Translating Latin America: Harriet De Onís and the U.S. publishing market
Livingstone, Victoria J.
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Responding to recent debates about the circulation of literary texts in the global market, this dissertation examines various literary and socio-political factors that shaped the translation and reception of Latin American literature in the U.S. between 1930-1969. This study seeks to fill a critical gap in the history of translated Latin American literature, focusing on the editorial project of Alfred A. Knopf, the most influential publisher of Latin American literature in the U.S. during these years, and Harriet de Onís, Knopf’s principal translator from Spanish and Portuguese into English. Drawing on archival research, each chapter traces the publication history, and follows with a close reading, of a different text translated and sometimes edited, by de Onís. The three case studies from both Spanish and Portuguese source texts and from geographically diverse regions (Mexico, Brazil, and Cuba) examine specific problems of translation. Chapter One addresses the ways in which explicitly political texts are transformed in translation and are shaped by readers’ cultural expectations. It analyzes de Onís’s translation of Martín Luis Guzmán’s semifictional memoir of the Mexican Revolution, El águila y la serpiente (1928), The Eagle and the Serpent (abridged version in English published in 1930 and complete version in 1965). Chapter Two studies the movement of scholarly texts from peripheral to central markets through an analysis of Fernando Ortiz’s Contrapunteo cubano del tabaco y el azúcar (1940), translated in 1947 as Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar. Chapter Three studies the difficulties of reproducing experimental language in translation through close readings of de Onís’s translations of João Guimarães Rosa’s Sagarana (1946, title unchanged in the 1966 English translation) and Grande Sertão: Veredas (1956, translated in collaboration with James L. Taylor in 1963 as The Devil to Pay in the Backlands). These case studies suggest that current models of the global circulation of literature should acknowledge more fully the active editorial role of the translator and other agents in shaping source texts and in seeking out the cultural analogies that make those texts more readily understandable to foreign readers.
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