Edith Grossman’s Translation of Gabriel García Márquez without “-ly”
Edith Grossman compromises, and contradicts, and does all the wonderful things good translators of good literature must do when they are asked to promote a particular theory of translation that gets at how they practice translation. So this is, in part, what I was hoping to show in “A Translated Stew of ‘Griefs and Sorrows’.”
In this post, I’d like to give more examples. For instance, to an interviewer not long ago, Grossman asserts:
I see my work as translating meaning, not words.
Nonetheless, her work has been the translation of words as the example of Cervantes’s Don Quioxte shows.
One of Grossman’s most important confessions, I believe, is the one she makes to the same interviewer; Grossman must declare (in her interview with Maria Cecilia Salisbury) the following:
general rules [of translation] cannot be applied in an invariable way.
And when deciding to take on the translation of El amor en los tiempos del cólera, that famous novel by Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez, she heard from him directly. He was very explicit to her about not only his words but also his literary forms. He was very directive about the forms he avoids and the sorts of forms she, likewise, would do well to avoid.
And so she recalls something interviewer Adriana V. López has noted, quoting Grossman:
“I knew this Colombian writer was eccentric when he wrote me saying that he doesn’t use adverbs ending with -mente in Spanish and would like to avoid adverbs ending in -ly in English.” She remembers thinking, what do you say in English except slowly? “Well, I came up with all types of things, like without haste.”
And so we all notice. Gabriel García Márquez, in El amor en los tiempos del cólera, has refused for his own literary form reasons not to use the word precipitadamente. Instead he writes, he prefers his readers to read, the phrase más de prisa.
And Edith Grossman, in Love in the Time of Cholera, has so refused for her own literary translation practice not to use the word hastily. Instead she writes, she has chosen for her readers to read, the phrase “with more haste.”
Could Grossman not have honored Marquez since she’s in theory not into translating words but more their meanings? Well, of course. But then again, Grossman is a good literary translator in practice and also in the not-always-consistent theory she promotes.
Might translators of the Bible be as good?