How I became the Spanish translator of Eco

“The last time the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote about Río Wang”, I would begin so, with eyes modestly lowered watching for the effect.

But the problem is that the FAZ has not written about Río Wang. At least not with the name and URL.

Thus I begin by saying that in the FAZ literary supplement I came across the review on Umberto Eco’s new German book by Andreas Platthaus entitled “Wissen stinkt nicht” – “Knowledge does not stink.” I began to read it with excitement, as the review started with the title of a book – and dedicated half of the article to it – which caused me several hours of research two years ago when I was translating Eco’s The history of ugliness. It was La polychrésie de la race allemande, “The exaggerated need of defecation of the German race”. In fact, Eco quoted this title with polychesie which means nothing. At that time I came to the result that he had not seen the book, and he erroneously quoted its title from a catalog. The review of the FAZ now reported that the Spanish translator of Eco had encountered this problem, too, and he also went into the matter. I got extremely curious of his results.

Dieser Titel wiederum trieb den spanischen Übersetzer Ecos zu einer aufwendigen Internetrecherche an, weil er seinen Lesern im Gegensatz zu Eco eine Übersetzung des französischen Titels bieten wollte, diesen aber unverständlich fand. Schließlich bekam er Auskunft von einem russischen Kollegen über die richtige Schreibweise, und tatsächlich stieß er sogar noch auf einen weiteren Antiquariatskatalog, in dem die bislang einzige bekannte ausführliche Wiedergabe des Bérillon-Aufsatzes zu finden war: „La polychrésie de la race allemande. Das übertriebene Darmleerungsbedürfnis der deutschen Rasse. Superlienteria germanica. – Extrait des Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société de Médecine de Paris, séance du 25 juin 1915. P., Maloine & fils, 1915. 24 × 16 cm, 20 p. Broché.“ Seitdem, so beklagt der spanische Übersetzer, sei dieser Eintrag aber wieder aus dem Netz verschwunden. Die Geschichte der Suche nach dem in mehrfacher Hinsicht verderbten Titel hätte Umberto Eco gefallen – und mutmaßlich kennt er ihr Ergebnis auch, denn in der gerade erschienenen Übersetzung seiner 2006 auf Italienisch publizierten Textsammlung „La memoria vegetale e altri scritti di bibliofilia“, die im Original noch von „La polychesie“ sprach, steht nun korrekt „La polychrésie“.

This title led also the Spanish translator of Eco to an exhaustive internet search, because he, in contrast to Eco, wanted to offer to his readers a translation of the French title which was incomprehensible to him. Finally he got information from a Russian colleague about the correct spelling, and then he even found another antique catalog including the hitherto only known detailed description of the title of Bérillon’s essay: “La polychrésie de la race allemande. Das übertriebene Darmleerungsbedürfnis der deutschen Rasse. Superlienteria germanica. – Extrait des Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société de Médecine de Paris, séance du 25 juin 1915. P., Maloine & fils, 1915. 24 × 16 cm, 20 p. Broché.” Since then, the Spanish translator complains, even this entry has disappeared from the net. The story of the search for the in many ways corrupt title would have delighted Umberto Eco – and presumably he even knows its result, as the recently published translation of his Italian anthology La memoria vegetale e altri scritti di bibliofilia of 2006 has now the correct “La polychrésie” instead of the original “La polychesie”.

To my greatest surprise I had to realize that this Spanish translator was – me. Platthaus must have been misled by the Spanish title of the blog – Poemas del río Wang – that led him to consider me a Spaniard. So far, so good. However, all the rest of his information is mistaken, too. The “Russian colleague” I found by chance did not know the correct spelling either, he only coined a genial false etymology in support of the wrong one. The catalog entry with the correct polychrésie was suggested to me first by a French linguistic quiz, and then a search for the words “Berillon+race allemande”. All this was written down in my post schwarz auf weiss, citations and live links included.

Platthaus gives the subtitle Lohnende Internetrecherchen” – “Internet research pays off” to the short summary of my research. However, his article illustrates the fact that superficiality, transmission of half-understood information and hints to his sources without name and reference also pay off. Unwissen stinkt nicht?

10 comentarios:

Πόλυ Χατζημανωλάκη dijo...

I could not agree more with your post. Althought I have to read Spanish instructions in order to post a comment on your blog, and your answers to your friend Julia are in Spanish, I am - almost - sure that you are not a Spaniard.

I feel a little embarrassed, but having read your previous post about polychésie as multi – shitting I would like to make a small remark. Although there is no Greek word like χήσις, the verb χέζω in modern greek for defacating is widely spread, The same goes for the by - products like χέσιμο/χεσμένος which might explain its use – as a joke – by Umberto Eco.

If one had to use polychrésie: poly (a lot) +chrésie ( from χρήση: use) it might mean “a lot of use” which is out of context. Unless the title was: La polychrésie du système défécatoire du peuple allemand.
Scheiße may be the root of both χέζω and chésie but it has a different pronunciation.

Studiolum dijo...

Dear Poly, thank you for your comment, and sorry for my conspicuous absence in the last weeks, due to the fact that the translation of Eco has completely absorbed all my energies from morning till night. Thank you for the modern Greek word as well – I did not know it. Obviously these are the words one learns not by reading, but only from everyday communication with native speakers.

My approach to the Greek etymology of the word was rather of a “retrospective” or “apologetic” nature, just like that of “my Russian colleague”. I mean, once having found the actual spelling as it stood in the original publication, I tried to find out which etymology could justify the use of that form in this context.

I suppose that this derivation – perhaps invented by Doctor Berillon himself, or not much before him, as it occurs extremely rarely – is “medical Greek” which has nothing to do with living modern Greek. This is why I guess that its root was not the grammatically more correct χρήση, neither the living χέζω, but an artificial *χρήσις coined from χρέω, a calque translation for the eufemistic term “besoin/nécessité”. This would also coincide with the term’s German translation “Darmleerungsbedürfnis” given by the same author.

Concerning my Spanishness, you have really honored me with your “almost”, as I am indeed a bit of a Spaniard – at heart. In the realm of naturalia, however, although my special blend of Czech, Ruthenian (Carpatho-Russian) and Jewish blood has left no room for any Hungarian component, nevertheless my mother tongue is Hungarian, and I would not dare to translate – at least not with the intent of publication – Eco’s sophisticated trains of thoughts into any other language. The Spanish layout of the blog is due to the fact that we have founded it on the island of Mallorca together with my friend Antonio, by his pen name Wang Wei, who with his Catalan, Phoenician, Italian and French ancestors also has not much to do with Spanishness apart of being professor of the literature of Spanish Golden Age… and the title, as you know, comes from the Spanish translation of a Chinese book of poems by the “real” Wang Wei, just to complement the fair of available identities…

Julia dijo...

La historia es fantástica y debería resultarte muy honrosa no sólo por la filiación hispánica, sino especialmente por tu trascendencia como personaje ficcional: "el traductor español de Eco". ¡Qué festín para "amigos" tan queridos como Cervantes, Borges y Javier Marías (si me permiten entrometerlo en semejante lista)!.

Ahora bien, me parece muy mal que engañes a Poly con esas otras precisiones ficticias sobre la identidad de blog... ;-)

(Perdón, Poly, que no puedo escribir en inglés y menos en griego!)

Effe dijo...

hai tradotto Eco in ungherese? Esercizio difficile, interessante e immeritato (Eco, incontrato un paio di volte, è piuttosto antipatico. Opinione personale, s'intende)
Quanto ai suoi "errori", nota è anche la questione dell'errata citazione da cui derivò il fortunato titolo de Il nome della Rosa (la conoscerai, probabilmente, altrimenti posso indicare qualche articolo a riguardo)
(sempre che qualcuno passi ancora per queste lontane stanze)

Studiolum dijo...

Sì, ultimamente sono diventato tipo traduttore ufficiale di Eco in ungherese. Infatti è un lavoro immeritato e ingrato. Soprattutto perché Eco fa brillare la sua immensa cultura come un jongleur che gioca con cento palle e non importa se quattro o cinque ne cadono, anche le novantacinque che rimangono in aria fanno stupire. Ma il traduttore deve trovare anche quelle quattro o cinque cadute e spiegare il loro perché e farle apparire come se non fossero cadute. Ho già incontrato tante “polychesie” e “stat Roma/rosa” in Eco che da filologo dovevo investigare e da traduttore dovevo mettere a posto, che le edizioni ungheresi di Eco, credimi, sono già molto più affidabili che non quelle italiane :) La cosa strana è che dopo ciascuna traduzione mando una lista di errori all’editore di Eco, che loro ringraziano e… non usano mai per correggere le edizioni seguenti. E' per questo che ultimamente ho cominciato di pubblicarli qui nel blog.

Anónimo dijo...

Gli editori si uniformano alla condotta di Eco :-)(il tuo ritratto del giocoliere mi pare perfetto)
Sono in ogni caso stupito ancora una volta (e sì che la mia frequentazione del web data orami diversi anni) della generosità e delle possibilità della rete.
Solo in rete avrei potuto trovare il traduttore in ungherese di Eco (e già questo mi pare un incontro eccezionale) che oltretutto discetta di argomenti vari e tanto vicini ai miei interessi.
Una delle riviste letterarie online che conducevo un tempo, Buràn, inseguiva racconti nella rete mondiale, traducendo tante lingue diverse per i lettori italiani, accompagnando così l'istinto migrante delle parole (che già travalicano confini da millenni)
Se solo ti avessi incontrato allora, oltre a parole in russo, in lituano ed estone (e cinese, ugandese, spagnolo ecc) avremmo forse potuto aprire una porta anche sul mondo magiaro, che qui non è molto tradotto (e mi pare di aver visto qui un rifermento anche a un tuo amico/traduttore uzbeko)
In ogni caso, el Rio Wang è uno splendido mondo, una nuova cartografia.

carloslesta dijo...
Este comentario ha sido eliminado por el autor.
carloslesta dijo...

UN poco de polémica: ¿A qué lengua española fue traducida la obra? ¿Fue al gallego, al catalán, al euskera o al castellano? Si la traducción fue al castellano, no es propio decirlo que se tradujo al español. En realidad, el "español" como idioma... no existe. La Constitución española dice que el idioma oficial es el Castellano.
Este blog es una verdadera maravilla.¡Enhorabuena!

Studiolum dijo...

@ carloslesta: a veces merece la pena leer lo que comenta… ;)

Studiolum dijo...

en respuesta a su segundo comentario (que leo solo después mi respuesta al primero, que entretiempo ha cancelado):

Sobre todo, muchísimas gracias.

El obra fue obviamente traducida en castellano, que en inglés se llama «Spanish», como lo he utilizado en este artículo (y como habría utilizado «castellano» si lo hubiera escrito en… castellano ;)