Thursday, February 25, 2010

Strike Two for “The Second Sex”

The story about the new translation into English of Simone Beauvoir’s Le deuxieme sexe (The Second Sex) turns out to have a shocking and disappointing sequel.

To recap, the original 1953 translation was full of inaccuracies ranging from distortions to errors that reversed the meaning of Beauvoir’s words, as well as sizeable omissions.

A new translation was finally commissioned in 2006 by the holder of the British rights (see article). But now that it has been published it has come in for heavy criticism, too. This article by Toril Moi in the London Review of Books describes how the translators seem to have been inadequate to the task.

The translators stated that their aim, besides restoring the cut material and correcting mistranslations, was to restore Simone Beauvoir’s voice to the text. Professor Moi believes that they failed. The examples she cites show that they adhered much too closely to French sentence structure and vocabulary, apparently in a mistaken belief that this rendered the translation more faithful. Instead, it resulted in a text replete with false friends at the level of vocabulary, syntax, and style.

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