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Reusing existing translations: mediated Chandler novels in French and Spanish

Daniel Linder, Universidad de Salamanca


Existing literary translations can be reused in a number of complex ways that extend their lives beyond their publication and reception. They can be used as the basis for intralingual (same language) or interlingual (different language) mediated translations that can range from such things as Polish (via English) into Portuguese translations to regional editions to unscrupulous plagiarisms. Mediated translation tends to distance the target text from the source text. In a study of Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister in Gallimard’s Série Noire and in three different publishers in Spain, it is found that in contexts that could be characterised as mass market, or “factory”, translation, both inter- and intralingual intermediated translation are used. In the three most recent publication situations involving The Little Sister, while still operating within mercantile models, the publishers use intralingual mediated translation, and also retranslation, to restore target literary texts that have been condensed, attenuated or censored to the closest possible balance with regard to the source texts. The topic of intralingual, “restorative” reuse of translated texts has seldom been explored.


French, indirect translation, interlingual translation, intralingual translation, mediated translation, novela negra, relay translation, restorative translation, Série Noire, Spanish.

1. Introduction

The lives of literary translations do not necessarily end with the publication of target texts and their reader reception, as they can be reused in a number of complex ways. For instance, target texts can be revised for specific purposes, then be reissued, and they can be used as pivots for translation into other languages. In each of these cases, a target text is used as a source text for a second target text in a chronological, derivative relationship chain. A translation thus reused can be called, among other terms, an indirect translation, a relay translation and a mediated translation, i.e. “a translation made from another translation” (Ringmar 2012: 141).

The reuse of already translated texts can be conducted intralingually (within the same language) and interlingually (across languages). In intralingual situations, a first target text is used to create a second target text in the same target language. Derivative translation acts of this nature include cases of revision of pre-existing translations so as to create different versions of texts for age-based or national/regional audiences, alternative versions of texts so as to plagiarise them or cases of revision so as to establish truer versions of previously censored, condensed or expurgated texts. In interlingual situations in which previously translated texts are reused, a target text in one language is employed as the source text for a translation into another.

What I am interested in observing in this descriptive, exploratory study is the reuse of existing translations, both intralingually and interlingually, in the context of the edition of works by the major author of hard-boiled American fiction Raymond Chandler in Gallimard’s Série Noire in Paris and in several different publishers in Spain, including Barral Editores (Barcelona), Editorial Debate (Madrid) and Alianza (Madrid)1.

In the Série Noire (SN) between 1949 and 1951, pre-existing French translations were reused intralingually. At Barral, SN translations were used interliguistically to produce Spanish versions. I argue that these situations shared features of mass market translation, which Milton calls “factory translation” (2001). Milton sustains that existing translations are often recycled in publishing contexts where translators tend to work as a team on heavily commercial ventures unconcerned with author sacredness and textual quality (2001).

I further argue that in three subsequent situations — one at Debate in 1995, a second at Alianza in 2001, and a third at Gallimard in 2013 — existing translations were also reused, though these later situations sought to restore Chandler texts to their full length and attain higher standards of quality than previously existing translations had reached. There has been very little research into intralingual and “restorative” mediated translations in Translation Studies.

These more recent translations follow a point in the early 1990s when Chandler’s work began to be reassessed for its literary value. An example of this is when their complete works were included in serious collections of American fiction, such as the Library of America (these definitive, scholarly editions of Chandler’s works are used for all citations in this study).

2. Mediated Translation: Intralingual and Interlingual

Translations made from previously produced, intermediate translations have been called indirect translations (Toury 1995: 129, Pieta 2012), relay translations (Dollerup 2000: 17, St. André 2008, Ringmar 2012), and mediated translations (Coll-Vinent 1998), though the definition by Ringmar, partly cited above, is adopted for this study: “a chain of (at least) three texts, ending with a translation made from another translation: (original) ST>intermediate text (IT)>end (TT)” (2012: 141). However, throughout the study, the term “mediated translation” is preferred.

Interlingual mediated translation, thus far the more coherently researched of the two types, is known to be used in literary translation involving (semi)peripheral languages such as Polish into Portuguese (Pieta, 2012) and Russian into Chinese (Gamsa 2008), and Norwegian into Chinese (He 2001). In the case of translation of literary texts from English into Spanish, French played a very prominent historical role during times when Spain and national cultures within it were culturally and politically isolated, as work by Coll-Vinent (1998), Jiménez Carra (2008), López Guix (2009), Pajares Infante (2001) and Toledano Buendía (2001) shows.

Ringmar has traced a major effect of mediated translations: “the TT differs more from the ST than the MT [mediating text] differs from the ST”, i.e. “[it] will inevitably produce differences that more often than not will increase the distance to the ST” (2007: 10). Relying solely on already translated texts, interlingual translation reusers are likely to find that textual features such as attenuated alliterations, errors inserted either wittingly or unwittingly, and omissions stricken from the target texts are almost inevitably replicated (2007: 10-11). The degree of removal of the second translator from the first source text is so great that there is not likely to be any contact with the source text at all, though translators may consult the source text and/or a number of foreign-language translations, resulting in “compilative translations” (Coll-Vinent 1998: 223).

The related topic of retranslation, i.e. a new translation of the same source text into the same target text language (Koskinen and Paloposki 2010: 294), presents a very important distinction with mediated translation in that retranslations significantly “break” or “ignore” the relationship chain with preceding target text(s) in the same language (Pym 1998: 82) whereas mediated texts maintain the relationship. Therefore, retranslations will fall beyond the scope of this article.

3. Mass Market Translation, “Factory Translation”

Milton has discussed how existing translations tend to be “recycled” in mass market literary collections, where “it may often be cheaper to recycle an already existing translation than to commission a new one […] Thus we see the same (or slightly modified) translation appearing in different guises.” (2001: 62). He mentions, for example, a more formally-worded small-format edition of a Clube do Livro edition that was recycled into a shorter, less formally-worded, illustrated edition for a juvenile market (Milton 2001: 62). In reference to the market in Argentina, Pagano mentions that “translation involved […] rewriting texts within the same language (intralinguistic translation), in this particular case from the Spanish of Spain into Argentinean Spanish” (2001: 176, emphasis in original).

Milton found that recycling of previously published translations is one of the classic characteristics of mass market translation, or what he also calls “factory translation”, which also includes the following tendencies to, among other things:

  • produce translated texts according to strict commercial production deadlines,
  • involve teams of translators, often unidentified or identified by pseudonyms
  • produce covert or overt condensations and standardisation of length
  • standardisation of cultural contents (unsavory, scatological or sexual contents are extricated) (emphasis based on Milton 2000).

Perhaps the most widely explored type of intralingual mediated translations are plagiarisms, particularly in Spain. These tend to involve unscrupulously reusing previously published target texts, typically after revising them to a certain extent, so as to generate non-autonomous, second target texts, commonly within mass market contexts (see Fuertes Puerta 2012, Merino Álvarez 1995, Santoyo 1981 and Turell 2004).

4. “Restorative” Translation

The few existing studies of mass market collections and anthologies of translated literature within the field of Translation Studies offer some glimpses into recycled texts and their role in restoring previously censored, expurgated and abridged translations to a fresher state of fullness (see Kittel 1995 and Seruya et al. 2013). An example of this type of restored translation is Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (1929), the Spanish version of which was first produced by publisher Luis de Caralt (Barcelona) in 1955. In 1999, on the one hundredth anniversary of Hemingway’s birth, Caralt published a slightly differently titled edition of the novel, Un adiós a las armas, in which all previously censored passages had been restored (Laprade 2007: 95-96).

Though Ringmar pointed to how mediated translation typically increases the distance to the ST, we must note that there is a counterpart “restorative” mediated translation that can lessen that distance somewhat. I am using this term here because it seems intuitively accurate: it refers to an existing translation to which previously censored, condensed or expurgated textual segments are restored in subsequent editions. This is an area about which very little has been said in the field of Translation Studies.

Thus far, we have seen a number of ways in which the texts of existing translations can be reused across two target languages (interlingual mediation) or within the same target language (intralingual mediation). We have also seen how these two types of mediated translation can be affected by “factory” or “restorative” mass market translation conditions, so let us now explore Chandler translations in Gallimard, Barral, Debate and Alianza.

5. Translations in Gallimard’s Série Noire

Started in 1945, Gallimard’s Série Noire collection, which specialises in detective fiction, took off rapidly in popularity in 1948, when the collection began to produce larger print runs. By the 1950s, only five years after it had been launched, it had positioned itself as one of post-World War II France’s prime collections of popular fiction2.

From the very first volumes published, the collection relied on translations. In fact, the first French authors published in the series used English-sounding pseudonyms (Borgers 1998: 240–241). The SN translations became the classic French versions of hard-boiled authors, though the translated texts themselves were shortened and target-culture oriented (Robyns 1990).

Clem Robyns’ historical study (1990) called the into-French translations of mostly American detective novels in Gallimard’s SN in the 1940s and 1950s “twentieth century belles infidèles.” Robyns proved that these translations were closely aligned with readers’ expectations of fast-paced fiction and French cultural adaptation (and were therefore belles), mostly because they prioritised action over description, dialogue over narrative, and he proved that they all complied with similar length specifications, which often required cutting (and were therefore infidèles). Robyns described two acceptable lengths for SN titles, either 180 or 240 pages. Robyns described how French translations in the SN were increasingly target-culture oriented as the collection grew in popularity. Though paratexts in all SN versions indicated that these versions were “traduites de l’américain,” no paratexts indicated that they had been condensed to fit specific book lengths, that they had been attenuated so as not to offend an audience that was envisioned to have stricter mores than the source text culture did nor that they had been acculturated to fit French readers’ world knowledge.

Rolls and Sitbon (2013: 51, 52) point to Duhamel’s prominent editorial role in “rewriting” American detective fiction, in developing a “target-focused translation praxis”. Though they use the rather sparse corpus of translated titles on which to base their conclusions, Rolls and Sitbon state that “the Série Noire is, if not an extreme case of rewriting under the name of translation, then, at least, a translation that is heavily target-based” (2013: 52).

Other scholarly authors use larger samples of SN texts yet describe the resulting translations in similar terms. Stephen Noreiko examines absences and omissions of cultural and lexical equivalents, instances in which the target language “draws the translation too far from the original” (1997: 263) and examples of the translators “simplifying and pruning the narrative” for a particular readership (1997: 264) in Chandler’s The Little Sister and its unlikely SN titled Fais pas ta rosière. Garnier offers the equivalent “Don’t be such a prig!” (2013: 69), though Chandler himself did not understand the title (Chandler 1962: 226–227). Noreiko describes how absences and omissions may have occurred as a result of a “lack of requisite cultural knowledge”; these may have led them to act according to the principle of “when in doubt leave it out” (1997: 259). In conclusion, Noreiko found that the omissions and mismatches “cumulatively create a kind of fuzziness around the picture so that the reader may end up out of phase with the text” (264). Raphaël Villatte (2001) examines the slang in Hammett’s Red Harvest (1929) and Chandler’s The High Window (1942) and The Little Sister, and speaks of them as adaptations within a context of “infidélité organisée.” He finds the texts loaded with “strongly Frenchified slang, colloquial American language transformed into localised French slang, but also multiple cuts, amputated metaphors, shortened descriptions, abridged explanatory passages, chapters combined and at times purely and simply suppressed” (2001, my translation). He also mentions that in Chandler’s La dame du lac (1948) the present tense was used throughout, rather than the past tense (2001). Marc Lapprand examined the SN translation of The Lady in the Lake (1940) by Boris and Michelle Vian and found that it contained amplifications, playful interpretations of the ST and the use of unexpected terms within the context of the translation of an American detective novel (1992: 539).

Specialised journalists have also got into the descriptive and analytical fray. Philippe Garnier (2013: 69) pointed out how translators drastically cut such novels as Chandler’s The Long Goodbye (1954) and how, under Marcel Duhamel’s watchful eye, forged a “‘Série Noire tone’, a common language to the books” which owed its unique color to imitating French language and styles rather than the styles of Hammett and Chandler. Garnier (2013: 70) comments on Boris Vian’s translation of The Lady in the Lake, stating that “he decided to skip the translating and simply make it up himself, in French.” Jérôme Dupuis (2012) comments on Jim Thompson’s Le démon dans ma peau (SN 105, 1966)[The Killer Inside Me, 1952], which is missing 24% of the original text; he offers photographic evidence of expurgated and rewritten texts as well as a number of “before and after” examples. Dupuis particularly points out English comprehension errors which were often hilariously transferred into the French texts, though he also mentions the outdated fifties slang used in the French translations. The scholarly source L´argot de la Série Noire, Vol. 1: L´argot des traducteurs, by Giraud and Ditalia (1996), offers lexical proof of the creation of a uniform French vocabulary pool that was used by both translators and original French authors of the Série Noire.

Despite the monumental success of the series and the long-lasting admiration among an older French readership for SN translations, a number of the academic and journalistic authors mentioned above have described the collection as fraudulent. Rolls and Sitbon (2013: 49–50, 52), very vocally, refer to the SN translations as “hoaxes” and “faked translations”. Garnier (2013: 68) calls them “truncated”. Étienne Borgers (1998: 239) recognises that the SN “translations were still efficient vehicles for the best hard-boiled and noir literature to reach a large audience”, though he describes the 1940s and 50s translations as “bad and mutilated”. French author Didier Daeninckx, in a conference delivered at the Bibliothèque Municipale d'Amiens in 1994, stated “The Série Noire translations are more than dangerous. Marcel Duhamel, the founder of the collection, translated American novels, and made others translate them, in a fanciful manner. A large part of the catalogue should be retranslated” (my translation, qtd. in Villatte 2001).

What all of the studies cited in this section have done is look at the texts published by the SN and report them. In the next section we will come to a better understanding of how the mercantile publication of translations, or as John Milton put it, the “factory translation” of texts for the SN could generate such texts by recycling previously published translations.

6. Traces of the Série Noire in the Serie Negra Policial: Chandler via French

Raymond Chandler’s works appeared early in the Série Noire, with La dame du lac (The Lady in the Lake) (SN, 8) and Le grand sommeil (The Big Sleep) (SN, 13) both being published in 1948 and translated by Boris and Michelle Vian and Boris Vian, respectively. Adieu, ma jolie (Farewell My Lovely),“traduit de l'américain par Geneviève de Genevraye et revisé par Marcel Duhamel et Renée Vavasseur,” was published in 1949 (SN, 45) and Fais pas ta rosière! (The Little Sister), translated by Simone Jacquemont and J.-G. Marquet, appeared in 1950 (SN, 64).

Gouanvic and Schultz (2010: 125) has described the unique culture of the SN team of translators under the leadership of Marcel Duhamel and how that culture produced heavily target-culture and target-language-oriented texts. He states that Marcel Duhamel, in the Gallimard-based habitus marked by a Série Noire-specific practice of translation, exerted strict control over the house style of the translations. Gouanvic (2010: 125) describes how the initial team was comprised of “Janine Hérisson (secretary and then translator), Henri Robillot (translator), Minnie Danzas (secretary and translator), who were trained on the job”; and of course Duhamel himself translated for the SN. A picture of the team in Petite histoire illustrée de la Série Noire shows all of the team members in the offices in Paris (Bondu and Lhomeau 1996, unnumbered page between 352 and 353).

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Chandler translations into Spanish from the French began to appear in Spain and were heavily circulated during the late 1970s post-Franco publishing boom, especially in Barcelona. One of these, Adiós muñeca (Barcelona: Barral Editores, 1973),relied partially on the SN text of Adieu, ma jolie as the source text (Linder 2011a and 2011b). The Little Sister, which will be the textual focus for the remaining part of the article, was translated directly from French, transferring the expurgations of the extremely accomplished prose which Noreiko discussed at length (1997) to the Spanish text entitled La hermana pequeña (Barcelona: Barral Editores, 1973). Chapter 13 (of which paragraph 4 is used in example 5 below) was entirely struck from the novel except for two sentences, which made the French and Spanish translations one chapter shorter than the source text. Omitted from this chapter were the various occurrences of “You’re not human tonight, Marlowe”, instances in Chandler’s fiction which for the first time showed the frustrated, self-reflective and bitter inner world of Marlowe. Note how the spelling mistake in French carries into the Spanish version:

Example 1

I ate dinner at a place near Thousand Oaks. Bad but quick. Feed 'em and throw 'em out. Lots of business. We can't bother with you sitting over your second cup of coffee, mister. You're using money space. See those people over there behind the rope? They want to eat. Anyway they think they have to. God knows why they want to eat here. They could do better home out of a can. They're just restless. Like you. They have to get the car out and go somewhere. Sucker-bait for the racketeers that have taken over the restaurants. Here we go again. You're not human tonight, Marlowe (Chandler 1995b: 268).

Je m´arrêtai pour dîner près de Thousand Vacks. Repas infect mais service express (emphasis added, Chandler 1998: 94).

Me detuve para comer cerca de Thousand Vacks. Comida infecta, pero servicio rápido (emphasis added, Chandler 1973: 77).

Example 2 (below) shows some acculturation to French audiences as “chocolate sundaes” is replaced with “meringues chantilly”, and this is of course carried over into the Spanish text of 1973. There are a number of instances like this cited in Noreiko (1997), though most of his examples are of cultural situations which he believed the French translators and audiences would have struggled with to understand and were therefore omitted.

The texts were attenuated to the supposedly gentler mores of French audiences, as some of the direct sexual contents were priggishly bowlderised. In the following example, in which Dolores Gonzales invites Phillip Marlowe to “make love” to her, these contents are toned down and Marlowe is instead invited to “flirt” with her. A discussion about “sex” becomes a discussion about “love”. All of these attenuations and acculturations are carried into the Spanish text, translated by Joan Vinyoli. An error not in the original French was added, though: “You would not waste your time” becomes ”Le daré dinero” [I will give you money]. It is curious to note how the prudish censorial pair of translators vetoed the sexual suggestivity of “make love” and “sex”, yet they created the strong visual image of “seins en œuf sur le plat” [breasts shaped like fried eggs].

Example 2 (emphasis added to all three texts)

The Little Sister (Chandler 1995b: 356)

Fais pas ta rosière! (Chandler 1998: 205)

La hermana pequeña (Chandler 1973: 169-170)

“Will you make love to me tonight?” she asked softly.
“That again is an open question. Probably not.”
"You would not waste your time. I am not one of these synthetic blondes with a skin you could strike matches on. These ex-laundresses with large bony hands and sharp knees and unsuccessful breasts."
"Just for half an hour," I said, "let's leave the sex to the side. It's great stuff, like chocolate sundaes. But there comes a time you would rather cut your throat. I guess maybe I'd better cut mine."

—Vous allez flirter avec moi, ce soir? demanda-t-elle d´une voix douce.
—Ah! Enfin une question directe. Je ne crois pas.
—Vous en auriez pour votre argent. Moi, je ne suis pas de ces blondes
synthétiques qui ont la peau sèche comme de l´amadou, des mains comme
des battoirs, des genoux pointus et des seins en œuf sur le plat.
—Ne pourrait-on pas, rien que pour une demi-heure, laisser l´amour de
côté? L´amour, ça va un moment, c´est comme les meringues chantilly, mais
il y a des fois où l´on aimerait mieux se trancher la gorge. Je crois que j´en
suis là.

—¿Quiere usted flirtear conmigo esta noche? —me preguntó con voz
—Ah! Al fin una pregunta directa. No, me parece que no.
Le daré dinero. Yo no soy de esas rubias sintéticas que tienen la piel
como la yesca, manos como palas, rodillas puntiagudas y pechos como
huevos al plato.
—¿No podríamos, sólo por media hora, dejar a un lado el amor? El amor,
está bien por un momento, como los merengues de Chantilly, pero hay
veces que un preferiría cortarse el pescuezo. Creo que ahora es una de esas

The Spanish translation became immensely popular and was reprinted first by Editorial Bruguera from the late-1970s to the mid-1980s then by a plethora of other publishing houses until as recently as 2000. In fact, this version became the “classic” one of Chandler in Spanish and flourished for some thirty years (Linder 2011b). The article “Classic Chandler Translations Published by Barral Editores (Barcelona)” discusses in historic detail why the accomplished editor Carlos Barral (known as founder of the Seix-Barral Novela Breve prize for literature and promoter of Latin American literature in Europe) and the reputed Catalan poet Joan Vinyoli (Generalitat de Catalunya, Ciutat de Barcelona and Spanish National Literature Prize winner for his poetry as well as translator of Rilke into Catalan) would concede to doing such a thing. The answer seems to lie in the type of commoditised, “factory” translation that Milton has traced: Carlos Barral needed to populate the catalogue of his new publishing house with titles to sell as quickly as possible and it is likely that Vinyoli was loyal to Barral and receptive to his proposal (Linder 2011b).

The life of this translation was far from over, not only because it became the “classic” version and was reprinted widely, but because it was revised thoroughly and “restored” twice, as we shall see below.

7. The “Restorative” Translations of Editorial Debate and Alianza Editorial (Madrid)

In 1995, when Editorial Debate (Madrid) was about to publish a two-volume collection of Raymond Chandler’s complete works (one with his short stories and selected letters and another with his novels), they set about to revise all texts thoroughly. In doing so, they detected that portions of text were missing, some of them the result of censorship and others the result of condensation. The 1995 Debate edition of El sueño eterno restored a previously state-censored sexually suggestive dialogue (Linder 2004); the edition of El largo adiós [The Long Goodbye] restored government-censored instances of police brutality from chapters 7 and 8 (Linder 2011c) and the edition of The Little Sister restored all condensed contents (Noreiko 1997). Here is the restored translation of example 5, though a spelling mistake still survives:

Example 3.

Me detuve para comer cerca de Thousand Oacks. Comida basura, pero servicio rápido. Te dan de zampar y te echan a patadas. El negocio va viento en popa, señor, y no podemos perder tiempo con gente que se queda sentada y pide otro café. Está usando un espacio que vale dinero. ¿Ve esa gente de ahí, detrás de la cuerda? Todos quieren comer. Por lo menos, eso creen. Sabe Dios por qué querrán comer aquí. Les iría mejor en su casa, a base de latas. Pero es que son inquietos, como usted. Necesitan coger el coche e ir a alguna parte, y son presa fácil de los salteadores que dirigen los restaurantes. Ya empiezas otra vez. Esta noche no eres humano, Marlowe (Chandler 1995c: 833, emphasis added).

In the case of The Little Sister, the restored portions were so large that the authorship of the translation was reassigned by Debate to translator Juan Manuel Ibeas Delgado. This brought about a chain of events that I argue is relevant to the discussion of the reuse of existing translations. As we have seen above, the reuse of interlingual and intralingual mediated translations can tend to be associated with mass market, or “factory”, translation, but the post-1990 translations of works by Chandler sought a higher purpose, i.e. to restore them to their full length and strive for higher standards of quality than the previously existing translations had attained under the conditions in which they were produced. Because so little research has been done in Translation Studies on “restorative” reuses of mediated translations, I believe that it is worth the trouble to delve into the background and actual translated texts of this novel.

In 1994, Debate set out to produce the first-ever collection of Dashiell Hammett’s complete works in Spanish as a homage to him on the hundredth anniversary of his birth. The two-volume work was compiled from very recently commissioned translations under the support of general director Ángel Lucía and the direct editorial supervision of literary editor Constantino Bértolo. The following year, a volume of Chandler’s complete works was prepared. Apparently, when prologuist and acclaimed novela negra scholar Javier Coma saw the low quality of the texts to be published, he warned the editors that they were “un desastre” [a disaster] (personal communication, December 30th, 2011). The revision of the texts was undertaken by the in-house editorial production staff under the supervision of the Carlos Ponce. According to Lucía, “The work of Carlos Ponce, Debate’s production manager from 1980 to 2000, on these works was exceptional” (my translation, personal communication, April 9, 2012); according to Bértolo, Ponce was “an extraordinary professional, one of those who knows the publishing world inside and out” (my translation, personal communication, March 27, 2012).

Juan Manuel Ibeas Delgado was, according to Bértolo, “a translator in whom Debate had full confidence” (my translation, personal communication, March 27, 2012) and, according to Lucía, “one of the house’s trusted translators” (my translation, personal communication, April 9, 2012). In an e-mail with the subject line “About The #&%$# Little Sister”, Ibeas stated that the existing translation of The Little Sister that Debate had purchased the rights to was unpublishable, pointing out similar failings to what Noreiko mentioned in 1997. He stated, “What they should have done was retranslate the whole novel directly from the English, but there was no time for that. So they gave me the missing paragraphs, I translated them in a hurry, and these were inserted in the corresponding gaps, while the rest of the text (the translation from the French) was left untouched” (my translation, personal communication, May 20, 2012). As to how his name ended up on the copyright page, he has this to say: “I should not have even had my name in the credits, not even as a reviser. At the most, they could have listed me as something like a ‘translator of additional paragraphs.’ But someone at the publishing house decided to erase Vinyoli’s name from the hybrid translation credits and list me as the sole translator. Whoever did that probably thought they were doing me a favor.” (my translation, personal communication, May 20, 2012).

The resulting volumes were the first authoritative anthologies of Hammett’s and Chandler’s works in Spanish. However, many of the underlying histories of the Barral Editores translations that Debate had used were unknown to them. The effort to produce the completest possible texts with the best possible quality standards in the most efficient possible timeframe was straightforward and sincere. But Debate did not know that the translations of The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye were plagiarisms (see Linder 2004 and Linder 2011c, respectively) and, as we have seen above, that The Little Sister was translated from the SN French translation. This would come to light a few years later when Debate sold them to Alianza.

In 2000, when Carmen Criado Fernández, an editor at Alianza editorial wanted to reprint the Debate text of La hermana pequeña, she realised that much of the text had been translated from the French. In a very thorough re-examination of the text prior to publication, she had found incoherencies, mistakes and, sentences still missing. Shocked by what she saw, according to Ibeas Delgado, she called him in for an appointment and confronted him with the “botched translation” which he was accountable for. In what was the most embarrassing moment in [his] translation career”, he offered to translate the core French text directly from the English and revise the whole text “in record time and free of charge” in order to salvage his reputation (though he was at the same time given a paid commission to translate La ventana alta [The High Window] and Asesino bajo la lluvia y otros relatos [Killer in the Rain]. (my translation, personal communication, May 20, 2012). The now-retired Alianza editor of the Biblioteca Chandler collection and translator herself of the currently used version of Chandler’s La dama del lago [The Lady in the Lake], recognised that Ibeas’ version of the story was truthful (personal communication, September 11, 2012). The following example shows the corrections Ibeas Delgado made to the Vinyoli version (underlined) and the changes he instated between the 1995 and the 2001 versions (in italics). Note how in the 1995 text many of the French textual elements still remained (huevos al plato, merengues de Chantilly), while in the 2001 text many of the changes made reverted the wording to much more source text oriented choices (see example 6 above for ST).

Example 4

La hermana pequeña (emphasis added, Chandler 1995b: 912)

La hermana pequeña (emphasis added, Chandler 2001: 197)

—¿Quiere usted hacerme el amoresta noche? —me preguntó con voz dulce.
—Ah! Al fin una pregunta directa. No, me parece que no.
Se lo pasará muy bien. Yo no soy de esas rubias sintéticas que tienen la piel como la yesca, manos como palas, rodillas puntiagudas y pechos como huevos al plato.
—¿No podríamos, sólo por media hora, dejar a un lado el sexo? El sexoestá bien por un momento, como los merengues de Chantilly, pero hay veces que un preferiría cortarse el pescuezo. Creo que ahora es una de esas veces.

—¿Vas a hacer el amor conmigo esta noche? —me preguntó con voz dulce.
Ésa es una cuestión a decidir. Probablemente, no.
No te arrepentirás. Yo no soy de esas rubias sintéticas que tienen una piel en la que se pueden encender cerillas. De esas ex lavanderas con manos grandotas y huesudas, rodillas salientes y pechos que no valen nada.
—¿Sólo durante media hora, vamos a dejar aparte el sexo —dije—. Es una cosa estupenda, como los batidos de chocolate, pero llega un momento en que uno preferiría cortarse el pescuezo. Creo que ahora preferiría cortármelo.

The end result of Ibeas Delgado’s 2001 effort is, in effect, a retranslation, one made as a result of a “break” from a previously published text chain and one that establishes a new, direct link to the source text. At the beginning of the article, we noted that very little had been said about “restorative” mediated translation. There is ample evidence that at Debate Editores in 1994–1995 and at Alianza Editorial in the 2000s, the editors, copywriters, translators, production directors and other mass market team members were, despite being mass market commercial interests, making an honest effort to restore Chandler’s literary texts to the highest possible level of quality. Juan Manuel Ibeas Delgado’s version of The Little Sister is the one currently being used today.

This certainly has had to do with the broader trend towards the reassessment of the literary value of Raymond Chandler, particularly since the early 1990s, when his complete works were included in the Library of America, a serious collection of American fiction. Just as mediated translation crossed paths with “factory” translation when recycling could quicken the pace of publication so it does with “restorative” translation when recycling could give texts what they had been stripped of or what in them had been misrepresented or had been altered for specific purposes.

8. The “Restorative” French Translations by Gallimard (1992 and 2013)

In November 2013, all seven of Chandler’s novels appeared in a Gallimard Quarto collection title called Les enquêtes de Philip Marlowe in a polished edition of “textes révisés par Cyril Laumonier” (except for those translated by Boris and Michelle Vian, which were left unrevised). In 2009, all of Dashiell Hammett’s novels had appeared in the same Quarto collection under the title Dashiell Hammett: Romans, though these were “nouvelles traductions intégrales de l’anglais (américain) par Pierre Bondil et Natalie Beunat”. Laumonier was involved in the preparation of that volume (Laumonier 2013: 13). Like the case of Debate and Alianza, Gallimard’s Quarto volumes are devoted to anthological collections of complete works by respected authors.

The “restorative” function of the collection and its volumes is important, especially in light of the criticism leveled at the Série Noire seen in section 6 above. As stated in the introduction to the volume,

Our mission, as we understand it, is to accomplish several different goals: to compile all seven of Chandler’s novels in full versions, translate them as close as possible to the literary intentions Chandler had in mind, while also keeping as true as possible, and no offense to Chandler, to the nature of the detective novel (my translation, Laumonier 2013: 13).

The introduction gives no specific reason why, in 2013, the volume became necessary, other than what seems to be an overall awareness to follow up on an earlier initiative to publish The Long Goodbye in full. This particularly severe case of abridgement is missing 85 pages, according to Garnier (2013: 69). However, according to the introduction the abridgement was even more severe than that: when published in 1954, Sur un air de navaja (The Long Goodbye) (SN, 221, tr. Janine Hérisson and Henri Robillot) had 254 pages and when published unabridged in 1992 it had 394, a difference of 130 (Laumonier 2013: 13).

Regarding this drastic abridgment and subsequent repair of Chandler’s masterpiece, Janine Hérisson-Robillot stated in a letter:

When Henri Robillot and I translated The Long Goodbye in 1954, we were asked by Marcel Duhamel to cut about one third of the book (which was a difficult and heartbreaking task), because at the time the rules were for the Série Noire to publish books of 180 or 240 pages, for financial reasons, I suppose. […] When Patrick Raynald decided to publish The Long Goodbye in his new collection, La Noire, he asked us to translate the parts that had been cut off (personal communication, Janine Hérisson-Robillot, February 7, 2002).

Four of the remaining novels (The Big Sleep and The Lady in the Lake were translated by the Vians and so were unrevised) got a similar treatment twenty-one years later. Let us examine what changes were instituted by the reviser Cyril Laumonier, particularly focusing on the revision of examples 5 and 6 above.

The first major change instituted by the French version of The Little Sister is the title La petite sœur, a literal translation. In translating “You're not human tonight, Marlowe” as “Tu es assassin ce soir, Marlowe” in example 9 below, Laumonier chooses to use a very expected type of expression in the hard-boiled detective genre, i.e. “you are a killer tonight”, perhaps intertextually reminiscent of the Jim Thompson novel L'Assassin qui est en moi [The Killer Inside Me, 2012]. Perhaps this is consistent with “keeping true to the nature of the detective novel” but it is not, I would argue, consistent with “the literary intentions Chandler had in mind”.

Example 5

Je m’arrêtai pour dîner près de Thousand Oaks. Repas infect mais service express. Mangez, sortez! Trop de boulot. Pas le temps de vous laisser siroter une seconde tasse de café, monsieur. L’espace, c’est de l’argent. Vous voyez les gens qui font la queue? Ils ont faim. Ou alors, ils se disent qu'ils doivent manger. Dieu sait pourquoi ils sont venus ici pour ça. Ils seraient mieux chez eux avec une boîte de conserve. On ne les arrête pas. Comme vous. Ils montent en voiture et vont n’importe où. Des pigeons parfaits pour les escrocs qui ont envahi des restaurants. Ça recommence, Marlowe, tu es assassin ce soir (Chandler 2013: 797, emphasis added)

Note that the texts finally restored in 2013 in the French version had been restored in the Spanish version in 1995, then fine-tuned in 2001. The French readers of Raymond Chandler had been missing chapter 13 and reading about “flirting” rather than “making love” for sixty-three years. The censorious veil was finally lifted as the italicised words below show.

Example 6

—Me ferez-vous l’amour, ce soir? demanda-t-elle d’une voix douce.
—Ah! Enfin une question directe. Je ne crois pas.
—Vous en auriez pour votre argent. Moi, je ne suis pas de ces blondes synthétiques qui ont la peau sèche comme de l´amadou, des mains comme des battoirs, des genoux pointus et des seins en œuf au plat.
—Ne pourrait-on pas, rien que pour une demi-heure, laisser le sexe de côté? Ça va un moment, c´est comme les meringues chantilly, mais il y a des fois où l´on aimerait mieux se trancher la gorge. Je crois que j´en suis là. (emphasis added, 2013: 870)

As we have seen in this section and in the one immediately above, “restorative” reuses of existing translations bring target texts that were produced under “factory” translation conditions closer to the source texts in terms of their original language forms and intended meanings. This now-restored text should be used from now on in French, though whether it catches on or not will depend on the target reader reception.

9. Conclusions

The main topic explored in this study is how pre-existing translations are reused by translators and publishers both interlingually and intralingually. The topic of intralingual reuse of translated texts has seldom been explored in Translation Studies yet is important. The objects observed were French and Spanish literary translations of The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler, an American detective writer of the 1930s-1950s. I have observed how, under mass market conditions, the Barcelona-based Barral Editores collection called the Serie Negra Policial reused an Éditions Gallimard Série Noire translation of Chandler’s The Little Sister (1993) as a source text for the Spanish version. The French text had been condensed (a full chapter was missing), censored for its racy moral content and acculturated to French expectations (Robyns, 1990). All of these features were carried into the Spanish target text. The two reuses described above took place within very commercially oriented initiatives that can be described as “factory translation”.

Three subsequent situations in 1995, 2001 and 2013 show how previously published versions of The Little Sister became the object of “restorative” efforts by publishers. By using existing texts as a basis, Editorial Debate (Madrid) in 1995 restored the missing chapter and other condensed text, though was unable to restore the French acculturated contents and censored material. In 2001, Alianza Editorial, in a similar restorative effort, commissioned a retranslation of the core French text (new text to be produced in the same target language directly from the source text). Éditions Gallimard, the publisher of the Série Noire, brought out a revised edition of The Little Sister in 2013 in which all abridged, acculturated and censored contents were restored. The topic of “restoration” of previously translated texts that have been abridged or censored or expurgated is also a seldom explored one and deserves more attention. Beyond the case of Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister, the world of French publishing is witnessing a proliferation of projects that use either revised existing translations or entirely new retranslations. In 2007, revised versions (by C. Jase) of all eight of Chester Himes’ Harlem novels originally published in Gallimard’s Série Noire were republished in the volume Cercueil et Fossoyeur. Le Cycle de Harlem within the Quarto collection. In 2009, Dashiell Hammett’s works were all retranslated in “nouvelles traductions intégrales de l’anglais (américain) par Pierre Bondil et Natalie Beunat” in Dashiell Hammett: Romans, also within the Quarto collection. This phenomenon extends well beyond Éditions Gallimard, as other major French publishers such as Rivages and Gallmeister are involved in recent efforts similar to these. Just to mention one instance of this significant trend, Jim Thompson’s novel The Killer Inside Me (1952), originally published in the Série Noire in 1966 as Le Démon dans ma peau, has been retranslated as the fuller and more closely worded L'Assassin qui est en moi (2012). All of this makes me wonder: What does this mean? Who is determining whether to reuse existing translations or commission new ones? What is triggering these recent events? Who is being chosen for the revision and translation tasks? And, very importantly, who will start studying all of this?


I would like to thank my colleague Chloé Signès, of the University of Salamanca, for her French expertise, unfailing editorial eye and professional companionship. I would also like to extend my wholehearted thanks to my Spanish and French publishing correspondents, all of whom responded to my queries, though especially to Juan Manuel Ibeas Delgado for his uncommon generosity.

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David Linder portraitDaniel Linder teaches specialised translation and English for Specific Purposes at the University of Salamanca, Spain. His research interests are in the fields of literary translation and adaptation, American and Iberian crime fiction and specialised language in literature. He is a Certified Translator of the American Translators Association and a Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (London).



Note 1:
For ease of reference, the Série Noire is often abbreviated below as SN and the Spanish publishing houses referred to simply as Barral, Debate and Alianza.
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Note 2:
For extensive studies of the creation and development of the SN under Marcel Duhamel’s editorship, see Bondu and Lhomeau (1996), Lhomeau (1995, 2000) and Mesplède (1992).
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