‘We’ve called her Stephen’: Czech translations of The Well of Loneliness and their transgender readings

Eva Spišiaková

Abstract

This article aims to contribute to the still largely unexplored intersection of translation and non-cisgender identities through a comparison of three reeditions of Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (1928) in Czech translation. While the novel is considered by many to be the most famous lesbian story published in the 20th century, it can also be read as a narrative with a transgender protagonist. This is in part supported by the fact that the hero of the story is born with a female body but is named Stephen, creating a sense of gendered dissonance throughout the novel. This article asks what happens when this masculine name changes into a feminine one in translation, and explores the sociopolitical circumstances and publishing norms that have motivated this change.

Keywords:
Publication history
Table of contents

Despite the linguistic similarity between the terms translation and transgender that Douglas Robinson notes in his monograph Transgender, Translation, Translingual Address (2019, 12), the field of Translation Studies has only started exploring possible intersections with non-cisgender identities in the past decade. After several individual studies (Asimakoulas 2012; Casagranda 2011, 2013), the special issue of the journal Transgender Studies Quarterly dedicated to translation (Gramling and Dutta 2016) became the first extended work on the subject. It was recently joined by a number of chapters exploring transgender and non-binary identities in two collected volumes on queerness in translation (Baer and Kaindl 2017; Epstein and Gillett 2017), as well as the aforementioned monograph from Robinson (2019). While still a relatively new field, this research has explored a variety of areas in which linguistic transfer and transgender identities intersect; from parallels between sex reassignment surgeries and translation into target languages that require grammatical gender (Casagranda 2013), through experimental methods of queering translation in order to preserve transgender identities (Rose 2016, 2017), to the narrative framing of gender non-conforming characters in translated memoirs (Baer 2016). Although these works frequently touch upon the subject of translation from and into grammatically gendered languages, the role of the given names of transgender characters has thus far been mentioned only very briefly, notably in an article describing Icelandic gendered naming traditions (Josephson and Einarsdóttir 2016). This paper contributes to the subject with an exploration of how the translation of given names can impact transgender readings of a narrative, using Radclyffe Hall’s 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness.

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price. Direct PDF access to this article can be purchased through our e-platform.

References

Asimakoulas, Dimitris
2012 “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).” The Translator 18 (1): 47–75. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Baer, Brian James
2011 “Translating Queer Texts in Soviet Russia. A Case Study in Productive Censorship.” Translation Studies 4 (1): 21–40. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
2016 “Translation, Transition, Transgender.” TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 3 (3–4): 506–523. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Baer, Brian James, and Klaus Kaindl
eds. 2017Queering Translation, Translating the Queer: Theory, Practice, Activism. London: Routledge. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Čáp, Daniel
2008České bibliofilství 1918–1938: Příspěvek k dějinám knižní kultury za první republiky. Thesis Charles University Prague.Google Scholar
Casagranda, Mirko
2011 “Trans/gendering Translations? Crossing Gender in Translation.” In Translating Gender, edited by Eleonora Federici, Manuela Coppola, Michael Cronin, and Renata Oggero, 205–214. Bern: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
2013 “Bridging the Genders? Transgendering Translation Theory and Practice.” In Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice in Translation and Gender Studies, edited by Eleonora Federici and Vanessa Leonardi, 112–121. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.Google Scholar
Corrin, Chris
1992Superwomen and the Double Burden: Women’s Experience of Change in Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. London: Scarlet Press.Google Scholar
Einhorn, Barbara
1993Citizenship, Gender and Women’s Movements in East Central Europe. London: Verso.Google Scholar
Ellis, Havelock
1895 “Sexual Inversion in Women.” Alienist and Neurologist 16: 141–158.Google Scholar
1933Psychology of Sex: A Manual for Students. London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
1937Pohlavní Psychologie. Translated by Anna Pospíšilová. Prague: Orbis.Google Scholar
Epstein, B. J., and Robert Gillett
eds. 2017Queer in Translation. London: Routledge. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Fodor, Éva
2002 “Smiling Women and Fighting Men: The Gender of the Communist Subject in State Socialist Hungary.” Gender and Society 16 (2): 240–263.Google Scholar
Gramling, David, and Aniruddha Dutta
eds. 2016Translating Transgender, special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 3 (3–4).Google Scholar
Halberstam, Jack
1998 “A Writer of Misfits: John Radclyffe Hall and the Discourse of Inversion.” In Female Masculinity, 75–110. Durham: Duke University Press Books. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Hall, Radclyffe
1928The Well of Loneliness. London: Jonathan Cape.Google Scholar
1931Studna osamění. Translated by Vladimír Vendyš. Prague: Rudolf Škeřík, edice Symposion.Google Scholar
1948Studna osamění. Translated by Vladimír Vendyš. Prague: Rudolf Škeřík, edice Symposion.Google Scholar
1969Studna osamění. Translated by Vladimír Vendyš. Prague: Práce.Google Scholar
2014The Well of Loneliness. London: Wordsworth Classics.Google Scholar
Josephson, Jyl, and Þorgerður Einarsdóttir
2016 “Language Purism and Gender.” TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 3 (3–4): 376–387. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Krafft-Ebing, Richard von
1886Psychopathia Sexualis. Translated by Francis Joseph Rebman. New York: Rebman Company.Google Scholar
Ladenson, Elisabeth
2007 “Radclyffe Hall: The Well of Prussic Acid Book.” In Dirt for Art’s Sake: Books on Trial from Madame Bovary to Lolita , 100–122. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Newton, Esther
1984 “The Mythic Mannish Lesbian: Radclyffe Hall and the New Woman.” Signs 9 (4): 557–575. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Nozar, Lukáš
2013 “Diskriminace, trestní stíhání a tolerance homosexuality na příkladu plzeňských afér z roku 1932.” In Miluji tvory svého pohlaví, edited by Pavel Himl, Jan Seidl, and Franz Schindler, 109–174. Prague: Argo.Google Scholar
Oates-Indruchová, Libora
2015 “Řekni, kde ty traktoristky jsou? Kulturní reprezentace genderu v pozdním socialismu.” In Vyvlasněný hlas: Proměny genderové kultury české společnosti 1948–1989, 393–426. Prague: Sociologické Nakladatelství.Google Scholar
Rachůnková, Zdeňka
1992Zamlčovaní překladatelé. Prague: Ivo Železný.Google Scholar
Robinson, Douglas
2019Transgender, Translation, Translingual Address. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Rochefort, Christiane
1971Odpočinek válečníka. Translated by Jarmila Fialová. Prague: Československý spisovatel.Google Scholar
Rose, Emily
2016 “Keeping the Trans in Translation: Queering Early Modern Transgender Memoirs.” TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 3 (3–4): 485–505. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
2017 “Revealing and Concealing the Masquerade of Translation and Gender: Double-Crossing the Text and the Body.” In Epstein and Gillett 2017, 37–50.Google Scholar
Rubáš, Stanislav
ed. 2012Slovo za slovem: S překladateli o překládání. Prague: Academia.Google Scholar
Rule, Jane
2013Lesbian Images: Essays. New York: Open Road Media.Google Scholar
Sappho
1924Sapfo: Osobnost, překlady a evokace. Translated by Ferdinand Stiebitz. Prague: Rudolf Škeřík, edice Symposion.Google Scholar
Schindler, Franz
2013 “Život homosexuálních mužů za socialismu.” In Miluji tvory svého pohlaví, 271–386. Prague: Argo.Google Scholar
Sokolová, Věra
2015 “Duhový život pod rudou hvězdou: Státní přístup k homosexualitě a neheterosexuální životy v normalizačním československu.” In Vyvlasněný hlas: Proměny genderové kultury české společnosti 1948–1989, edited by Hana Havelková and Libora Oates-Indruchová, 243–284. Prague: Sociologické Nakladatelství.Google Scholar
Steinbeck, John
1960O myších a lidech. Translated by Vladimír Vendyš. Prague: Československý spisovatel.Google Scholar
Taylor, Melanie A.
1998 “ ‘The Masculine Soul Heaving in the Female Bosom’: Theories of Inversion and The Well of Loneliness .” Journal of Gender Studies 7 (3): 287–296. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Vicinus, Martha
2012 “The History of Lesbian History.” Feminist Studies 38 (3): 566–596.Google Scholar
Whitlock, Gillian
1987 “ ‘Everything Is out of Place’: Radclyffe Hall and the Lesbian Literary Tradition.” Feminist Studies 13 (3): 554–582. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Woolf, Virginia
1929Orlando. Translated by Staša Jílovská. Prague: Rudolf Škeřík, edice Symposion.Google Scholar