to bring out very successful, though morally flawed, translations.
Carlos Barral, Poet and Editor
Raymond Chandler's second biographer, Tom Hiney, stated that "the best source of material concerning the subject was that written by Chandler himself" (2000: vii). About Carlos Barral, the same words could definitely be used, as the rather scarce poet, wildly profuse editor and later politician, wrote three volumes of memoirs: Años de pentitencia (1975, about his early life between 1939-1950), Los años sin excusa (1977, which covers his university education and beginnings as an editor) and Cuando las horas veloces (1988, about the period between 1962 and 1981). However, while Chandler was a retiring soul when it came to publicly sharing his views with reporters, fellow writers and scholars, Carlos Barral was far superior, and many of these exchanges are available in Almanaque (2000), a singularly rich collection of print-recorded interviews, round tables and conferences. Gathering material from the above sources, the following very brief overview of Carlos Barral's life emerges. All citations from his memoirs are taken from the collected volume, Memorias (2000).
Born in 1924 into a bourgeois family and social environment, Carlos Barral spent peaceable school years in Barcelona and summers in Calafell until in 1936 civil war broke out and his father died (of natural causes). Though his suffering during the wartime years consisted of witnessing the aftermath of violence and of experiencing some neglect while his mother worried of greater issues, he did not want for basic necessities and in fact enjoyed excessive childhood freedoms. After the war, he was educated in a strict Jesuit school, an atmosphere where Franco's newly installed National Catholicism was felt acutely, then went on to study Law at the University of Barcelona, where he finished in 1950.
During his university years, he met several lifetime friends and like-minded literarians, including Jaime Gil de Biedma, Gabriel Ferrater, Juan and Luis Goytisolo, Josep María Castellet, and Alberto Oliart, the last two of whom wrote separate prologues for Memorias (2000). His first volume of poetry, Las aguas reiteradas, appeared in 1952 after earlier appearances in a government-sponsored university newsletter. The book Barral called his "programa poético" (Barral, 2000: 197) or "el programa de mi poesía" (Barral, 2000: 115), Metropolitano, appeared in 1957, followed by developments of that same program called Diecinueve figuras de mi historia civil (1961), Usuras (1965), and Figuración y fuga (1966). Barral also wrote highly acclaimed prose, both in the form of memoirs, the third volume of which was awarded the Premio Comillas de Historia, Biografía y Memorias in 1988, and also in novel form, with Penúlitmos castigos (1983), an autobiographical novel. As a poet, Barral is considered one of the members of the "generación del 50" [the 1950 generation].
Barral's literary language of expression was Spanish, but he also wrote, read and spoke Catalan, as he was fully bilingual in the co-official language of the region comprised of Barcelona, Tarragona, Gerona and Lérida. His primary use of Spanish often put him in the position where he had to defend his firm support of Catalan-language literature, a position that needed no reaffirmation as the close company he kept included Catalan poets and his extremely close Catalan ties with Calafell and the sea. His knowledge of French and German was also immense: his first serious approximations to serious literature were through French, via Mallarmé (2000: 241), and "French is a language that is on an equivalent level with my other two languages" (2000: 169); he studied German in high school, which he enjoyed (2000: 241), and "at the beginning of the fifties my subjection to German culture was very strong. Not only did I read in German, but all the magazines and journals I read were in German; in a way I lived for some time in German" (2000: 307).
After completing his university degree in 1950, Barral began work at Seix-Barral, a two-family-owned textbook publishing firm that had enjoyed some earlier success. With the support of his business-minded family counterpart Víctor Seix, literary-minded Carlos sought to transform the sleepy pedagogical printing enterprise into a "humanistic publisher" (2000: 197) by creating collections for channelling current European and world literary tendencies into Spain. The Biblioteca Breve became very successful from 1955 onwards, with Barral as Collection Director, and in 1958 the Premio Biblioteca Breve was awarded to Spanish author Luis Goytisolo. What the Biblioteca Breve and the Premio achieved over the course of the following decade was the creation and consolidation of a "boom" of Latin American writers, many of whom were known for their "magical realism".
However, after the untimely death of Victor Seix in 1967, the Victor/business-Carlos/literary tandem was ruptured and Barral's relations with the Seix family inheritors became untenable. He was forced out and uncomfortably left the company in 1969 and founded a publisher of his own, Barral Editores. With the help of friends and financial allies, he tried to repeat his earlier success, but the company failed in 1978. Nonetheless, one of Barral's major achievements during this period was the creation of a joint distribution network of Barral Editores and eight other Spanish publishing houses called Distribuciones de Enlace, which had common collections such as Ediciones de bolsillo that became industry successes.
Carlos Barral's Exit from Seix Barral
Carlos Barral lamented hopelessly the unfortunate accident that killed his collaborator Victor Seix: "He was hit by a street car outside the door of our hotel in Frankfurt; it was incomprehensible that a street car, in a country like Germany, could travel in the opposite direction of automobile traffic. It was an absolutely stupid accident, and he died there as a result. He was forty-four years old." (Barral, 2000: 124) When Barral mentions "as a result", he is subtly referring to a period of seven days during which he and his wife Yvonne, also in Frankfurt for the Buchmesse, spent day after day visiting Victor in intensive care, along with Victor's wife Montserrat; but after a week, Víctor Seix, "the excellent businessman who I got on well with, especially in the last few years," died (2000: 124).
Indeed, the two had clearly been a formidable team. Víctor Seix, the "counterpart from the other branch of family owners" (Barral, 2000: 124), and Barral, "the poet-editor" (Donoso, María Pilar, 1999: 157) were uniquely fitted for the successful venture. María Pilar Donoso recollected their equilibrium: "Víctor Seix, methodic and hard-working, and Carlos Barral, the intuitive artist, made up a perfect combination, and they were responsible for the publisher's best years" (1999, 124).
Litografía Seix, founded by Victoriano Seix Saura in 1905, would merge in 1911 with Gráficas Barral Hermanos to become Seix Barral Hermanos, when Victoriano Seix Miralta joined financial forces and business acumen with brothers Luis and Carlos Barral Nualart. In the next generation, this company would fall into the hands of Víctor Seix Perarnau and Carlos Barral I Agesta, born one year apart in 1927 and 1928 respectively, who would move the company forward into publishing literature of the highest standing (Barral, 2001: 187). Carlos Barral joined the company in 1950 without really wanting to be there: "when I finished my university degree I had few prospects, except for joining the family enterprise. Seix Barral was already an important didactic publisher which focussed on cartography and textbooks." (Barral, 2001: 187) But he had bigger plans: "since I knew nothing about pedagogy (nor did it interest me), I converted the company into a publisher of the humanities, basically literature, and I more or less achieved my goal" (Barral, 2001: 205-6) According to Barral, the successful balance was based on a mutual recognition of strengths:
The Biblioteca Breve was born in 1955, and the Biblioteca Breve Prize was created in 1958. It is difficult to ignore the importance of the Biblioteca and the Premio; the Biblioteca Breve sought the following incredible goal in the midst of the dark days of Francisco Franco's dictatorship: "The Biblioteca Breve seeks to offer a Spanish-speaking audience access to foreign authors whose works have not been welcomed into the literary collections that cater to the tastes of the general reading public. [This collection] will also publish trustworthy translations of the most important, though previously unknown, literary works and contemporary literary criticism. [The Biblioteca Breve] will also establish contact with readers of literature in an effort to publish what this interested readership demands." In the aftermath of prizes awarded alternately to Spanish authors and Latin American authors, the Latin American literary boom took shape over the course of the late fifties and sixties.
Carlos Barral is often credited with being the creator of the boom (Donoso,1999: 79), and as an editor he was compared with the reputed French figure Claude Gallimard (Barral: 2001: 126). He felt there were two types of increasingly polarized editors: on the one hand there were the artisan, humanist and very personal editors in the XIX century tradition; on the other hand there were the despicable manufacturers of books with no concern other than the sales of printed paper commodities (126). Josep Janés of Janés Editor and Luis de Caralt of the publishing house by the same name were considered editors of the former type, while Barral believed José Manuel Lara, of Editorial Planeta, to be of the latter sort, i. e. "the classic commercial editor" (126). All of these major figures in Spanish publishing were based in Barcelona. Barral held very little respect for such brutally mercantile publishers who had no vocation (208).
The Biblioteca Breve collection and the prize overcame in 1964 the loss of Juan Petit, one of its most significant literary consultants, who was replaced by Gabriel Ferrater, a Barral friend from his University of Barcelona days. However, the loss of Victor Seix proved to be a much greater obstacle for Barral to overcome. Perhaps because Victor had been the business-minded member of the tandem, the also business-minded replacement for Victor –Antonio Comas i Balldellou—ended up forcing Carlos out in 1969. Carlos Barral explained how the balance he had struck with Víctor Seix was unsustainable with his inheritors: "At that point, Seix Barral went back into the hands of a much older generation with whom I did not get on well with. I got along especially poorly with their administrators, with their overlords, and an ownership crisis ensued" (205-6); "I was alone, stripped [of power] before the interests of the [Seix] family group and there was a time of misunderstandings. That is all" (Barral, 2001: 152); "Then, the balance of the business snapped because the power of the other family fell into the hands of people who had no prior experience in dealing with me, and especially in dealing with my idea of what a humanistic publisher was all about. The situation got worse and worse and I ended up leaving Seix Barral" (Barral, 2001: 197).
Sadly, the Premio Biblioteca Breve of 1970, after Barral had left Seix Barral, was cancelled. Until then, the yearly prize was awarded to a Latin-American author then to a Spanish author, alternating the prestigious award between the two continents. The prize awarded in 1969 had been for Juan Benet, a Spaniard, so in 1970 it should have gone to a Latin American writer, expectedly José Donoso for his novel El obsceno pájaro de la noche. However, the internal machinations of the publisher, now operating without Carlos Barral, prevented the prize from being awarded. Seix-Barral did, however, publish the novel with great fanfare, an episode shared by Donoso himself in his Historia personal del "boom" (1999 ). The prize was awarded in 1971 and 1972, but then it was decided to cancel it entirely, though it was reinstated in 1999.
Barral Editores, est. 1970
Whereas there is a wealth of information about the development of Seix Barral, of the Biblioteca Breve and its Premio, and of the Latin American boom, little information is available about the history of Barral Editores. Where Carlos Barral himself was one of the best sources among many for the Seix Barral period, he is virtually the only source for data about the history of Barral Editores, established in 1970. What follows is an account of the short history of this company gathered from Barral's autobiographies, published interviews, and a televised interview with Joaquín Soler Serrano for the program A fondo in 1976 (the entire inteview can be seen starting here).
Here are the facts of Barral Editores's eight year run. The first meetings of the people involved in the creation, financing and operation of Barral Editores happened in 1969, in Barral's Barcelona home initially for the purpose of establishing a fallback strategy in case Barral had to exit Seix Barral. Apparently, Barral Editores had existed on paper since 1966 (Barral, 2001: 102), when he applied for a business registration at the same as Seix Barral was required to (Barral, 2001: 599). The first traces of the upcoming venture looked like this: "We would set up the publishing house in my house, and all of us would work for free while we prepared to set up a company with some initial capital. The printers and binders said they would help us, for the time being. We would found a distribution firm and publish slowly, one book at a time, certain of the enthusiasm of many booksellers as well. In the meantime, Alberto Oliart would seek out sources of capital among his friends and within a short time we would be doing the same things we had been doing up to then, but with greater freedom and from somewhere else. (Barral, 2000: 599).
Then, in 1970, after Barral's departure, the company was officially established, partly following the previous plan: "The new publishing company, which was called Barral Editores (…) came into being —though perhaps not yet operating—right away, that very autumn. It was born in my home, in Barcelona, its first legal premises, and it did so in a very casual and chaotic fashion. For several months, its existence constituted a nearly-permanent meeting of Seix Barral exiles." (Barral, 2001: 630-1). Over the course of the first few months, the publisher would move into rather sordid offices on the Ronda del General Mitre, then into larger ones on the Calle Balmes some years later. The team was comprised, on the literary side, of editors and writers such as Félix de Azúa, Javier Fernández de Castro, Rosa Regás and Pere Gimferrer, and, on the business end, by Rafael Soriano, Montserrat Sabater, Isabel Font and Fernando Tola. Sources of financing were found initially in personal bank loans and a business loan arranged through a friend (Barral, 2000: 630), then as the venture grew investors were found in Editorial Labor, Banco Urquijo, Explosivos Río Tinto, and of course Carlos Barral (2000: 660). As part of the Editorial Labor investment in Barral Editores, Labor managing director Francisco García was appointed an adjunct editor of Barral and Carlos Barral was appointed an adjunct editor of Editorial Labor. This meant that for many years Carlos Barral spent mornings in the Calle Balmes and afternoons in Editorial Labor, in the Calle Calabria. Early Barral Editores successes were chalked up in the form of a business arrangement with other Spanish publishers (Estela, Tusquets, Laia, Fontanella, Anagrama, Lumen, Edicions 62 (Península, for Spanish language editions), Labor, Cuadernos para el Diálogo, and Guadarrama) through Distribuciones de Enlace. There were also successful signings of agreements for distribution in Argentina and other Latin American markets, and the first Premio Barral de Novela was awarded to Argentinian author Haroldo Conti in 1971. By 1972, Barral was proudly speaking of what he had published, over 200 books (2000: 84), and what was in the pipeline (2000: 75). Many of the interviews given by Barral during this period were held in his office in the Calle Balmes, which he kept for years after the company ceased business (2000: 639). Among the books they began publishing was the Serie negra policial [Noir detective series], with beautifully designed covers by Luis F. Balaguer and Julio Vivas which feature a colored image superimposed on a black background, with the edges of the paper also painted black to maximize the effect. This was the series where the four Chander works were published.
The end of Barral Editores came as a result of lost enthusiasm of Barral and his inner circle, and a closing of the financial tap by a portion of the investors. "There was a large-scale capitalist partner, one of the large Spanish companies, who got cold feet at one point because of the volume of our operations, especially our exports to Latin America. And this investor decided to put the activity on hold, though this did not mean closing the business. So our company simply languished until it practically disappeared." (Barral, 2000: 205-6) Barral always spoke of a paralization, not a failure, of Barral Editores in 1978 (2001: 170), but according to his accounts even in 1981 books were still being published though Barral Editores (2001: 168).
However, no account of the Barral Editores history would be complete without a telling of the emotional side of the story. Though in most of his interviews at the time and much later, Barral portrays a level-headed story, his account of those days in the autobiographical Cuando las horas veloces (1988) tell the story of an all-out war. Describing the atmosphere of 1968 and early 1969, Barral described a pre-war situation in which diplomacy was still being used to unite the factions:
However, the atmosphere gradually became hostile, starting with the first clandestine meeting of Barral Editores. Barral and his conspirators had one final stratagem before the definitive split and all-out war, i.e. they wanted the name Barral removed from the Seix Barral label: “the only thing we could still try was to strip my name from their industrial branding. But even that would turn out easier to do from a newly created brand of the same name. Everyone agreed that this was the sensible thing, but it was very hard to bow out of that final assault. It would not have changed things, but it would at least have serious wounded our miserable enemy (Barral, 2001: 599).
After that effort failed and Barral was ousted from Seix Barral, openly hostile war ensued and the official creation of Barral Editores took place: “most of the time we spent in meetings during those early days was devoted to actual battle conferences, clearly applied to an imaginary reality and without the slightest feasibility of the tactics achieving our aim” (Barral, 2001: 630) The language of Carlos Barral’s account of those years is plagued with terms for wartime battle actions. They used terms such as “the War Minister” and “strategist” as well as adjectives like “bellicose” and “aggressive”. One of the most eager foot soldiers then, ready to execute joint decisions, was Javier Fernandez de Castro, who was determined to get everything that was decided upon, and who managed to get the rights to Marcel Mauss’ complete works, “almost on credit, with little more than appeals and promises, while on a thrifty trip to Paris, persuading the French editor who felt obligated towards me” (Barral, 2001: 631) One of Fernandez de Castro’s novels was published by Barral Editores in 1977.
Like any wartime situation, the fighting sides faced betrayals, sought allies, accused their enemies of atrocities and delighted in their blunders. Pere Gimferrer, years later, insinuated that he might write a book about this period and the end of Barral Editores which would be called “Traitors, Tremble!” (Barral, 2000: 686). Barral Editores had secured allies: “We managed to join forces with other small publishers and start a distribution company and the inaugural titles were a success, relatively, thanks to the support of booksellers all over the country who had taken our side for sentimental reasons in that war and who admitted from the onset that we would replace Seix Barral, now on the run and guilty of usurping what did not belong to it, if not even greater injustices. (Barral, 2001 : 631) Those who made up Barral Editores relished at Seix Barral’s disintegrating management structure and failure to award the 1970 Biblioteca Breve Prize:
The final days of Barral Editores, when investors were balking at the volume of the investments, were also cast as another “little war”, though one which Barral felt had no glory in fighting: “This new little war had no spectacle and took place in the silent and murky realm of figures and mathematical reasoning”. (Barral, 2001: 686) In 1979, Barral let this “new little war” go unfought: “It was not a case of, after exactly ten years, starting up once again with the violence and the farse of being dispossessed by Seix Barral. Not this time. This new dispossession had no political dimension nor the appearance of heroism, and I would not find enough loyalists for a third episode. The whole of my work at Barral was no less brilliant than my work at Seix Barral, but it was less conspicuous and above all less well-timed; the usurpation of a job well done this time was less scandalous and the stoppage of the business activity, of my activity, would be announced as provisional and motivated by technical reasons. Besides, it would have been nearly impossible to lift my name up, for the third time, under a new and shining brand (Barral, 2001: 685).
And with these wars came admitted excesses: “Wars, even when they are lost, when they are being lost and when they have been lost, are very exciting. But that state of ferociousness is dangerous and causes many senseless deeds to be committed" (Barral, 2001, 599) Recollecting much later precisely that excitement of the exalted state of armed conflict, Barral was philosophical about these wartime excesses, talking about “that professional promiscuity with its intellectual banditry, and its accomplices in corrosive intelligence” (Barral, 2001: 680) and about “that bygone artisanal and liberal insurgency” (Barral, 2001: 679).
In a 1988 or 1989 interview, Barral stated that in judging editors "by their catalogues you shall know them" (Barral, 2001: 320). Judging from his Barral Editores catalogue, there is an incredible amount of dedicated personal work, but there is evidence of the promiscuous excesses committed. During the A fondo interview in 1976, Joaquin Soler Serrano asked Barral if leaving Seix Barral was painful, to which Barral replied: "Yes, abandoning a whole catalogue which amounted to twenty years of work —and work that was strictly personal— is painful and awkward. And starting again is inconvenient (Barral, 2000: 124). He did start again, waged a war against the Seix Barral adversary, won that victory, then refused to fight another battle and let his efforts fade into abandon. "The balance of such personal editing as I had done is difficult to establish and even more difficult to acknowledge." (Barral, 2001: 685) I would like to recognize the huge value of Barral's work on the Barral Editores catalogue and the major role he played, for a second time, in the world of Spanish publishing. Nonetheless, the warring situation, with its allies, enemies and strategems, and the emotions that situation stirred up, did open up a window of opportunity for moral excesses, such as the translations of Chandler's works discussed above, two of which are plagiarisms, and one of which is translated from the French.
As a translator into Spanish, Elías began in 1969 with Émile Zola's J'accuse (Yo acuso. Barcelona: Tusquets (Cuadernos Marginales, 2), 1969). Starting in 1972 with René Reouven's L'Assassin maladroit (Un asesino sin suerte. Barcelona: Barral (Ediciones de Bolsillo, Serie Negra Policial; 18, 1972), Elías produced a number of translations from the French, including Jean Plumyene and Raymond Sierra's Catálogo de necedades que los europeos se aplican mutuamente (1973) credited to "Josep Elías" or "José Elías". From 1972 until his death ten years later, he continued to translate, from French, English and Catalan, a very wide variety of non-fiction works, including books ranging from cinema to the environment, and also fiction, including literary works from French by Boris Vian as well as detective novels by the prestigious writing pair of Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. Interestingly, in the same year he produced Adiós muñeca, Barral Editores published Claude Néron's Max y los chatarreros (Max et les ferrailleurs. Barcelona: Barral Editores, 1973), which was translated in collaboration with Joan Vinyoli.
Elías was certainly contacted by Carlos Barral after he left Seix Barral and started Barral Editores because he had known him from the organization of the annual Seix-Barral Biblioteca Breve Prize. Elías, described by Barral as an "external and neutral collaborator" (Barral, 2000: 573) whose task was to begin classifying and making a short list of the manuscripts that had been sent in. Once classified and pre-selected, Carlos Barral could then look with some sort of idea at what sort of works had been submitted:
In addition to Spanish and Catalán, Elías certainly knew French, for the immense majority of the books he translated into Spanish were from French. Parts of the Elías translation of Adiós muñeca, for instance the novel's opening first pages, were clearly translated from the version by Geneviève de Genevraye revised by Marcel Duhamel and Renée Vavasseur entitled Adieu, ma jolie (Linder, 2011: 287-289). This text was originally published in 1948 within Paris-based Gallimard's immensely popular Série Noire. However, the vast majority of the text was translated from English, or at least while using the English text in conjunction with the French. This is clear in the cases where the French text is missing a segment, or where it summarizes rather freely. Though many texts after 1948 were drastically abridged to fit a fixed page limit (Robyns, 1990: 27), Adieu ma jolie is missing little more than an occasional phrase or sentence and the final text had the additional benefit of being revised by Marcel Duhamel, the Série Noire editor, in person. These very short expurgated or summarized parts (see below, un très joli visage dans l'ensemble) were restored by Elías, who evidently worked from the English source text.
However, Elías clearly misinterpreted a number of segments and interestingly invented target text segments (Linder, 2011: 295). I believe that Elías, relying on his stronger French background and his perhaps lesser but emerging autodidactically-acquired knowledge of English, used the French target text and the English source text at the same time, constantly comparing and contrasting them in a sophisticated way, in the process of crafting his own very unique version.
Why he used such intensified colloquial language, as example 5 above contains evidence (large eyes<ojazos) and slang, as evidenced in example 1 above, is an interesting one. Obviously, because Chandler’s text does contain a considerable amount of both, Elías would have wanted to reproduce it as best he could, so he seems to have taken that task so seriously that he went beyond that, creating a text that was more loaded with slang than the original. The most noteworthy effect of this was an overly localized and temporally embedded text. Elías wrote in an ironically-toned translator’s note that “the language of the Barcelona underworld [is] used occasionally in this translation, as is the language of germanías” (126-7); Germanías is a language common to criminal and prisoners in the 15th and 16th centuries and replicated in some picaresque Spanish novels; today this language form is still cultivated in the form of the cheli language. Elias’s irony lies in the fact that by this point in the book, the reader of the translation already knows that he uses this language more than “occasionally”. Another one of his most-remembered translations was Por amor a Imabelle [For Love of Imabelle, also known as A Rage in Harlem], by Chester Himes, which he produced for Bruguera in 1980. Again, he used a local variety of slang for the black English slang of Harlem; in his very unique translator’s introduction entitled “Sobre la traducción” [Regarding the translation], he comments precisely on the local variety of slang used and how he did so “with the lexical expertise of Manuel Sánchez Torres, el Palomo”. Elías provides a slang>standard Spanish glossary at the end of the book. Also in his introduction, he comments on how, in the five years that had transpired between translating the text and publishing it, he feared that the slang had aged (Elías, 1980: 9). The Adiós muñeca and the Por amor a Imabelle texts by Elías, unique as they were for the reading public, and anomalous as they are for translation studies scholars, have nonetheless aged surprisingly well.
The connection between Carlos Barral and Joan Vinyoli, like Elías a successful Catalan poet, was even stronger. Both men (aged 45 and 59 respectively in 1973) had a passion for Rainer Maria Rilke and later translated his work into Spanish (Sonetos a Orfeo, Trans Carlos Barral, 1983) and Catalan (Versions de Rilke, Trans. Joan Vinyoli, 1984) and they were both editors. Barral records visiting him in Cadaqués during a time when he was still at Seix Barral (2000: 381). Vinyoli belonged to a group of fellow literarians, including Seix Barral literary advisor Joan Petit, which met on Saturdays for the purpose of discussing literature, politics, philosophy and whatever cropped up. Barral, who occasionally attended these meetings, described them as a group of truncated writers who frustratingly had to hold other jobs. In this context, Vinyoli had to work for Editorial Labor though he was a very notable poet, “the high priest of the Rilkean poetic tradition” (318) Joan Vinyoli worked for Editorial Labor until 1979, where he became a technical editor in charge of the medicine and veterinary sciences collections at around the time when he translated TLS for Barral Editores (Barral, 1988: 204).
During the period when he spent afternoons at Editorial Labor, Carlos Barral shared an occasional after-Labor drink with Vinyoli discussing Rilke’s poetry (Barral, 1988: 205). Barral remembers Vinyoli endearingly as a poet who frustratingly had to do editorial work, and certainly translations, as a means to make a living. His bitterness was alleviated in those frequent after-hours literary conversations with Barral precisely about what he loved most: Rilke’s poetry.
Vinyoli´s own works up to 1973, when he produced La hermana pequeña, included Primer desenllaç (Ed. Residencia de Estudiantes, 1937), De vida i somni (Ariel, 1948), Les hores retrobades (Els llibres de l'Óssa Menor, 1951), El Callat (Els llibres de l'Óssa Menor, 1956), Realitats (Els llibres de l'Óssa Menor, 1963), and Tot és ara i res.(Edicions 62, 1970). His two crowning acheivements were Encara les paraules (Edicions 62, 8Els llibres de l'Escorpí. Poesia, 15), Barcelona, 1973), for which he received the Lletra d'Or Prize in 1974, and his last collection of poems called Passeig d'aniversari (1984), which received such prestigious prizes as the Generalitat de Catalunya Prize, the Ciutat de Barcelona Prize and the Spanish National Literature Prize.
Though a very accomplished poet, author and editor, surprisingly, the very complete webpage devoted to Joan Vinyoli, mentions only three of his translations, including an annotated scholarly edition of Henschke's Historia de la literatura. Maravillosa síntesis de la literatura universal (Barcelona: Labor, 1930). However, he produced many more works in Spanish translation, often credited as "Juan Viñoly". Lourdes Güell and Fernando Valls, the into-Spanish translators of the bilingual anthology of Vinyoli's poems entitled La medida de un hombre (Madrid: Visor, 1990) recorded how "all the great Catalan writers in this century, at one time or another in their lives, have also been translators" (1989: 95). Apart from the above-mentioned significant translations, there are many others by Vinyoli "such as those of R. Chandler, G. Scerbanenco, or L.F. Celine, [that] must have also been gratifying for him to do" (Güell & Vals, 1989: 95). Vinyoli also translated works that varied from non-fiction texts on philosophy and sociology to fictional texts by Jean D´Ormesson and Josep Plá. In the volume containing his translations of Rainer Maria Rilke's poetry into Catalan (Versions de Rilke. Barcelona: Proa, 1984) he wrote a prologue in which he explained that, in his opinion, translations should be radically faithful and literal (Güell & Vals, 1989: 95). Surprisingly, during 1973, the year Vinyoli published La hermana pequeña, he produced a total of six translations, all of them within the Ediciones de Bolsillo collection and the Negra Policial series, an amazing number of translations for anyone to handle in such a short period of time.
Clearly skilled in French, and certainly in German, Vinyoli either did not want to or could not translate Chandler's work from English; it is absolutely unclear whether Vinyoli was given the text in French or whether the idea of translating it from French was proposed by him. In any case, the source text used was the Gallimard Série Noire translation entitled. Fais pas ta rosière! and translated by Simone Jacquemont and J. G. Marquet in 1950. This text was drastically shortened, with subsequent damage to the literary value of the text in French (see Noreiko, 1997), though abridgement was the policy for all Gallimard Série Noire titles in order to make them conform to a uniform text length of 180 or 240 pages (Robyns, 1990: 27). Despite his purported knowledge of French, Vinyoli committed errors of translation from the French (Linder 2011: 352-3).
A study by Uribe-Echeverría and Merino discussed a plagiarism published by Barral Editores which was perpetuated through subsequent editions by Bruguera and others (1994). They pointed out how an into-Spanish translation of James Joyce's Exiles, entitled Exiliados was produced by Osvaldo López Noguerol for Fabril Editora in 1964, then copied by Javier Fernández de Castro for Barral Editores in 1971 (1994: 434-7). In his introduction to the 1987 translation by Fernando Toda Iglesia, editor Manuel Almagro mentioned the López-Noguerol and Fernández de Castro precedents, but not the dependent relationship of the latter version on the first (1987: 62-3). Uribe-Echeverría and Merino did point this out, and they described how this copy was made: "Firstly, a very close relationship can be observed between the first translation published in Spain (TT2) and the Argentinian translation, which was produced earlier. (…) The translator of TT2 copies the Argentinian text, generally word for word, including the few instances of inaccuracies. Another characteristic of the intraliguistic transfer from TT1 to TT2 introduced by Fernández de Castro is the adaptation of typical features of the Argentinian variety of Spanish. Also, Fernández de Castro occasionally attempts to avoid literal translations, possibly consulting the ST, but he does this unsuccessfully in view of the resulting TT". (1994: 436-7) Except for adapting the Argentinian vocabulary, which was certainly done because of the need for theatrical dialogue to be acceptable to the local audience, the José Antonio Lara translation of The Long Goodbye published by Barral appears to have been made in a very similar fashion. As we have seen above, Javier Fernández de Castro was a real novísimo school writer who was deeply involved with Barral Editores from the very beginning.
Other references to cases of plagiarisms of Spanish translations of English language source texts published in Spain were collected by Sanotyo (1981). Plagiarisms are recorded by such widely-known Spanish publishers as Ediciones Destino, Editorial Ramón Sopena, and Editorial Juventud, and such highly-acclaimed writers as Rafael Abella and recent prize-winning translators such as Mauro Armiño (Santoyo, 1981: 61). Though five of the six examples cited by Santoyo record a pattern of plagiarisms from Argentina to Spain, there are examples of plagiarisms of texts first published in Spain which were plagiarized in Argentina (1981: 63); Merino also reports a case of an Argentinian plagiarism of a Spanish transaltion (1995: 10).
Santoyo, who has reported plagiarism in Spanish publishing; examined two into-Spanish versions of six English literary classics and found that they could have been perpetuated by translators who signed copied works as their own, and supposedly duped their publishers, or of publishers who appropriated existing translations and printed them with only slight modifications, using real consenting translators or pseudonyms (1996:120). Santoyo went so far as to propose a "recipe" for literary plagiarism: "Take a translation of any foreign work, preferably a dated one, dispensing with the original, of course. If your own ingenuity does not suffice, take a good Spanish dictionary of synonyms, too, and only occasionally cross out a word or replace one with the synonym from the dictionary (happened/occurred, followed/continued, and so on); then type out a clean copy of the new translation and hand it in to the publisher" (my translation, 1996, 120). Santoyo believes that plagiarism in the world of Spanish publishing is widespread, and that it would take another scholar no more than half an hour to locate another six plagiarisms (1996, 120).
In the case of the Lara copies, I believe there are two possible scenarios: 1). a real translator named José Antonio Lara lifted the De Setaro translation, introducing a few alterations, or 2). under the invented translator's name of José Antonio Lara a false translation which contained a few alterations was perpetrated by Barral Editores. In either case, the role of editor Carlos Barral, who would have ignored, condoned or perpetuated this fraudulence, is unclear.
Dissemination of the Translations
The Spanish editions were published jointly in Argentina though Editorial Corregidor as the result of an agreement with the newly-founded publisher headed by Manuel Pampín, who remembers the privilege of working with Barral and the beginnings of that venture: "I set up a company, a bookseller, in 1963. I kept it going until 1970, when I was bitten by the publishing bug. I was very motivated by Carlos Barral, another great Spanish editor. I was his sales representative in Argentina, and I told him that in order to be a publisher, I had to have authors, money, and everything else you need to set up a publishing house. He told me to choose whatever I wanted from his catalogue to publish in Argentina under a joint label, Barral-Corregidor. Just imagine how great that opportunity to work with his brand was! We agreed on almost 30 books, and among them were works by Márquez, de Vargas Llosa, Piaget, Raymond Chandler, Carpentier, all top of the line authors." (Pasetti, http://marcelopasetti.blogspot.com/2006/11/manuel-pampn-y-las-confesiones-de-un.html, January 23, 2012)
Later editions of these translations, starting with Bruguera editions in 1978-1983, brought these translations to a very wide readership at a time of post-dictatorial cultural expansion. Vázquez de Parga traces the origin of these translations from their original publication in Barral Editores to the Bruguera Libro Amigo, Serie Negra editions and to their strong influence on emerging Spanish authors (1993: 200-1). Also published by such companies as Planeta, Orbis, Plaza & Janés, and RBA, these novela negra translations made their way into the mid 1990s, where they received (because Chandler received) treatment as mainstream literature by Editorial Debate. Debate's Colección Literatura published editions of Chandler's works during the early half of the decade, then in 1995 it published the two-volume edition of Obras Completas. As we have seen above, this volume contained revised versions of El sueño eterno and El largo adiós, de Lara, of Adiós muñeca, by Elías, and an unabridged version of La hermana pequeña whose segments absent from the Vinyoli translation were translated by Juan Manuel Ibeas Delgado. In 2001-2, Alianza Editorial (Madrid) commissioned new translations of all four novels which have now replaced the "classic" Barral Editores versions, though the classics have appeared sporadically, for example in 2003, when Emecé (Buenos Aires) published Lara's El sueño eterno within its Grandes Maestros del Suspenso collection.
As Alfred Arias noted in "Chandler en España", a section of his introduction to El largo adiós, the Barral editions mark the beginning of the "systematic" publishing of Chandler's works (2005: 54). The systematic nature used by Spanish-language publishers of Chandler's works since the Barral Editores editions consists of publishing the whole (or nearly whole) set of seven novels by Chandler, all featuring detective Phillip Marlowe, in roughly equal proportions of newly-commissioned translations and reprinted texts.
The immediately following Bruguera editions —Adiós muñeca 1977, El sueño eterno en 1978, El largo adiós in 1981 and La hermana pequeña in 1983— joined Argentinian reprints —La dama del lago (1979) and La ventana siniestra (1980) — and new translations —Playback (1980) and La Vida de Raymond Chandler (1977), — and they went a long ways towards fortifying Chandler's reputation and the dissemination of the Barral Editors translations. The Bruguera Libro amigo, Novela negra editions were prestigiously edited by Juan Carlos Martini, who authored individual scholarly introductions for most titles, and they were well-timed with Spain's post dictatorial cultural and economic expansion. A more ample exploration of the Bruguera editions deserves separate treatment in a future article.
Some suggestions about why the Elías and Vinyoli translations were translated as they were are offered above, so I would like to devote most of this discussion to the two plagiarisms and to Carlos Barral's complex situation in 1972-3 and his personality. The main question is: Why did Barral Editores plagiarize the 1958 Spanish text by Navarro and Gómez for Aguilar (Madrid) and the 1962 Argentinian text by De Setaro for Fabril Editora (1962)? After all, doing this implied moral and legal risks; however, doing this may at the same time have entailed parallel competitive and moral advantages as well.
In my mind, I am not uncomfortable suggesting that the great editor Carlos Barral condoned and/or perpetuated two plagiarized translations, because I believe that the battleground with Seix Barrral at the time was fertile for overstepping the lines of moral respect and the rule of law. All in all the two plagiarisms formed part of a plan to produce, within the Serie Negra Policial a solid canon of Chandler's works in the shortest possible time, using a combination of real translations and a minimum of plagiarisms. The only remaining doubt in my mind is why the text of the Argentinean translation of The Long Goodbye was not revised. For a publisher who prided himself of quality, both at Seix Barral and now at Barral Editores, this seems inexplicable.
On a final closing note, I would like to analyze one reason why Carlos Barral may have felt a certain robust brashness towards the weak legality of the Franco regime. Official government censorship of books was the established law in Spain at the time, but this legal construct did not in other matters such as copyright guarantee legality of texts published in Spain. Perhaps, the plagiarisms were Carlos Barral's way of turning up his nose at an unjust system. All of these novels were presented to the censors in 1972, though some took as long as a year before they were approved. This is the case of Adiós muñeca, which was approved a year after it was filed, and El largo adios, which was approved only after suppressions were enacted. The censor who read the book found that a scene portraying police brutality should be removed: "several scenes pointed out on pages 39, 40, 49 and 52, which portray the excessive brutality of a police officer towards a detainee and could prove biased. Because of this, these passages should be stricken or softened in the Spanish translation of the text. The rest may be AUTHORIZED.] (Archivo General de la Administración (AGA), Alcalá de Henares, File 9574-72) The fact that this was a translation that had been lifted from an Argentinian source and credited to a new author went undetected by official government censors, and the suppressions they required were perhaps politically motivated in order to curb violence in the waning years of the regime. Barral's attitude towards this particular text is unknown, but he did comment ironically on a case in which a text by Richard Musil had officially been approved by government censors, but that still offered him no protection against prosecution; Barral was made to testify and was absolved, but he made light of the farsical trial, in which it emerged that the book contained apparently subversive homosexual references (Barral, 2000: 585-6). Barral relished in sharing his views on the absurdities of the censorship system in interviews with the foreign press; two of these interviews, one with a Swedish reporter and a U.S. correspondent, are available in Almanaque (2000; 11-13; 30-34; respectively).
Despite the tremendous success and "classic" status of these translations, the texts themselves are, in two cases, plagiarisms (El sueño eterno, 1972 and El largo adiós, 1973, both translated by José Antonio Lara), in one case, a translation from a condensed French source text (La hermana pequeña, 1973, trans. Joan Vinyoli), and in the final case, a translation with a uniquely intensified use of colloquial language and slang (Adiós, muñeca, 1973, trans. Josep Elías).
Barral Editores (1970-1978) was founded by poet and editor Carlos Barral, an extremely instrumental figure in the Latin American literature boom of the 1960's while at Seix Barral. Uncomfortably forced out of the publisher by Seix family investors in 1969, he set up Barral Editores as a means to continue editing and compete against the company he had formerly owned and worked for. Carlos Barral had to quickly set up a complete catalogue of his own in order to have something to offer the reading public, which he did remarkably efficiently. However, the unique war-like atmosphere of Barral Editores' competition against Seix Barral made for a situation in which Carlos Barral probably took moral liberties, such as using plagiarism and translation from a third language, in order to further his aims. In the case of the uniquely slang-heavy Elías translation, the liberty he certainly gave this translator was taken for the purpose of conducting a unique experiment in intensification of source text material, a theoretic possibility seldom actually put into practice.
José Antonio Lara is supposedly not a real name at all, but Joan Vinyoli and Josep Elías certainly were real people. Both of these figures were Catalan poets who were also employed in the publishing industry as editors and collaborators. Carlos Barral had met both during his days at Seix Barral, where Elías helped with the Biblioteca Breve prize and Vinyoli was closely associated with literati whom Carlos Barral engaged with. Though neither Elías nor Vinyoli are recorded as being directly involved in the setting up and operating of Barral Editores, both produced translations as outside professionals.
These "classic" translations are no longer being actively used, since Alianza Editorial (Madrid) commissioned new translations of the four novels in 2001-2. However, they were active for a long period of almost thirty years, precisely during a period of Spanish history when the country was experiencing an explosion of cultural production, when the country was under a wave of economic development, and when a local novela negra group of writers (Vázquez Montalbán, Juan Madrid, Eduardo Mendoza, and others) was being formed.
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T-1611, Departamento de Traducción, UAB | Research Group T-1611, Translation Departament, UAB | Grup d'Investigació T-1611, Departament de Traducció, UAB