Translation and impropriety: A reading of Claude Bleton's les nègres du traducteur
The hilarious plot of Claude Bleton’s novel, Les nègres du traducteur, published in France in 2004, allows us to explore the relationships that translators are often perceived to establish with their authors and originals. Bleton’s text is particularly helpful for a discussion of some notions that are usually related to contemporary theories of text and translation that revolve around the post-Nietzschean notion of the "death of the author." Aaron Janvier, Bleton’s narrator and protagonist, is a frustrated writer who manages to become a prominent translator of Spanish novels into French, and whose taste for domesticating translation strategies turns him into a powerful figure in the publishing circles of Paris, Madrid and Barcelona. As Janvier gets increasingly influential in the publishing world, he does not hesitate to turn the authors he should be translating into his "nègres," that is, into ghostwriters who are in charge of writing the "originals" that are expected to be strictly faithful to the "translations" he sends them. When some of his authors begin to reconsider their peculiar arrangement, Janvier simply kills them off. Through a close examination of Bleton’s characterization of the translator as killer, this essay proposes to rethink some recurrent clichés associated with translators, their craft, and the alleged impropriety of their close relationship with texts and authors.
Published online: 20 February 2009
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