Dissecting “Borges and I”

July 20, 2009

Random poking around on the Internet led me somehow to Manolis Antoniou’s analysis of Andrew Hurley’s translation of the famous Borges story “Borges and I.” Antoniou’s own translation is actually pretty good, and he does a fascinating and thorough presentation of the choices made in each translation.

The First Sentence

Borges: Al otro, a Borges, es a quien le occurren las cosas

Hurley: It’s Borges, the other one, things happen to.

This is an impeccable opening to an impeccable story in the original, and Hurley manages to mangle it. No one says it’s Borges things happen to — it’s completely unnatural English and reads poorly because the indirect object, Borges, is so far away from the to. Sure, the original is not exactly free-flowing, but it doesn’t sound wrong.

Then there’s the repeated a in the Spanish which acts as an important device to create distance between Borges and his other. Hurley, though, not once uses the almost-equivalent to correctly, let alone thrice as the original does, to recreate that distance.

I also object to the contraction it’s. The tone of this story is too formal for contractions.

My attempt: It is to that other one, to Borges, that things happen.



One Response to “Dissecting “Borges and I””

  1. Russell Says:

    I don’t know. There’s something really visceral about the admittedly colloquial form of Hurley’s sentence. I read it out loud just now. Antoniou’s version strikes me as rather bookish. Is that the effect of the original version? Was that the effect of the original version to its original readers?

    Btw, some very nice posts down below. Sorry I can’t comment on them, too…

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