Borges translation?

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What is the best Borges translation? Mine blows tons.

Moti Bahat, Saturday, 16 October 2004 15:09 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Which are you using? They're mostly the same.

kensanway, Saturday, 16 October 2004 23:18 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

no, wasn't there a huge kerfuffle about the differt translations? i can't remember: is the american fellow with the italian name the translator that everyone loves or hates?

equinox, Monday, 18 October 2004 17:00 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

My "Fictions" is edited by Anthony Kerrigan but it doesn't list a translator. Maybe I'm just not looking for it right.

Moti Bahat, Monday, 18 October 2004 19:27 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I can't remember who did it, but my Penguin Complete Stories transalation, which came out about, ooh, five or six years ago, is perfectly good, and has lots of hyper-informative notes, things like what corner is where. The Complete Poems features translations by lots of different people, including, I think, John Updike and other consecrated beings.

PS: I think Borges must be very difficult to translate, it's hard enough just to read. Everything counts in large amounts.

PJ Miller (PJ Miller), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 08:59 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

the american fellow with the italian name: Norman Thomas Di Giovanni.

lovebug starski (lovebug starski), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 09:22 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Di Giovanni worked with Borges (who spoke English quite well)in translating his stories.

Michael White (Hereward), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 14:22 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

four weeks pass...
The Hurley/Penguin translations have been critciised by Giovanni and others on the grounds that as a speaker of Caribbean Spanish (Hurley is based in Puerto Rico, I think) he has no knowledge of the Argentinian slang and idiom and even local geography which makes up yet another layer of the work. (in the Guardian Review, I think, or possibly the LRB) Also, they aren't very good, although convenient.
I once took a copy of 'Fictions' out of a North london library which had been annotated in pencil by a previous lendee. In the margin of the introduction, where the commentator mentioned that Borges had never written, or even seen the need to write, a longer work of fiction, our critic had written the phrase 'too lazy to write a novel'. Now that's literary criticism.

snotty moore, Thursday, 18 November 2004 11:54 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Borges was also constantly revising his earlier stories, so translations vary depending on the edition.

Borges also found Spanish limiting. There is a (rather surreal) interview with Borges in Paul Theroux's The Old Patagonian Express where Borges expands on the deficiences (as he seems them) of Latin based languages. I don't think he tried to write in Argentine slang too much as he found it a little coarse.

My favourite Borges quote is this: "Two bald men fighting over a comb"

Referring to the Malvinas war.

MikeyG (MikeyG), Thursday, 18 November 2004 12:42 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

There is a guide to all the geographical stuff (and other things) which is constantly referred to in the notes. If you don't know Argentinian slang you can always ask someone who does. That's what I did when I translated an Argentinian novel, turns out all my questions had already been asked by the Spanish publisher. Which just goes to show. They were more about cakes than slang.

PJ Miller (PJ Miller), Thursday, 18 November 2004 14:11 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

six months pass...
I saw a posting on by some english chap that the andrew hurley translations are dogshit and the Irby ones are legit. Based on this, I bought Everything and Nothing and loved it. If you compare the two, you realize how poor the Hurley ones are. Side note: apparently Hurley is all that sells.

benndeis, Friday, 10 June 2005 20:52 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I thought whoever did "The Personal Anthology" or whatever it was, was pretty good, but yeah, if the person doesn't know Argentinean Spanish they won't get it right. I remember reading a translation of Sabato's "On Heroes And Tombs" where the translator didn't seem to know that "buen mozo" meant "handsome."

k/l (Ken L), Friday, 10 June 2005 21:30 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

two months pass...
i appreciated hurley's note about 'funes the memorious'.

Josh (Josh), Sunday, 28 August 2005 08:12 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Robert Mezey and Dick Barnes did translations of a bunch of Borges poems back in the eighties & nineties, many of them quite spectacular, but the Borges estate is really hands-on about who gets to publish - I have copies of some of their translations & they're stunning - would post one here but who knows how much trouble one could get in posting unauthorized translations

(paranoid I know, but the Borges estate...I've heard stories I tell you)

Banana Nutrament (ghostface), Monday, 29 August 2005 00:22 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

If I was ever a translator, I'd definitely be asking lots of questions about cakes.

Forest Pines (ForestPines), Monday, 29 August 2005 06:53 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

eight months pass...
I'm reading Labyrinths, having previously read the collections it collates; I'm finding Borges kinda less and more than I remembered. I think the J.E.I. translations make a difference. I think I'd read Hurley before, I might be totally wrong come to think, I definitely read 'ficciones' in kinda an old edition, probably am wrong. Huh.

tom west (thomp), Saturday, 20 May 2006 23:11 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I didn't remember 'Pierre Menard' reading so much like Swift, for example. Which gets to what I find different, everything seems less, well, utter, than I remember it being. ("utter" seems sort of like a Borges word, don't it? maybe not.) But reading like Swift makes it seem more like satire, thus less interesting. Something about the prose style seems to have an incredibly limiting effect on the stories, to whatever they might come to. (Which is interesting, actually, I'd kept him in my head as a writer for 'ideas', the memory of these stories being much the same as the stories: which this reread I'm thinking was completely wrong: anyway now there are lots of paragraphs I find myself just enjoying as collections of words, which is something.)

tom west (thomp), Saturday, 20 May 2006 23:14 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Here's an one of them:

"I now arrive at the most difficult point in my story. This story (it is well the reader know it by now) has no other plot than that dialogue which took place half a century ago. I shall not try to reproduce the words, which are now irrecoverable. I prefer to summarise with veracity the many things Ireneo told me. The indirect style is remote and weak; I know I am sacrificing the efficacy of my narrative; my readers should imagine for themselves the hesitant periods which overwhelmed me that night."

(tho partly i like this bcz it's a lot like stuff in the rhetoric of fiction which i read the other week: both of these being on the Barthelme list.)

tom west (thomp), Saturday, 20 May 2006 23:17 (twelve years ago) Permalink

two months pass...
Does anybody know if there is an English translation available of the lectures Borges gave in Beunos Aires in 1966 on English literature?

Jeff LeVine (Jeff LeVine), Wednesday, 16 August 2006 18:38 (twelve years ago) Permalink

two months pass...
It's a long shot, but after consulting libraries and mailing around, who knows – maybe someone at good old ILB can help me?

Short question: does anyone have an edition of the Irby translation of 'The Library of Babel' in which the line ...there are always several hundred thousand imperfect facsimilies: works which differ only in a letter or a comma (about three quarters into the story) has facsimilies spelled facsimiles?

Long explanation: I'm participating in a project to make posters and books inspired by the story. My starting point was to compare different editions/translations. I came across two Dutch editions that had a wonderful meta-discrepancy in the 'imperfect facsimilies' line quoted above, differing only in an apostrophe; facsimiles/facsimile's.
Now, this I turned into a nice poster, but ideally I'd prefer an English version. All the English versions of the story I've been able to find online (such as spell 'facsimiles', while the 1979/2000 Penguin copies of Labyrinths that I've checked spell 'facsimilies'. I'm hoping that this is not just an interweb typo and that there really is such a printed version.
If someone has the Di Giovanni translation, I'd be very interested in his rendering of this line as well, as I haven't been able to find him in Dutch libraries.

Please let me know if you have any info, or if you're curious about the project.

Orange (Orange), Thursday, 2 November 2006 19:36 (twelve years ago) Permalink

five years pass...

"Everything and Nothing" sends chills down my spine every time. I totally understand why people get deeply obsessed with Borges. I don't think any other writer moves me so deeply with so few words. After I first read "Library of Babylon," I had the darkest and most vivid nightmare of my life.

Dale, dale, dale (Abbbottt), Thursday, 3 May 2012 02:26 (six years ago) Permalink

Everything and Nothing

Dale, dale, dale (Abbbottt), Thursday, 3 May 2012 02:27 (six years ago) Permalink

five years pass...


The star attraction of the #Borges Foundation Musuem in BA has to be the oringial manuscript for The Circular Ruins (The crossed out titled is 'The Temple of Fire'). Precise miniscule cursive annoted with a key of astrological/alchemical-like symbols. And with illustrations.

— Paul Prudence (@MrPrudence) February 15, 2018

mookieproof, Friday, 16 February 2018 16:04 (nine months ago) Permalink

I loved The Aleph and Other Stories, 1933-1969 (also has backstories by JLB), and every other and Di G. translation I've come across, although the Estate apparently doesn't agree, and yes you have to dig on Amazon for them, but I found these, in a doc from three years ago, haven't had time recently to check again

from wikipedia
some found only by ISBN on Amazon, but has most I checked
Norman Thomas Di Giovanni trans and/or collabs
The Book of Imaginary Beings (1969)
Doctor Brodie’s Report (1972)
Selected Poems 1923-1967 (1972)
Borges on Writing (1973)
In Praise of Darkness (1974)
The Congress (1974)
The Aleph and Other Stories 1933-1969 (Dutton, 1978. ISBN 0-525-47539-7)
Chronicles of Bustos Domecq (Written with Adolfo Bioy-Casares) (Dutton, 1979. 0-525-47548-6)
Six Problems for don Isidro Parodi (1981)
Evaristo Carriego (1984)
A Universal History of Infamy (Penguin Books, 1985?. ISBN 978-0-14-008539-6)
The Book of Sand (Penguin Books, 1989?. ISBN 978-0-14-018025-1)
see also

dow, Saturday, 17 February 2018 02:37 (nine months ago) Permalink

I recall reading something about finding his definitive, personally approved english translator, then Penguin decided to get a new translation for money reasons. Could paying for a new translation really be cheaper than one that already existed?

Robert Adam Gilmour, Saturday, 17 February 2018 15:28 (nine months ago) Permalink


🐦[The star attraction of the #Borges🕸 Foundation Musuem in BA has to be the oringial manuscript for The Circular Ruins (The crossed out titled is ’The Temple of Fire’). Precise miniscule cursive annoted with a key of astrological/alchemical-like symbols. And with illustrations.🕸
— Paul Prudence (@MrPrudence) February 15, 2018🕸]🐦

Was that his handwriting? Was he legally blind but he could still read his own tiny handwriting, or was he not blind at the time? Oh I see, he went blind at 55.

Prometheus Freed's Rock and Roll Pâté (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 17 February 2018 16:42 (nine months ago) Permalink

xp Not only definitive and personally approved, but in at least some cases done in collaboration with Borges. They're essentially keeping Borges's own work out of print.

jmm, Saturday, 17 February 2018 17:15 (nine months ago) Permalink

Yes, at least in the case of Di G., I got the impression that ones presented as collaborations, and the others as well, were considered by the Estate to be essentially or too often exploitative?

dow, Saturday, 17 February 2018 23:13 (nine months ago) Permalink


Robert Adam Gilmour, Sunday, 18 February 2018 01:55 (nine months ago) Permalink

"The Borges Papers" tells Di Giovanni's side of the story. ("In Memory of Borges" gives more more detail about working with B., among other good pieces on here.)

dow, Sunday, 18 February 2018 02:50 (nine months ago) Permalink

then Penguin decided to get a new translation for money reasons

I don't think it was Penguin, I think it was the estate. Not that Penguin is above bullshit moves.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Sunday, 18 February 2018 05:23 (nine months ago) Permalink

30+ years back two professors of mine were working on translations of the poems, which are incredible and into which they put a decade or so of work with the knowledge of the estate and poss penguin idk. when the rubber hit the road, new translators were commissioned (some of whom didn't actually speak Spanish iirc but who were doing the sort of "translation" that's a kind of "I write a poem based on a transliteration" thing that's so fuckin gross). my professors' renditions of 40 or so of the poems circulate privately & are quite good but yah much chicanery involved on the estate side.

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Sunday, 18 February 2018 09:47 (nine months ago) Permalink

...onlly 20+ years back I should say, with some relief, that 30 was looking pretty intense

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Sunday, 18 February 2018 09:48 (nine months ago) Permalink

still awake, i dug around a little - here's a letter from one of my professors, Dick Barnes, to Variaciones Borges, airing out his grievances with the estate and with, mainly, Viking (later Viking/Penguin I think). as I now work in books I do find some notes here a little odd - for example I personally would not undertake a lengthy work of translation unless and until I was under contract, because you never know where you stand until you're under contract. but the case for publication of the translations seems strong to me both on the merits of the work & the testimony of Merwin, Wilbur, et al; I treasure my copy of the small selection Bob gave me some years back.

anyway, an interesting read. Dick Barnes died in May of 2000.

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Sunday, 18 February 2018 10:51 (nine months ago) Permalink

Thanks Dow and Chachi.

Robert Adam Gilmour, Sunday, 18 February 2018 13:40 (nine months ago) Permalink

Remarkable document, thanks! Those verses---and so Merwin, Wilbur, Hollander withdrew permissions for their translations in protest, woo. Yeah, I've done extended writing on spec even when I was way too dependent on contract income, but sometimes that's---what happens.

dow, Sunday, 18 February 2018 17:36 (nine months ago) Permalink

way too dependent on *freelance* contract income, that is (def not rec).

dow, Sunday, 18 February 2018 17:38 (nine months ago) Permalink

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