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RE-FOREIGNIZING THE FOREIGN AN ANNOTATED RETRANSLATION OF JUAN RULFOS PEDRO PRAMO MARTIN BOYD

For millennia, Western discourse on translation has revolved around the notion of fidelity to the source text. From the debate over word for word vs. sense for sense raised by Cicero in the 1st century B.C. (Baker and Saldanha 35) to prescriptive statements in contemporary translator handbooks that a translation should be a faithful rendition of the [original] work (PEN Center 16), metalanguage on translation points to an assumption that translators have a duty to faithfully represent the texts they translate. This assumption of course raises numerous questions, most notably how to define such fidelity; and, as Susan Bassnett points out, it is embedded in an ideological perspective heavily influenced by Biblical translation, whereby the text is treated as a fixed, solid object that has to be systematically decoded in the correct manner (Bassnett 65). But for the purposes of this retranslation project, what interests me here is how this ideology of fidelity is interpreted, refracted or even undermined by what may be viewed as a conflicting assimilationist ideology, which Lawrence Venuti suggests is the prevailing ideology in contemporary translation into English. According to Venuti, translation into English is dominated by domesticating theories that recommend fluent translating, through which a translation inscribes the foreign text with a partial interpretation, partial to English-language values, reducing if not simply excluding the very difference that the translation is called on to convey (Venuti 21). In the interests of restraining this ethnocentric violence (ibid. 20), Venuti proposes a foreignizing strategy, which treats the translated text as a place where a cultural other is manifested, and which may be used as a form of resistance against [the] ethnocentrism and racism of Anglo-American hegemony (ibid. 20). Venutis anti-hegemonic proposal is transparently ideological, and as such I felt that applying this ideological viewpoint to re-translate a translation that

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was clearly influenced by the assimilationist ideology that it seeks to resist might produce some interesting results. The translation I chose for this experiment is itself a re-translation: Margaret Sayers Pedens translation of the Mexican novel Pedro Pramo by Juan Rulfo. The novel was first translated into English by Lysander Kemp in 1959, and in its own peritextual support Sayers Pedens re-translation is purported to be a response to the authors dying wish to have the novel appear in an accurate English translation (Sontag x). The original novel, published in 1955, is considered one of the classics of Mexican literature. In Mexico, the novel is often viewed as a criticism of the failure of the Mexican Revolution. By 1955, it was apparent that the revolution had not brought the improvements to rural living conditions that it had promised; rural communities suffered ever greater hardships, with many turning into ghost towns as more people moved to large urban centres in search of a living. In Pedro Pramo, Rulfo takes us into Comala, a mythical Mexican town which is quite literally a ghost town, as all the inhabitants are dead, but nevertheless continue to walk the earth as shadows. Internationally, the novel is viewed as a precursor to the so-called magic realist movement, the literary style that characterized the Latin American literary boom of the 1960s, led by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Mexicos own Carlos Fuentes. Sayers Pedens translation was funded by the US National Endowment for the Arts, and published by Grove Press, a large New York publisher known for publishing quality avant-garde literature. As such, I believe this translation to be very much a US production for a US readership. Sayers Peden is a highly accomplished Spanish-English translator; in the 1980s she translated several of Carlos Fuentes novels, and subsequently went on to translate almost all of the novels of Chilean author Isabel Allende. Indeed, her success as a translator is hinted at by the fact that her name is included on the cover of the book although it doesnt appear in print as large as the name of Susan Sontag, who provides a very short foreword to the novel.
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In her preface, Sontag appears to distance Pedro Pramo from its Mexican origins, defining it as one of the masterpieces of 20th century world literature (Sontag ix). If we interpret this assertion through the filter of Venutis description of Anglo-American cultural narcissism (Venuti 19), we may view it as an implicit allusion to an agenda to extract Pedro Pramo from its Mexican context and domesticate it for global consumption (global understood in this case to refer exclusively to the global hegemonic power of the United States). It is my contention that Sayers Peden adopts an ideological approach to the translation of this novel that similarly attempts to distance it from Mexico and relocate it in a domestic cultural context familiar to US readers. She does this in a number of ways, but in the passage I chose to analyze, I focus on one particular strategy she uses involving the respective registers of the narrative and dialogue. In the original text, Rulfo maintains an even, articulate colloquial Mexican register for both narrator and characters. I believe this has the effect of positioning the narrative voice very much within the setting of the novel. But in the translation, Peden raises the register of the narrator to make it more poetic and erudite, while lowering the register of the dialogue of the characters to a more colloquial, uneducated level, positioned in a kind of American wild west context. This strategy may be viewed as a two-pronged strategy of domestication, which can be illustrated through the application of the taxonomy of deforming tendencies proposed by Antoine Berman in his negative analytic for ethnocentric, annexationist translations (Berman 286). From this perspective, we might argue that the narrative voice is deformed through ennoblement, a stylistic exercise of rewriting that treats the original text as raw material in need of enhancement (Berman 290), in order to attain an assumed standard of world literature. Meanwhile, the dialogue is deformed through a process destruction of vernacular networks (Berman 294), replacing the Mexican vernacular with a supposed US equivalent, in an apparent effort to transport the characters into a domestic context. As Berman notes, such a strategy is rarely successful because a vernacular clings tightly to its soil and completely resists any translation into another vernacular (Berman 294). But Sayers Pedens specific choice of domestic vernacular (which, as will be demonstrated, evokes the
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lawless settlements of the US southwest in the 19th century) is particularly unfortunate, not only because of the loss of the lexically richer Mexican vernacular (constituting another of Bermans deforming tendencies, that of qualitative impoverishment), but also because such associations with the American Wild West serve to reinforce a denigrating Anglo-American ideological view of Mexicans as backward, ignorant, bloodthirsty and immoral (Stacey 741). In my re-translation, I seek to redress these instances of Anglo-American ethnocentric violence through a strategy based on Venutis notion of foreignization. In some instances, this has meant adopting a more literal approach to the translation of words and phrases so that their foreignness appears more marked in the translation. In others, it has meant a conscious attempt to avoid the deforming tendencies Berman identifies as typical of ethnocentric, annexationist translations. On the other hand, Venuti himself acknowledges that the process of translation necessarily involves a certain degree of domestication, as in the translating process, foreign languages, texts and cultures will always undergo some degree and form of reduction, exclusion, inscription (Venuti 310). With this in mind, to the degree that my re-translation must inscribe the source text in the culture of the target language, I have sought at all costs to avoid the very specific domestication of the Mexican characters into a rural, pre-modern North American setting, which, as mentioned above, I believe is indicative of a particular ideological agenda with regard to the translation of Mexican identity for US audiences. To this end, where necessary I have sought to domesticate the language of the characters using formal English phrasings generally more typical of British English. For the purposes of reference, Rulfos original Spanish text is included as Appendix A. In Appendix B is Margaret Sayers Pedens translation, annotated with my notes highlighting the manifestations of the translation strategy I believe she has adopted, as discussed above. For the purposes of analyzing Sayers Pedens lexical choices, I have adopted an approach drawn from Critical Discourse Analysis, and particularly from the work of Jeremy Munday in his critical analysis of translational stylistics and his use of corpus-based tools in the evaluation of lexicogrammatical choices
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in an attempt to ascertain the norms of the lexical items under consideration (Munday 37). For the purposes of this analysis, I have chosen to use the Google search engine of websites and books as my corpus. I justify this choice on the basis of Mundays observations that, although Internet search engines such as Google are relatively disordered, they can prove useful for determining whether a TT item is a neologism, or conversely very frequent (ibid. 38). As I believe is demonstrated in the annotations in Appendix B, they may also be useful in suggesting the types of texts in which a given lexical selection may be more likely to appear, and other words that it more commonly collocates with. Appendix C contains my re-translation, with annotations explaining my solutions in dealing with the issues raised by Sayers Pedens translation in order to re-adapt the target text to my ideological agenda as outlined above.

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WORKS CITED

Baker, Mona, and Gabriela Saldanha. Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies. 2nd Edition. London: Routledge, 2008. Bassnett, Susan. Transplanting the Seed: Poetry and Translation. Constructing Cultures: Essays on Literary Translation. London: Multilingual Matters, 1998: 57-75. Berman, Antoine. Translation and the Trials of the Foreign. Translation Studies Reader. L. Venuti (ed.). London: Routledge, 1999. 284-297. A Handbook for Literary Translators. 2nd Edition. New York: PEN American Center, 1991. Harraps Dictionary: Espaol-Ingls / English-Spanish. Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap, 2003. Larousse Diccionario Espaol-ingls / English-Spanish. Mexico: Larousse, 1998. Rulfo, Juan. Pedro Pramo. 12th reprint. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Econmica, 1973. Rulfo, Juan. Pedro Pramo. Tran. M. Sayers Peden. New York: Grove Press, 1994. Sontag, Susan. Introduction. in Rulfo, Juan. Pedro Pramo. Tran. M. Sayers Peden. New York: Grove Press, 1994: i-x. Stacy, Lee (ed.). Mexico and the United States. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2002. Venuti, Lawrence. The Translators Invisibility: A History of Translation. New York: Routledge, 1995. WordReference.com. Online Dictionaries. WordReference.com, Vienna, VA. Web. 10 Feb. 2011.

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APPENDIX A SOURCE TEXT Rulfo, Juan. Pedro Pramo. 12th reprint. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Econmica, 1973: 32-34 [Context: At the Media Luna Ranch, of which Pedro Pramo is the "patrn". It is the end of the day, after the funeral for Pedro's son, Miguel, an infamous womanizer who died when he fell off his horse a few days earlier. The hands are discussing rumours that have reached the ranch that Miguel's horse is still running madly along the country road, as if looking desperately for its owner.] Esos chismes llegaron a la Media Luna la noche del entierro, mientras los hombres descansaban de la larga caminata que haban hecho hasta el panten. Platicaban, como se platica en todas partes, antes de ir a dormir. -A m me doli mucho ese muerto dijo Terencio Lubianes-. Todava traigo adoloridos los hombros. -Y a m -dijo su hermano Ubillado-. Hasta se me agrandaron los juanetes. Con eso de que el patrn quiso que todos furamos de zapatos.Ni que hubiera sido da de fiesta, verdad Toribio? -Yo qu quieren que les diga. Pienso que se muri muy a tiempo. Al rato llegaron ms chismes de Contla. Los trajo la ltima carreta. -Dicen que por all anda el nima. Lo han visto tocando la ventana de fulanita. Igualito a l. De chaparreras y todo. -Y usted cree que don Pedro, con el genio que se carga, iba a permitir que su hijo siga traficando viejas? Ya me lo imagino si lo supiera: "-Bueno -le dira-. T ya ests muerto. Estate quieto en tu sepultura. Djanos el negocio a nosotros. Y de verlo por ah, casi me las apuesto que lo mandara de nuevo al camposanto. -Tienes razn, Isaas. Ese viejo no se anda con cosas. El carretero sigui su camino: Como la supe, se las endoso." Haba estrellas fugaces. Caan como si el cielo estuviera lloviznando lumbre. -Miren noms dijo Terencio- el burlote que se traen all arriba. -Es que le estn celebrando su funcin a Miguelito -terci Jess. -No ser mala seal? -Para quin? -Quiz tu hermana est nostlgica por su regreso. -A quin le hablas? -A ti. -Mejor vmonos, muchachos. Hemos trafagueado mucho y maana hay que madrugar. Y se disolvieron como sombras. Haba estrellas fugaces. Las luces en Comala se apagaron. Entonces el cielo se adue de la noche.

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APPENDIX B TRANSLATION Rulfo, Juan. Pedro Pramo. Trans. Margaret Sayers Peden. New York: Grove Press, 1994: 28-30. That story1 reached the Media Luna on the night of the burial, as the men were resting after the long walk back from the cemetery. They were talking, as people talk2 everywhere before turning in. That death pained me in more ways than one, said Terencio Lubianes. My shoulders are still sore. Mine, too, said his brother Ubillado. And my bunions must have swelled an inch. All because the patrn3 wanted us to wear shoes. Youd have thought it was a holy day, right, Toribio? What do you want me to say? I think it was none too soon he died4. In a few days there was more news5 from Contla. It came with the latest ox cart. Theyre saying that his spirit is wandering over there. Theyve seen it rapping at the window of a lady friend. It was just like him. Chaps and all. And do you think that don Pedro, with that disposition of his, would allow his son to keep calling on the women? I can just imagine what he'd say if he found out: 'All right,' he'd say. 'You're dead now. You keep to your grave. And leave the affairs to us.' And if he caught him wandering around, you can bet he'd put him back in the ground for good6. Youre right about that, Isaias. That old man doesnt put up with much. The driver went on his way. Im just telling you what was told me7. Shooting stars. They fell as if the sky were8 raining fire. Look at that, said Terencio. Please look at the show9 theyre putting on up there.
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story: Peden lifts the register with a formalized rendering of chismes (more literally, pieces of gossip), which, combined with her subsequent translation of the same word as news (see below) eliminates the evaluative element, positioning the narrator as neutral (and thus more distant) observer. 2 talking, as people talk: By translating the colloquial Mexican verb platicar with the Standard English talk, Peden elides the casual, colloquial usage of the original and thus formalizes the voice of the narrator. Her translation of como with as (rather than the more colloquial option like) also indicates a conscious decision to opt for a higher register wherever the opportunity presents itself. 3 As a foreignizing strategy, Peden has chosen a very small number of words repeated frequently throughout the text which she presents in the original Spanish (patrn, burro, seor, seora, rebozo). The choices are all obvious Spanish words which could just as easily be associated with the US southwest. 4 muy a tiempo (lit. right on time): Pedens translation of this expression as it was none too soon points to a th conscious strategy to favour phrasings associated with the 19 century US Wild West; a Google search of books with this phrase brings 3,820 hits, dominated by works of fiction on US rural life such as: None But a Mule by Barbara Woolicott; Wolf Canyon by J.F. Whiteaker; and numerous short stories from a magazine entitled Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine. 5 news (chismes): see Footnote 1 above. 6 grave..... ground for good: Rulfos lexical choices of sepultura and camposanto are somewhat more eloquent than the more frequently used terms for these concepts (tumba and cementerio); Pedens decision to translate these concepts with more bland English words grave and ground renders the characters speech more mundane, and in the second case, the poetic quality of camposanto (lit. holy field) is lost completely. 7 Im just telling you what was told me: A literal rendering of the original Spanish phrase is closer to As I heard it, I pass it on to you. Peden re-casts the sentence completely, employing a phrasing with a pre-modern rural US flavour. The only th other usage Google gives for this phrase comes from a quote by a former slave in 19 century Virginia, in the book Weevils in the Wheat: Interviews with Virginia Ex-Slaves, by Charles Perdue and Thomas Barden. 8 as if the sky were: the use of the subjunctive were gives the translation a marked formal quality not present in the original Spanish (where the subjunctive carries no such overtones of formality).

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Must be celebrating Miguelitos arrival, Jesus put in. You dont think its a bad omen? Bad for who10? Maybe your sisters lonesome11 and wants him back. Whore you talking to? To you. Its time to go, boys. We've traveled a long road 12today, and we have to be up early tomorrow. And they faded into the night like shadows.

show: Peden chooses to render the rather obscure usage burlote with a very common English term, which suppresses the originality of the characters speech. 10 for who?: In contrast to the formalism of the narrators voice, characters are invariably given more informal language usage, as demonstrated by the use of who (rather than whom) here. 11 lonesome: a curious choice for the translation of the Spanish word nostlgica, for which the most common English translations given in bilingual dictionaries is nostalgic or homesick (see, for example, Harraps Spanish-English Dictionary; Larousses Diccionario espaol-ingls and wordreference.com). A search in Google suggests that lonesome very frequently collocates with cowboy (255,000 hits, as opposed to lonesome man 80,000 hits; lonesome woman 24,500 hits; lonesome gentleman 427 hits), suggesting a very clear association with images of the Wild West 12 traveled a long road: another example of where Peden elides the originality of the characters use of language; the original Spanish verb trafaguear (meaning to be very active) is highly unusual, yielding only 185 hits in Google; Pedens translation is a common clich in English which produces a total of 64,700 hits in Google.

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APPENDIX C MY RETRANSLATION That gossip13 reached the Media Luna on the night of the burial, while the men were resting from the long walk to the grave and back. They were chatting, like people do14 everywhere before they go off to bed. That death gave me so much pain, said Terencio Lubianes. My shoulders are aching me still. And me, said his brother Ubillado. Even my bunions have grown bigger. All because his lordship15 wanted us all to wear shoes. As if it were a feast day, dont you agree Toribio? What do you want me to tell you? I think he died not a moment too soon16. More gossip soon arrived from Contla, brought by the latest truck. They say his soul walks about over there. Theyve seen it knocking at the window of a certain young lady. Exactly like him. In chaps and all. And do you suppose that Master Pedro, with that dark mood that fills him, would allow his son to continue his traffic with women? I can imagine what would happen if he knew. Well, then, hed say, Youre dead now. Stay still in your tomb. Leave that business to us. And if he were to see him out and about, Id almost lay money that he would send him back again to the hallowed ground17. Youre right, Isaias. That old man has no time for such things. The truck driver went on his way. As I heard it, I lay it upon you18, he said. Shooting stars appeared, falling as if the sky was drizzling fire. Just look, said Terencio, look at the fanfare19 theyre carrying on with up there. Theyre throwing a party for young Miguel, offered Jess. Might it not be a bad sign? For whom? Perhaps your sister is longing20 for his return. To whom do you speak? To you. Best that we leave, lads. Weve been bustling21 all day and tomorrow we must rise at dawn. And they dissolved like shadows.

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gossip (cf. Footnote 1): My intention is to retain the colloquial flavour and evaluative dimension of the original word choice. 14 chatting, like people do (cf. Footnote 2): Again, I am seeking to retain the narrators informal, colloquial voice. 15 his lordship (cf. Footnote 3): I have rejected the strategy of maintaining words like patrn in Spanish, as I view it as a questionable foreignizing strategy. In Mexican Spanish, patron is often used with a hint of sarcasm when alluding to employer-employee relations; my intention is to capture this aspect of the original. 16 th not a moment too soon (cf. Footnote 4): Contrary to Pedens choice of US 19 century rural phrasings, I have consciously chosen more formal English phrasings for character dialogue. 17 tomb hallowed ground (cf. Footnote 6): My intention here is to represent more closely the poetic formalism of the original. 18 As I heard it upon you (cf. Footnote 7): Based on Venutis foreiginzing strategy, a more literal rendering of the original to produce a markedly atypical phrasing in English. 19 fanfare (cf. Footnote 9): Ive attempted to find a less bland term than show to better represent the original burlote 20 longing (cf. Footnote 11): I feel this is a more semantically accurate choice, and avoids associations with images of the Wild West. 21 bustling (cf. Footnote 12): My attempt to avoid what Berman refers to as qualitative impoverishment of the dialogue, by searching for language that convey some of the originality of word usage in the ST dialogue.

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