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Cover > Thoughts on translation > Translation from Spanish into Catalan during the 20th Century: sketch of a chequered history

Translation from Spanish into Catalan during the 20th Century: sketch of a chequered history

by Montserrat Bacardí
More than a few readers will, undoubtedly, wonder why translation from Spanish into Catalan should be necessary, since all Catalans understand both languages. On the other hand however, translation from Catalan into Spanish would seem logical, since the average Segoviano or Malagueño is not in a position to be able to read Camí de sirga, for instance. In contrast, Catalans are able to decipher the most abstruse subtleties of any text written in Spanish - the original or source language is completely accessible and intelligible to us. Therefore, the essential primary reason for translation - intelligibility - would not appear to be a motivating factor in translations from Spanish to Catalan.

At least this is true of most of the 20th century, and especially so of its latter half. In earlier times however the situation was entirely different. In El català al segle XIX, Pere Anguera tells us that "At the start of the 19th century, all the evidence indicates that Catalan was the main, and almost the only language of the entire population," and "until well into the 19th century, Catalan had maintained its pure structure, thus making it difficult for large sectors of Catalan society to understand Spanish." (Anguera 1997: 27, 91). This view is corroborated by August Rafanell in La llengua silenciada: "For a large part of the population of Catalonia, then, Spanish continued to be a language that had to be learned from books, as opposed to on the street" (Rafanell 1999: 117). Just one of the numerous examples reported by Anguera will be sufficient to illustrate this situation: "Between 1800 and 1860, the church published at very least 67 catechisms in Catalan (in fact, two of them were bilingual) as opposed to only eight in Spanish." (Anguera 1997: 76-77). Therefore, the Catalan-speaking areas were not always bilingual (with the exception of an elite, as also occurred in Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, the Scottish Highlands, Provence, Finland and countless other locations). For many centuries, translation from Spanish into Catalan was indeed necessary.

However, a variety of factors led to penetration by Spanish of the Catalan-speaking population: the spread of printing, political defeats, the creation of the large modern states and successive legislation on the obligatory teaching of Spanish (1768, 1821, 1849, 1857, etc.), to mention a few. As a result, by the beginning of the 20th century, the enlightened minority that wished to read Buscón or La Regenta were in a position to do so directly in Spanish, and a significant body of the population was capable of understanding a pious book or one of Muñoz Seca's "astracanadas": translation was no longer necessary. And clearly, when unnecessary, it loses part of its underlying justification and becomes in a sense delegitimised.

When translation is delegitimised there are a number of questions to be raised. What gets translated when the need for translation has disappeared? Who does the translation and why? On what criteria? Who reads the translated work? These are just some of the preliminary questions. A response would require wider and more detailed research than can be described here.


Firstly, it might be helpful to mention some of the earlier translations, so as to obtain a general overview of the historical development. In the Middle Ages, during the 50-year reign of Pere el Cerimoniós, from 1336 to 1387, conditions were optimum for the laying down of foundations for translation from Spanish into Catalan: firstly, the king himself encouraged translation of mainly Latin works into Catalan; secondly, his fascination with the thriving Castilian historiography of the 13th and 14th centuries led to him commissioning the daunting task of translation of Alfonso X’s Partidas to the prothonotary Mateu Adrià, with a view to establishing similar laws "which could be truly called ours" (Rubió i Balaguer 1984: 144), and he also commissioned a version of General Estoria: Libre historial compilat de diversos autors per D. Alfons dit lo Savi. The work undertaken during this period however was not to continue at the same level of brilliance in the 15th century, which was one of the high points of Catalan literature. Apart from a number of random translations of religious works, the main contribution was the translation by the poet Bernardí of three new works in Castilian: an anonymous Revelació de Sant Pau which had been translated into Spanish, also anonymously; Cordial de l’ànima, by Dionysius the Carthusian, translated to the "style of Valencian prose" (Wittlin 1995: 161), not from the anonymous Latin original, but from the Spanish version by Gonzalo García de Santa María; and, two years later, in 1493, Vallmanya’s translation of the famous sentimental novel Cárcel de amor by Diego de San Pedro.

The 16th century marked the beginning of the rise of Spanish literature and the decline of Catalan. This decline was more in terms of quality than quantity, and the language itself began to lose prestige in the face of Spanish, which was the language of the court and undergoing a literary upsurge. Examples of this phenomenon are the Catalan adaptation of Nebrija’s Latin-Spanish lexicon by the Augustinian friar Gabriel Busa, published in 1507 and reprinted in 1522, 1560 and 1585. Some years earlier, in 1497, the grammar master of the Estudi General in Barcelona, Martí Ivarra, had translated Nebrija’s Introductiones latinae, which had "already been printed for the use of Catalans at least 100 times between the 15th and 19th centuries" (Colon and Soberanas 1991: 61). The works translated in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were all religious in nature. A great volume of such work was also originally written in Catalan and many were reprinted on numerous occasions, however there was also a great demand for translation, which is not surprising – these works were largely didactic in purpose and no risks could be taken with linguistic uncertainties. This need for translation was echoed in the words of the "devout priest of the Casa d’Exercicis of the city of Girona" who translated Veritats eternas by the Italian Jesuit, Carlo Gregorio Rosignoli, in 1761, working from the Spanish version which had appeared three years earlier, because, he said "if they read books in Castilian, they understand neither the sense of the clauses nor the meaning of the expressions" (Rubió i Balaguer 1986: 54). At the same time, in Menorca, which was under the English crown - with its paternalistic tolerance for the local language - for almost the entire duration of the 18th century, Vicenç Albertí translated works for the stage by Moratín and Rodríguez de Arellano.

The Renaixença or Catalan Renaissance led to restoration of Catalan as a literary language, but this was to be a slow process and we do not find substantial use of Catalan in literary output until well into the 19th century. In other words, it was not until the 19th century that favourable conditions - essentially the cultural and social prestige of the target language - existed for translation of Spanish into Catalan. Ironically, this coincided with the period when Spanish began to become intelligible for large sections of the Catalan population. A paradox if ever.

The men of learning of 19th century Catalonia paid special attention to Quixot or Don Quijote. Six fragments and two almost complete translations dating from within nine years of each other have come to light. These were by the historian and lawyer, Eduard Tàmaro, the first part of whose translation was printed in leaflet form in 1882 in the El Principado newspaper for which he wrote, and the other by the bibliographer and grammarian, Antoni Bulbena i Tusell, dating from 1891. The enthusiasm for Cervantes' novel was to survive into the early years of the 20th century: in addition to some other partial translations, the Majorcan presbyter Ildefons Rullan, author of a number of paroemiological works, completed a full new two-volume translation which appeared in 1905 and 1906 - the year of the third centenary of the first volume of the original: this was the third version of this long and complex work in 24 years. As the historian, geographer and scholar, Francesc Carreras Candi, pointed out in a series of articles entitled "Lo cervantisme a Barcelona" published in La Veu de Catalunya in 1894, Barcelona was going through a veritable "Cervantes mania":

"During the 17th and 18th centuries, a time of decadence for our language, in which our writers saw it as a language to be scoffed at, it is not at all surprising that no one saw the point of translating a work, whose publication was only carried out to provide assistance to those reading the original. However, in the 19th century, due to the bold rise of Catalan literature, and the growing "Cervantes mania", translation of don Quixote into Catalan, was necessary, albeit a difficult task owning to the numerous challenges" (Carreras Candi 1895: 34).

The translations are but one of many testimonies to this enthusiasm for Cervantes and his work, which was seen as exemplary: there were numerous press and literary articles, a Cervantes Society, specialised libraries, exhibitions, debates and a whole range of social activities.

Antoni Bulbena is deserving of a chapter to himself in the history of translation from Spanish into Catalan (and in the history of Catalan translation in general: having translated Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and Zola). Fascinated by the work of Cervantes in general, he was especially devoted to Quixot. In addition to the 1891 version, he undertook a "New abbreviated translation for the young" in 1894 and retranslated over the following 50 years a number of passages which were never published (as was the case with many of his works). Indeed, he translated all of Cervantes' Novelas Exemplares, although only three of them were actually published: Raconet e Talladell (1895) and Lo casori enganyador seguit del col.loqui dels cans Scipió & Bergança (1930). He was also tempted by two of the great 15th and 16th century classics of Castilian literature: Comedia de Calist & Melibea (La Celestina) (1914) and La vida de Llàtzer de Tormes (1892), which he attributed to Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, and also by La dança de la mort as contained in a 15th century manuscript in the library of El Escorial. Bulbena never considered himself bound by Pompeu Fabra's spelling and grammar rules, and he himself paid for the publication of a number of these books, the editions of which were limited to some few hundred copies. The inevitable question is what drove him to persevere in this apparently useless task with such a limited readership? The answer, of course, was idealism, as he himself said in his unpublished diary, written during the civil war:

"...in the challenge of placing it (the Catalan language) at the literary level of the languages that I knew, it was most natural that, just as I wished to de-Castilianise Catalan, I should strive to Catalanise Castilian. To this intent I took together the four classic highpoints of this language which has so damaged ours, namely, Llatzer de Tormes, La Celestina, Don Quixot and the Novels of Cervantes, all of which, I rendered, literally, into Catalan" (Bulbena 1937: 74).

Revised and shorn of Castilianisms, Bulbena's anonymous translation of Don Quijote was reprinted twice in the 20th century: in 1928, in a popular edition, and in 1936, just before the outbreak of the civil war, in a deluxe format, which could not possibly have been within the reach of more than a handful of persons in the 1940s, by when it began to be distributed. A number of versions for young people also appeared, and in 1969, a complete new version by Joaquim Civera i Sormaní was published. Civera had been a journalist before the war and the challenging translation task served to lighten somewhat his enforced silence in the post-war period. The work was published posthumously and was not widely distributed; however the translator was entirely aware of these limitations when undertaking the challenge.

"Educated Catalans can read Cervantes’ main work in the original Spanish. Why then have we dared to make Don Quixot speak in the language of our fatherland? Because we wish to render homage to this great writer who said beautiful things about Catalonia and praised the Catalan language. If Don Quixote has been translated into all the languages of culture, then it should also be translated into the language in which our people express themselves" (Cervantes 1969: 1).

More than 60 years had elapsed then, between Rullan's Quixot (1906) and Civera's version (1969). This inactivity reflects the overall situation of translations from Spanish into Catalan. The target language, Catalan, now enjoyed a new-found prestige, though the source language, Spanish, had fallen into disfavour (in Catalonia). A cultural renewal movement such as Modernisme, with its emphasis on importing new cultural models, hitherto unknown in Catalonia, could not possibly be seen to promote translation from Spanish to Catalan. Joan Fuster summarised the atmosphere of those times: "Promotion of Catalan literature in Europe came into its own at the turn of the century. The two servitudes which threatened this aim, the fascination with Castilian literature and French literature, were shaken off. (...) The only solid base for Catalan affirmation was a European one." (Fuster 1988 : 27). The concern with becoming part of Europe, and joining the train of the rich and prosperous cultures was to remain intact until the civil war. Translation from Spanish to Catalan (which must still have been viewed as a pseudo-Renaixença phenomenon, had little space in this agenda. Once the sudden blaze of enthusiasm for Quixot had abated, translations of Spanish literature into Catalan in these decades were few and far between, and in the rare cases in which it did occur the motivation for translation - the cause, genesis and circumstances - is always abundantly clear.

Let us examine some examples. Shortly after the turn of the century, the works of Jaume Balmes, the well known priest and philosopher from Vic began to appear in Catalan. First to appear was a religious manual: La rel.ligió demostrada al alcans dels noys, translated by Joan Just i Gelpí (1903); then came the emblematic El criteri, translated by canon Jaume Collell, also from Vic (1911). Later, in the post-war period, El criteri was to be translated again by Josep Miracle (1948). Before this, as part of the Biblioteca Popular Barcino collection, La civilització had also appeared in Catalan, translated by Josep M. Capdevila (1930).

This same collection was to bring a considerable number of 19th century works by Catalan writers back "to their own intrinsic and natural medium" in the 1930s (Maseras 1935:14). These were Catalan writers who had, for one reason or another, written in Spanish. The translator in practically all cases was Alfons Maseras, who also translated a great number of writers from other languages – mainly French – including Gogal, Tolstoy, Leopardi, Maeterlinck, Shakespeare, Benoit, Dumas, Musset, and Zola, not to mention the complete works of Molière). However, only in one case, (the anthology of Cabanyes' poetry) did his name appear; the others he translated under the pseudonym J. dels Domenys, considering the work a mere source of income rather than literary enterprise. The majority of authors and works selected for translation can be seen as within the sphere of the Renaixenca influence (many were published around 1933, the centenary of the appearance of Aribau’s ode, La pátria, generally considered to be the starting shot of the Renaixença): Art i política (Assaigs diversos, extrets de "El Europeo") by Bonaventura Carles Aribau (1932), Records i belleses de Barcelona and Records i belleses de Catalunya by Pau Piferrer (1932 and 1934), Poesies completes by Manuel de Cabanyes (1935), Història de la meva joventut by the astronomer, Francesc Aragó (1937) and L’antiga marina de Barcelona, L’antic comerç de Barcelona and Els antics oficis de Barcelona (1937), shortened versions of Memorias históricas sobre la marina, comercio y artes de la antigua ciudad de Barcelona by Antoni de Capmany. Each volume was prefaced by a brief and rather didactic note on the writer and the work, as was thought to befit a "popular" collection. The preface usually included justification of the translation. In the preface to the poetry of Cabanyes, he wrote at more length, perhaps seeing the poet’s role as central. Cabanyes was, he says, a singer without a language (in the well-known phrase of Miquel Costa i Llobera). In this way, it seemed, that by translating him, Maseras was returning the poet to the tradition from which he should never have been parted:

"It is clear that the Catalans failed in their effort to incorporate their poetry into the rather murky waters of Castilian lyricism. And they failed for two essential reasons: a lack of understanding, sometimes bordering on hostility, but even more so, for reasons of their own incompetence, if the truth be told. There is a painful pang in the work in Spanish by these Catalan poets. One notices that they are working in a language which is not theirs. One notes that their song, no matter how profound, how sincere, suffers from some sort of artificiality. No matter how true the work, there is always something false: the sound. This was true in Catalonia, when they wrote in Spanish, but also in Castile, when they wrote in Spanish with a Catalan accent: an accent which was evidence of another soul and another personality. And this other soul, this other personality, needed a change of language, and if it was to manifest itself fully and seek new horizons, it needed a setting where it would find sustenance and warmth, where it could expand and grow in the light of day, freely, in a glorious ascension." (Maseras 1935: 12-13).

Maseras also accompanied the appearance of these and other of his translations with press articles on the authors of the original works. This was a sort of highbrow publicity drive, but also an indication that he shared the ideals of the authors regarding cultural and patriotic progress – aspects which he dwelt on at length.

Finally, the 1930s also provided us with another noteworthy wave of translations; plays by fashionable authors of the day who, it goes without saying, tended to write popular comedies or melodramas guaranteed to fill the theatres. It is clear that the motivation for translation in these cases was not intelligibility, but rather to make them more natural, and thus more successful. It must be remembered that in 1930s Catalonia, a grocer, a nun or even a marquis and marquess speaking Spanish on stage would have struck a strange note with the working class audiences which went to see such productions. These texts were only published after staging in local and neighbourhood theatres such as, the Orfeó Gracienc, the Gran Teatre Espanyol, Teatre Escola, Teatre Nou, Teatre Talia and the Ateneu Familiar in Sant Boi de Llobregat. The translations themselves were published in two collections, Catalunya Teatral and La Escena Catalana, both of which had a loyal public, eager to consume the reasonably priced product. In chronological order the main works were L’adroguer del carrer Nou (El último mono) by Carlos Arniches (1930), Els marquesos del Born (Los marqueses de Matute) by Luis Fernández de Sevilla and A.C. Carreño (1932), Marianela by Benito Pérez Galdós in the stage adaptation by the Álvarez Quintero brothers (1934), Mare Alegria by Luis Fernández de Sevilla and Rafael Sepúlveda (1935), L’honra dels fills (1935) and Esclavitud (1937) by José López Pinillos, La nostra Natatxa by Alejandro Casona (1936), El secret by Ramon J. Sender (1937) and El vell albrit (El abuelo) by Galdós (1937). In practically all cases, translation into Catalan was by comediògrafs, comic authors who had cultivated the same genre, at least to some extent. These included Amichatis, Antoni Carner, Agustí Collado, Francesc Payàs i Planas, Antoni Pejoan, Manuel Valldeperes and Joan Vila i Pagès. The works appearing after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 "could be read as political allegories of the social and revolutionary process taking place in Catalonia" (Gallén 2001: 65).

The many novels of Galdós, so widely read over the years, also attracted the interest of dramatists and publishers. In 1930, J. Burgas translated into Catalan the only of his "episodios nacionales" to be set in Catalonia: Girona. To avoid any possible misinterpretations, the author’s name was reduced to B. Pérez Galdós and a Catalan flag or senyera occupied the full cover. Once again, translation from Spanish to Catalan was presented as a restoration. Just as it almost certainly was too in the case of works by the Valencian novelist Vicente Blasco Ibáñez. By 1914, the journal El Cuento del Dumenche had published two anonymous translations of Blasco Ibáñez’s El últim lleó and Corpus valensiá in its editions 6 and 24, respectively. The editorial of number 25, entitled També nosaltros. Prop de la reivindicasió rechional, proclaimed: "El Cuento del Dumenche has the honour of heralding in all movements which stand for independent Valencianism and practical regionalism within the ample and unsheltered field of literature." In the 1920s, two of Blasco Ibáñez’s novels were translated into Catalan: Flor de maig (1926) and La barraca (1927) (reprinted 70 years later in 1997). The translator was the Valencian journalist and writer Miquel Duran i Tortajada, who signed under the pen name of Miquel Duran de València and who was at that time director of the Mentora publishing house’s Biblioteca Europa collection. According to the catalogue publicity, Duran intended to translate a further four works by the famous novelist, A l’ombra dels tarongers, Arròs i tartana, Contes valencians and Un drama a l’albufera. This ambition was never realised since the publisher closed down (Ugarte 2002: 46).

In literature as in all else, the Franco dictatorship was an interruption. As is all too well known, the censor rejected all requests for permission to publish translations into Catalan, with such persuasive reasoning as "They are translations from other languages into Catalan" and "Rejected since it is a translation from another language", (Gallofré 1991:262, 263) until in 1948 Riba and Sagarra were granted permission to publish their versions of The Odyssey and The Divine Comedy, although under one condition, that the works were published in highly limited and costly deluxe editions. One year previously, in 1947, Lluís Deztany (pseudonym of the soldier and scholar Lluís Faraudo i de Saint-Germanin) had managed to publish his translation of Les dues donzelles by Cervantes (a writer who, like others, the regime manipulated for its own ends); the edition however was limited to 359 copies.

However, these few swallows did not make a summer. Who could possibly have wished to translate works from a language of imposition into an oppressed language? Almost another 20 years would have to pass, until the mid-sixties, before a significant number of translations from Spanish to Catalan began to appear again. Two different factors contributed to this: on one hand, the relaxation of the censorship laws against translations from the "other" languages of the state; and on the other, the rise of the realistic novel in Spanish and the outstanding popular success of a number of authors who were on good terms with the regime. Among the latter, Ramon Folch i Camarasa translated a number of works by J. L. Martín-Vigil: Morin els capellans (1965), La vida ens ve a trobar (1965) and Un sexe anomenat dèbil (1970), and, Bartomeu Bardagí, the prestigious corrector, translated José Mª Gironella’s trilogy on contemporary Spanish history set in Catalonia, Els xiprers creuen en Déu (1967), Un milió de morts (1967) and Ha esclatat la pau (1968). Among the new novelists, it was Camilo José Cela who drew practically all the attention, with four of his novels being translated into Catalan. The first to see the light of day, was La família d’en Pascual Duarte published in Majorca in 1956, translated by Miquel M. Serra i Pastor, and prefaced by Llorenç Villalonga. Some ten years later in 1966, his book describing travels in the Catalan Pyrenees Viatge al Pirineu de Lleida appeared, translated by another Majorcan, Josep M. Llompart, who worked with Cela in the journal Papeles de Son Armadans. Llompart also wrote a penetrating prologue, justifying his translation in an epoch when it was no longer necessary to translate from Spanish into Catalan: "How can this work I have undertaken be justified? What reasons of necessity or simple utility can justify it? Quite simply, none." The reason for the translation was, according to the translator, the author’s insistence; Cela is "determined to see his book published in Catalan" (Llompart 1966: 8). Shortly after, there arrived El rusc (1969) and, finally, Barcelona (1970), both of which were translated by Folch i Camarasa and published by Alfaguara in the same rather deluxe collection Ara i Ací, in which the earlier Viatge al pireneu de Lleida had also appeared.

The vigour of the markedly ideological essay genre around Europe at that time, arising mainly from the events in France in 1968, led to Catalan versions of some of the books having an impact in Spain: including works by José Luis Aranguren, Manuel Sacristán, Alfonso Comín, Esteban Pinilla de las Heras, Carlos Castilla del Pino and Francesc Candel (practically all of whose work has been translated into Catalan with the translation sometimes even appearing before the original).

To the fore among the translators rendering these writers into Catalan is writer and playwright Ramon Folch i Camarasa, one of the first, if not the first of the "professionals" in Catalonia. Translator from English to Spanish with the World Health Organisation (1973-1986), he has translated numerous works from English, French and Italian into Spanish (anonymously or under a pseudonym) and Catalan. His translations into Catalan number more than 100, thirteen of which were from Spanish: works by Aranguren, Miguel Ángel Asturias, Candel, Cela, Martín-Vigil, Sacristán and other more technical works, in addition to Ferdydurke by Witold Gombrowicz, a translation he was commissioned to do despite the fact that he spoke not a word of Polish.

Even this briefest of surveys would be incomplete without mention of the poetic translations of the works of Rubén Darío and Aleixandre by Miquel Forteza (1960); the translations of Pablo Neruda by Xavier Benguerel (1974); of Góngora, Quevedo, Alberti, Cernuda, Claudio Rodríguez and Antonio Colinas by Marià Villangómez (1991); and the translations by Miquel Àngel Riera of Rafael Alberti’s Poemes de l'enyorament (1972). With the exception of this last case, none of these translations has been published in a self-contained book form, since the translations were of individual poems in keeping with the taste and interest of the translators. Similarly, mention must be made of the abbreviated version of Blanquet i jo by Juan Ramón Jiménez, translated by Miquel Solà i Dalmau in 1976, photocopied as a Christmas greeting for his friends and family and published posthumously in 1989 by the Centre d’Estudis Comarcals d’Igualada. This particular translation continues to be largely unknown.

The explosion of Latin American literature - the famous boom - spurred Folch i Camarasa to translate El senyor president by Miguel Ángel Asturias (1968) - winner of the Nobel prize in 1967 - and Avel.lí Artís-Gener, who had lived in Mexico for 26 years and worked with García Márquez, to translate Cent anys de solitud (1970) and Crònica d’una mort anunciada (1982), L’Aleph by Borges (1983) and a collection of stories, Els cadells i altres narracions, by Vargas Llosa (1984). Artís-Gener explained that he became involved in translating Latin American authors to Catalan at the request of García Márquez: "Antoni López-Llausàs (of Edhasa publishers) asked García Márquez what present he would like to mark the sale of the millionth copy of Cien años," the author’s response was "Translation into Catalan. I find it intolerable to have the book available in 15 languages but not in the language of the city where I have chosen to live" (Artís-Gener 1982: 19).

One would imagine that the underlying motivation must have been quite different in the case of Enric Martí i Muntaner, a Catalan who went to seek his fortune in Buenos Aires at the turn of the century, when he translated José Hernández's seminal poem Martín Fierro, maintaining its metric form. The translation was not published until 1977, although the prologue is dated "January 1936". The year 1973 also saw publication of Qüestió de nassos by the Mexican writer originally from Barcelona, Maruxa Vilalta, translated by Josep M. Poblet, writer and politician who was also in exile in Mexico after the Spanish Civil War. In 1982, there appeared Fulgor i mort de Joaquim Murieta by Pablo Neruda, in a controversial translation by the poet Miquel Martí i Pol, which was staged for two seasons at Teatre Lliure.

Finally, mention must be made of the publisher Max Cahner's initiative to follow in the footsteps of Barcino's 1930 work with Catalan translations of early Renaixença novels from the mid-19th century on Catalan subject matter but originally written in Spanish by such writers as Víctor Balaguer, Joan Cortada, Ramon López Soler, Pere Mata and Abdó Terrades. These were published towards the end of the eighties and several were translated by renowned writers such as Maria Àngels Anglada and Jesús Moncada.

At the close of the century, the Valencian publishers Tàndem presented "three renowned writers in Spanish, translated by three of our writers"; these were "Manuel Talens translated by Albert Sasi", "Pilar Pedraza translated by Adolf Beltran" and "Susana Fortes translated by Rosa Serrano" (according to the advertisement in no. 785 of El Temps, on 29 June). The novels were Venjances, Els ulls blaus i altres contes inquietants and Estimat corto maltés, respectively, all three loosely falling within the crime fiction category. This was almost certainly the first time since the Spanish postwar period that the original works for translation were chosen not so much for the consideration in which they were held as for the fact that they were likely to generate tangible income without sacrificing literary quality. As Isabel-Clara Simó pointed out in the same magazine some months later (no. 832, 23 May 2000), "there is a Catalan market (...). And, since books in Catalan seem to have their own circuit, someone has decided to carry out the experiment. Let us wait and see what comes of it."

Since then, a number of other books have been translated from Spanish into Catalan, usually on the basis that they are guaranteed to sell well. Examples include essays by Carmen Alborch, Juan Luis Cebrián and Fernando Savater, adventure novels by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, La ciutat dels prodigis by Eduardo Mendoza (2000) and, an even clearer example, the Planeta prize-winning Mentre vivim by Maruja Torres (2001) and La cançó de Dorotea by Rosa Regàs (2002), L’ombra del vent by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (2002) and Soldats de Salamina by Javier Cercas (2003), all highly successful in the original language and mainly written by authors of Catalan origin. Once again, as if nothing had changed over the years, we find a process of linguistic and cultural re-integration via translation.

This brief survey has not dealt with children's books, books for young people or religious literature - fields which are all ruled by entirely different governing factors, and in which translation from Spanish has been a regular feature in recent years, almost always on the basis of guaranteed profits.

Long gone are the days of the Renaixença ideals - and the amateur translations of Quixot into Catalan. Today, it is market forces which rule the roost. With a little determination however, even this situation might eventually work in our favour.



Anguera, Pere. El català al segle XIX. De llengua de poble a llengua nacional. Barcelona: Empúries. 1997.

Artís-Gener, Avel·lí. "Crònica d’una traducció anunciada". Avui (5 setembre 1982): 18-19.

Bacardí, Montserrat. "Traduir el Quixot al català: més enllà de la intel·ligibilitat". Revista de Catalunya 165 (2000), 70-78.

Bacardí, Montserrat and Estany, Imma. "La mania cervàntica. Les traduccions del Quixot al català (1836-50? – 1906)". Quaderns. Revista de Traducció 3 (1999), 49-59.

Bulbena i Tusell, Antoni. Dietari. Barcelona: Biblioteca de Catalunya, 1937. Transcripció d’Imma Estany.

Carreras Candi, Francesc. Lo cervantisme a Barcelona. Barcelona: Estampa "La Catalana" de J. Puigventós, 1895.

Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de. Don Quixot de la Manxa. Barcelona: Tarraco, 1969.

Colon, Germà and Soberanas, Amadeu-J. "L’aportació lexicogràfica del Nebrija català". En Panorama de la lexicografia catalana, 60-79. Barcelona: Enciclopèdia Catalana, 1991.

Corretger, Montserrat. Alfons Maseras: intel·lectual d’acció i literat (Biografia. Obra periodística. Traduccions). Barcelona: Curial; Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 1995.

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Translated by Carl MacGabhann

Isabel Banal: Llapis trobats, sèrie iniciada el 1999.

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