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Bilingual wordplay: variations on a theme by Hemingway and Steinbeck.

Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck were among the few early 20th century American writers to incorporate the Spanish language into their work, making vanguard experiments in bilingual fiction. More often than not, this was to show their affinity for the working-class Spanish or Mexican people they were depicting. In this living within, between, and sometimes outside of two cultures, Hemingway and Steinbeck are not unlike early Chicano writers, with whom they share, in a limited way, a kind of bilingualism. Their way with language has special appeal to a new generation of bilingual American readers that lives on the border between the United States and Mexico and speaks that mix-and-match argot called everything from Spanglish to Tex/Mex to calo.


THE SPANISH LANGUAGE is the fourth or fifth most spoken language in the world. Still, very few prominent United States writers of the 20th century incorporated it into their fiction. Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck are two notable exceptions, and an analysis of their vanguard experiments in bilingual fiction is clearly warranted as the number of Spanish/English bilinguals grows in this country. (1)

In sharp contrast to writers of their generation who dotted their stories with French or Latin words or phrases, usually to show off erudition or worldliness as French was the language of sophistication and fashion and Latin the language of learning, Hemingway and Steinbeck chose to complement their texts with Spanish words and phrases. More often than not, this was to show their affinity for the people they were depicting, to position themselves with, rather than above, the working class. In this living within, between, and sometimes outside of two cultures, Hemingway and Steinbeck are not unlike early Chicano writers such as Arturo Islas and Jose Antonio Burciaga, with whom they share, in a limited way, a kind of bilingualism. But, unlike these writers, Hemingway and Steinbeck did not learn Spanish at home. Neither had Hispanic forebears or roots; they developed their bilingual skills in the course of their lives.

Hemingway's identification with and appreciation of things Hispanic began when he was an adult, when he first traveled to Spain in the early 1920s. For Hemingway, Hispanic culture possessed the allure of the exotic, which he embraced and tried to make himself part of. Steinbeck's affinity for things Hispanic grew naturally out of his early work experiences. Thorn Steinbeck claims his father learned Spanish while "cowboying" for the Post family. Steinbeck's boyhood friend Max Wagner had lived in Mexico for a number of years; Steinbeck was a regular at the Wagner home, where the family all spoke Spanish. Their bohemian spirit and lifestyle appealed to Steinbeck and played an integral part in his rebellious development. In rejecting the middle-class values of his peers, Steinbeck also rejected their prejudices. This attitude is reflected in the words of Billy Buck, one of Steinbeck's most admirable characters in The Red Pony, a man who, like a Hemingway code hero, knows the values. Countering the prejudice against Gitano expressed by Mr. Tiffin, Buck defends all "paisanos." "They're damn good men. They can work older than white men. I saw one of them a hundred and five years old, and he could still ride a horse. You don't see any white men as old as Gitano walking twenty or thirty miles" (133).

The question of whether these writers were successful at incorporating Spanish into their fiction is still being debated. Particularly in critiques of For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway often comes under attack for affecting a greater knowledge of Spanish than he actually possessed. Bruce Fleming characterizes Hemingway's Spanish as not Spanish 'at all, but "pidgin English" (266) Countering criticisms of Hemingway's translation techniques, Wolfgang Rudat explains that the reader must enter into an agreement with the author to believe that the characters say exactly what is printed in English on the page (36). Allen Josephs, once among the most severe critics of the "linguistic realism of the novel," has subsequently softened what he calls his own excessive literal-mindedness (89). Milton Azevedo, one of the more recent scholars to weigh in on Hemingway's use of Spanish, finds the novel's language "an admirable stylistic experiment" (30). Azevedo reminds readers that Hemingway is creating a literary dialect, by definition something that "exists only within the confines of a piece of prose fiction" (30).

While Hemingway's experiments with the use of Spanish have drawn their share of commentary, both positive and negative, Steinbeck's use of a similar bilingualism has attracted little critical notice. What there is--such as Susan Shillinglaw's evaluation that Tortilla Flat is "cast in a consciously artistic language that captures the rhythms of Spanish (a device that to some ears sounds artificial, to others charming)" (53)--usually appears as an aside in the course of other concerns. Marcia Yarmus is one of the few who has focused on Steinbeck's connections with the Hispanic world, particularly in the area of language, but her contribution is at the level of cataloging proper names, place names, and vocabulary. (2) Generally not acknowledged or discussed in the critical literature about Steinbeck is that he was adept enough in the language to have written the original synopsis for The Wayward Bus (El Camino Vacilador) in Spanish, thinking he might publish it in Mexico as a short story (Benson 569). (3)

Rather than engage in the debate about the translation techniques or correctness of either author, I want to suggest that their way with language has an appeal to a new generation of American readers, a generation more attuned to bilingualism, who may have lived on the border between the United States and Mexico and spoken that mix-and-match argot called everything from Spanglish to Tex/Mex to calo. (4) The University of Texas at El Paso is the largest university in this country with a Mexican-American majority--between 70 and 75% of some 20,000 students. The students I will cite in this essay represent a growing demographic. (5) "I am a Chicano whose Spanish is as criticized as is his English" writes Francisco Carrasco in a student response paper to For Whom the Bell Tolls. (6) Alfredo Estrada did not find either the novel's bilingual mix or its literal translation unusual, "I don't find it a concern because this is the way we talk in this community." Spanish-speaking students respond positively to finding their language in canonical works in English. Given their own experiences, this kind of reader finds much that is entertaining and "simpatico" in both writers' treatments of language. Manuel Aldaco states it uncategorically, "Understanding Spanish was a plus for me while reading Hemingway." (7) Neither Hemingway nor Steinbeck studied Spanish in a university setting. Both learned it "on the streets." Thus their use of the language speaks to "la gente," the people.

Spanglish is not limited to the border. In the recent film Tortilla Soup, a Los Angeles father keeps correcting, but finally participates in his daughters' mix of Spanish and English, thus representing the older generation's acceptance of this new way of speaking. Nor are border students the only ones who respond comfortably to Hemingway's translation techniques in For Whom the Bell Tolls. G. Herbert Gilliland notes that in a poll he took at the Naval Academy, not one student considered the novel's treatment of Spanish an issue.

This younger audience is not as concerned with the correctness of Hemingway's or Steinbeck's attempts to convey the language of their Spanish characters. Like the authors themselves, bilingual students are especially in tune with the funny side of bilingualism. Hemingway, specifically, partakes of the humor produced by what Jose Antonio Burciaga has called bilingual cognates. (8) An example of this type of humor is. produced in For Whom the Bell Tolls when Robert Jordan and Maria find that they share "republican" fathers. The humor comes from the fact that although the word is a bilingual cognate, it means something quite different in each context. Along with the humor comes a bitter irony produced by the misunderstanding. Maria asks if Robert's father, a suicide, killed himself to prevent further "torture." She uses the term "torture" literally to signify physical infliction of pain by an enemy; the dramatic irony is produced by Jordan's answer, "yes," which he and the reader know signifies psychological pain (66-7). Gary Keller identifies another instance of this type of word play, recognizing Robert Jordan's use of "raro" as an intentional turning of a word into a false cognate. One such instance occurs when Robert Jordan calls Pablo a "bicho raro" (a weird vermin or insect), and Pablo, unwilling to be provoked, counters "'Very rare, yes'" (FWTBT 212). Keller explains this as a "frequent characteristic of bilingual literature: a bilingualism that is self-conscious, that is often bicultural and/or cross-cultural, that reflects upon itself in a metalinguistic way, and that is often used for ironic or satirical purposes" (136). In just such a vein, Hemingway creates bilingual humor in A Farewell to Arms when Frederick Henry engages in a drunken conversation with Italian comrades. Learning that the United States has declared war on Germany, they wonder whether the Americans will also declare war on Turkey. Frederic quips that he thinks not because the turkey is "our national bird"--a joke that is lost on his listeners, but not the readers (AFTA 75).

Bilingual communities abound with jokes based on the pitfalls of literal translation, especially ignorance of the nuances in bilingual cognates. The jokes work Whether one is translating from Spanish into English or in the other direction. For example, the words "embarazada" and embarrassed have the same root; they are cognates, but false cognates--the French call them "faux amis." In Spanish the word "embarazada" often means pregnant. One can imagine the laughter at a recent professional meeting where a renowned male professor at a Border Theatre Conference was being honored and wanted to communicate that he was unprepared to give an acceptance speech, and began: "Estoy embarazado...."

Hemingway and Steinbeck employ not only the comedy inherent in "faux amis" but also mine the fun produced by verbatim translation. Hemingway in particular delighted in the humor arising out of the inclination of people to translate literally from one language to another. Two examples, as Scott Donaldson has pointed out, are in The Sun Also Rises, when Count Mippipopolous tells Brett "You got class all over you" and later when he tells Brett he never "jokes" anyone (Donaldson 25, SAR 58). Even before he was a published writer, Hemingway enjoyed the humor of literal translation. Mark Cirino cites the nineteen year old Hemingway's use of this technique in a letter about his wounding sent to his parents. In it he recalls a conversation in which he told an Italian captain: "It is thought well not to allow the enemy to perceive that they have captured our goats." Cirino calls this Hemingway's first use of literal translation (45-6).

Bilingual humor derives not only from literal translation, but also from the vagaries of idiom, another source of fun. For example, in Spanish one uses forms of the verb "tenet" (to have) in cases where an English speaker would use forms of the verb "to be." Thus, in our border community, as in other bilingual communities, we often "joke" each other with literal translations. In that vein, we say "I have heat" or "I have thirst" rather than I am hot or I am thirsty. Alfredo Estrada, in his student response paper, writes about this type of humor. When he asked a friend where he got a new jacket, the response was "En la pulga" (at the flea). Estrada writes, "I could not contain my laughter at and with my colleague and his unusual translation of the 'Flea-Market' or 'Swap-meet.' My friend, like Hemingway, seems to do a lot of literal translation." Sometimes the unintentional humor of idiom occurs even within the same language, as when a British colleague, inquiring if he could come by and get me to go to a presentation, asked if I wanted him to "knock me up." Fortunately, after the initial shock, I remembered reading that in England this means to come by and knock on the door, whereas in the United States it is slang for getting someone pregnant.

Literal translations have their currency in different bilingual groups. Most are evanescent, as slang usually is. A current witticism has to do with the expression "tranquilizate; which I have heard in both Venezuela and Mexico. An appropriate translation would be "calm yourself" or "be calm." Of course, if one enjoys the humor of false cognates and literal translation, one can appreciate that in our Tex/Mex community we have taken to using the expression "tranquilize yourself" when a friend gets overwrought. Still better is the literal translation of the expression "me da una rabia" to express the fact that one is outraged or upset. In border humor this has provoked the expression: "It gives me the rabies."

This particular kind of bilingual jesting is a bit Hemingwayesque and helps account for our students' appreciation of Hemingway s word games. Mr. Frazer in "The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio" has fun with the literal translation of the Spanish "montar." In a scene where he offers a drink to the Mexicans who come to visit Cayetano, one of them refuses, saying, in Hemingway's literal translation, "It mounts to my head" (CSS 361). Later Mr. Frazer teases the same man, identified only as "the thin one,' when he says he does not go to Mass, asking, "Why? Does it mount to your head?" (362). If one were translating idiomatically instead of literally, the translation might be "go to your head" The idea of alcohol "mounting" so tickles Mr. Frazer that he even identifies the man as "Old mount-to-the head" (367). The missteps occasioned by literal translations of idiom work both ways. For example, citizens of Juarez, Mexico use the expression "Mate el motor" a direct translation of the English "kill the motor" whereas the correct Spanish is "apage" or turn off. Monolingual Spanish speakers might think of taking a sledgehammer to the motor when they hear that instance of literal translation.

Marta Sanchez explains that the Chicano novelist Arturo Islas uses "narrative strategies that highlight the 'minority' writer's role of mediator between cultures." Islas "writes in a mode that reflects his own bilingual, bicultural heritage," building bridges of understanding between Anglophonic and bilingual readers (285). In their admiration for the cultures and the language of Hispanic peoples, Hemingway and Steinbeck also work to build bridges to the monophonic English reader. Bilingual humor is one of those bridges. In The Rain God, Islas's pioneering Chicano novel, there are numerous instances of the kind of wordplay Steinbeck and Hemingway had used a half-century earlier. (9) Miguel Chico, the narrator, tells of his aunt saying to his mother, "That's my herman." He explains "They had Anglicized the word for sister [hermana] and used it as a term of endearment with each other" (74). In English, of course, it sounds funny to call a sister a "herman." Mex-Tex code switching is part of a border community's character. It is routine to anglicize Spanish phrases, substituting "much grass" for "muchas gracias" or to have "lonche" instead of "almuerzo." The narrator of The Rain God recalls his early memories of being taken to the cemetery, which his grandmother called "Campo Santo," and so "for a long time Miguel Chico thought it was a place for the saints to go camping" (9). Sometimes the code switching is inadvertent, as when Angie, one of the narrator's cousins, who has little English, confuses a slang expression with the name for a French dessert and comes up with the expression "the suzie creeps," a name that sticks in that family.

Still another source of humor for Spanish/English bilinguals is the hyperbole and formality of Spanish. Mexican mothers easily call a child mi alma, mi cielo, or mi corazon, literally "my soul" "my sky," or "my heart." It is hard to imagine an Anglo Texas mother doing likewise; she is more likely to err in the other direction by referring to her children as "rug rats." Recently, I overheard two of my students engaging in a kind of rhetorical competition, an Hispanic inversion of "playing the dozens," which in black discourse is a series of intensified insults. Instead, they indulged in a series of ever more extravagant overstatements to describe their love, their absolute need for each other. She addressed him as "mispulmones" (my lungs) and he countered with "mis rinones" (my kidneys). She accelerated to "mi sangre," and he to "mis corpusculos"--my blood, my corpuscles. (10) It was all great fun and of a class with humor in For Whom the Bell Tolls such as Rafael's ascending hyperbolic description of Pilar--first as "something barbarous," then "of such a barbarousness," and finally of "an unbelievable barbarousness." (26) Subsequently, to make sure his meaning is not lost, Rafael gets to the hyperbolic specifics of her "tongue that scalds and that bites like a bull whip," continuing that it "takes the hide from any one. It strips" (28).

Steinbeck uses the exaggerated formality and courtesy of Spanish in his mock-Arthurian tale, Tortilla Flat. When Danny and Pilon speak to each other, Steinbeck conveys an effect not unlike that Hemingway was to produce later in For Whom the Bell Tolls. (11) For example: Danny says, "what I have is thine. While I have a house, thou hast a house." Pilon responds, "I must see this to believe it. It would be a world wonder if it were so. Men would come a thousand miles to look upon it" (11). The entire text takes on this mock formality. Steinbeck is obviously not transmitting the exact conversation of two uneducated drunks. Instead, he inflates the diction of his characters with this ersatz translation of the more formal-sounding Spanish in order to compare an underclass ghetto with Camelot. (12) This language is not only mock-Arthurian in tenor, it also parodies the diction of the King James Bible. Danny's "what I have is thine. While I have a house thou hast a house" is reminiscent of Ruth's assertion to Naomi, "Whither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge" (Ruth 1:16). In addition, Steinbeck sometimes juxtaposes formal Spanish with colloquial English for comic effect. In one scene, Pablo and Pilon are drinking. Pablo toasts with the word "Health." Pilon responds with the Spanish "salud." Pilon retorts "Mud in your eye!" but then after some thought adds the more formal "Su servidor" or "your servant." Not wanting his drinking delayed by any more formalities, Pablo concludes with "Down the rat-hole" (23).

Here and there in the text, Steinbeck does use a Spanish word or two, such as Pablo's toast, "salud" meaning to your health; the word "vieja" ("old woman") to describe Teresina Cortez's mother; or "tia" for addressing an aunt. The word "pasatiempo," literally "time-passer," is not translated when used to describe Sweets Ramirez glorying in her vacuum cleaner (which has no motor): "Often as a pasatiempo in the afternoon, Sweets brought out the vacuum-cleaner and leaned it against a chair" (103) Occasionally, full sentences in Spanish such as "Que tomas?" (What are you drinking?) are not translated in the text. But they are few. There is not as much actual Spanish in Tortilla Flat as Hemingway uses when he is representing characters speaking in Spanish. Formal-sounding translations comprise Steinbeck's main method for communicating that the characters are speaking in Spanish.

More often than not, in those few instances when Steinbeck does use complete sentences in Spanish, it is, tellingly, when the characters are uttering profanities. By contrast, Hemingway resolved the problem of how to get around the censors and still convey the profanity of his characters by using the words "obscenity" and "unprintable" in place of the forbidden words the characters are actually uttering, as in "Go and obscenity thyself" or "Go to the unprintable" and "unprint thyself" (FWTBT 45). Like Hemingway, Steinbeck constantly battled his publishers to maintain the real language of his characters. (13) The arbitrary nature of what did get published is sometimes inexplicable. On the one hand, although Hemingway's editor would not let him use the word "balls" in The Sun Also Rises, he was able to use the Spanish equivalent, "cojones" in For Whom The Bell Tolls. Steinbeck was able to maintain entire sentences of obscenity by keeping them in Spanish and not translating them. For instance, in Tortilla Flat, Danny tells the Sicilian fishermen, "Chinga tu madre, Piojo." Hemingway might have written this as "Obscenity thy mother, louse." When Danny's fishermen do not respond to his baiting, he is outraged and calls to them, "Pon un condo a la cabeza," which, loosely translated, means "stick your head in a condom" (6). Perhaps Steinbeck's censors or editors did not understand the Spanish or expected that readers would not understand enough to object.

Bilingual students are tickled by untranslated obscenities and comment on their sense of being privileged readers in those situations. Dawn Colley notes that a monolingual reader might miss the full impact of Robert Jordan's chastising the gypsy for leaving his post: "You hijo de la gran puta!" (FWTBT 274). Although a monolingual English reader will understand something from the context, the "full weight of the insult" will not be absorbed (Colley). This same student writes that unless one appreciates both the connotative and denotative meanings of the word "joder," the full gravity of El Sordo's fate is not communicated in the dialogue between Jordan and Pilar when she uses the word "jodido" to inquire about his fate: "Thou art sure, sure that he is jodido? (298). The verb "jode" cannot be found in most desk-size Spanish-English dictionaries, but bilingual students are quite familiar with this term which like its English equivalent "fuck" can mean an act of love, animal coupling, aggression, or being taken advantage of, depending on tone and context. Ayde Enriquez, writing about Hemingway's short story "The Capital of the World," comments on the appropriateness of not translating some of the Spanish. She explains: "The use of Spanish is necessary because at times the Spanish translations that were humorous in Spanish do not really translate the same in English. For example, using the word 'leche' as an insult. If Hemingway had translated it as "milk," then no one would have understood the insult associated with it."

A study of how the problem of obscenity is handled in Spanish language versions of For Whom the Bell Tolls provides another perspective on the issue. In Lola de Aguada's translation, Por quien doblan las campanas, published by Planeta in 1968 in Barcelona, some obscenity is provided in the translation, as when Agustin's "go to the unprintable" is translated as "Vete a la mierda," but then when Hemingway's text reads "unprint thyself," it is translated as "J ... con el tio." (61) The prevailing sensibilities in Spain during 1968 allowed for the word "mierda," but not for use of versions of the verb "joder."

Some things don't translate, and Hemingway does not translate them. For example, it is usually acceptable in Spanish, but rarely acceptable in English, to call people by a name that describes a singular physical characteristic. In Spanish, this can even be an affectionate mode of address, so it is not uncommon to hear a corpulent person addressed: "Hey, Gorda." In many Latin American countries, people with African ancestry are routinely hailed "Hola, Negra." One can imagine the results in the United States if one were to call out "Hey, Fatso" or "Hi, Blackie." The first President Bush created quite a stir in 1988 when he referred to his Mexican-American grandchildren as "the little brown ones." Because calling attention to obvious physical characteristics is not always considered impolite in Spanish, Hemingway's characters can refer to the guerrilla leader as El Sordo, the Deaf One. The reader assumes it is an acceptable nickname, and El Sordo doesn't seem to mind.

The use of the definite article before a given name, as with El Sordo, is another linguistic habit that can sometimes translate amusingly. "La Pilar" and "La Maria" are not funny in Spanish. However, the inverse is true in English. Perhaps the best known instance of this in contemporary culture is Ivana Trump's use of "The Donald" to designate her ex-husband, Donald Trump. Hemingway was ever one to play with language, both in his literary inventions and personal life. His list of nicknames for friends and family members includes several using the definite article, such as "The Kraut" for Marlene Dietrich. Another echo of Spanish idiom in Hemingway's language is in his penchant for calling various women in his life--among them Ingrid Bergman--"daughter." Addressing women to whom one has no family ties as "mija," a contraction of "mi hija" (my daughter) is commonplace in current bilingual communities.

Another noteworthy parallel between Hemingway and Steinbeck as bilingual writers is that each published a short parable-like novel about a Hispanic fisherman. In both novels, the characters' native Spanish is reflected in the linguistic style of the English text. Steinbeck's story saw print before Hemingway's. First published as "Pearl of the World" in a 1945 Woman's Home Companion, the novel had its title shortened to The Pearl for the 1947 Viking Press edition. Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea was also published first in a magazine, but to much greater acclaim and fanfare. The 1 September 1952 issue of Life sold over five million copies within forty-eight hours of publication, while The Old Man and the Sea was also a Book-of-the-Month Club selection. Both stories became movies filmed on location in their settings of origin. Steinbeck worked with a Mexican film company while completing final work for The Pearl's publication. To his credit, he managed to maintain the integrity of his text by insisting on the use of Mexican actors. Although Hemingway had originally conceived of his story being shot with "local people on a local ocean with a local boat," and much of The Old Man and the Sea was filmed in Cuba, he did accede to his agent's desire to have Spencer Tracy portray Santiago. (14)

In both stories, the main characters, Santiago and Kino, are monolingual Spanish-speakers, although Steinbeck's Kino is almost non-lingual, often hearing music in his head that signifies family or danger. Steinbeck and Hemingway each use their own techniques for conveying to the reader the sense that the characters are speaking in Spanish. This task is eased, to a great extent, because both books depict the mental workings of the characters more often than their actual speech.

As in their earlier works, both authors use Spanish syntax and grammar, as well as a greater formality, to convey the sense that people are not speaking in English. Hemingway translates Santiago's language literally, putting the adjective after the noun it modifies as Spanish speakers do. Thus, Santiago speaks of the Indians of Cleveland and the Tigers of Detroit, instead of the Cleveland Indians and the Detroit Tigers. The boy asks Santiago to tell him about "the baseball," using the definite article where an English-speaker would merely say "baseball."

Steinbeck's Kino speaks rarely and then only in brief declarative sentences. At one point in the story, flush in the aftermath of finding the great pearl, he puts together three sentences about his hopes for his son's future. The narrator comments "And he had never said so many words together in his life...." (26). By contrast, the Priest in the story is given the same formal diction Steinbeck had used earlier for comic effect in Tortilla Flat. This time, however, Steinbeck is making a critical commentary about the Spanish hierarchy's treatment of indigenous people. The Priest treats Kino and Juana condescendingly, like children. He tells Kino: "thou art named after a great man ... thy namesake tamed the desert and sweetened the minds of thy people, didst thou know that?" (27).

Both Hemingway and Steinbeck are keenly aware of the misperceptions and misunderstandings occasioned by different ethnic origins or skin colors, particularly when language differences are involved. One Hemingway short story that deals directly with this topic and privileges bilingual abilities is "The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio." Bilingual students respond warmly to this story both for its use of Mexican characters and because the issue of Mexican migrant farm workers is quite current. (15) Mr. Frazer, the story's Hemingwayesque protagonist, befriends a Mexican beet worker, the gambler of the title, who has been shot twice in the stomach by an assailant he refuses to name. The gambler, Cayetano Ruiz, does not speak English and so an interpreter is working with the police to get his story. The police sense that they are not getting a correct version of events, but after Mr. Frazer's intervention, they finally leave.

In the meantime, Hemingway puts some choice obscenities in Spanish into the dialogue, without translating them. Cayetano calls his assailant, cabron, which literally means a he-goat, but colloquially has a much pithier meaning, with sexual connotations. The precise word choice is meaningful here because in Spanish there are a number of colloquial expressions for the individual whose wife is unfaithful. A cuckold who is unaware of his wife's infidelity is called a "cornudo," but a "cabron" is a cuckold who knows and tolerates it, making him a particularly pathetic character. This distinction is not lost on bilingual students and gives them a sense that they understand this story as their monolingual peers cannot. Later in the story Cayetano identifies the man who shot him as inept and foolish, willing to kill over a $38.00 gambling loss and such a bad shot that "he could not hit a horse if he were holding the stirrup" (CSS 365). When the police question Cayetano beyond his ability to endure, he instructs the interpreter to "Mandarlo al carajo." If Hemingway had translated this it would have read either send them to hell or send them to the devil. But he doesn't translate, and like Mr. Frazer, bilingual students enjoy a privileged perspective on the text.

Both writers' reputations underwent some negative scrutiny in the wake of the civil rights and feminist movements of the 1960s and 70s. (16) What was originally viewed as expressing sympathy and solidarity came under fire as condescending and paternalistic. Still, when the hyper-sensitivities of that generation are transcended, a new generation approaches the texts with a fresh perspective, often with appreciation for the affinity with their cultural heritage. In my experience, this has been the case with today's bilingual university students. (17)

Ilan Stavan's recent study, Spanglish, is subtitled "The Making of a New American Language." His analysis of the new American bilingualism expands the parameters of my argument from the border. His interest began while "walking the streets of El Barrio in New York City" (1) and his research encompasses Miami, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Houston, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Denver, and Tallahassee. Stavans claims that Spanglish, originally the tongue of the uneducated, may, with the growth of the Hispanic minority, infiltrate the language just as jazz became a driving force in American music. This may prompt a 21st century revaluation of Hemingway and Steinbeck, two writers who shared a rare appreciation for Spanish/English bilingualism, often occupying the frontera de lengua--the frontier of language. In their use of bilingual humor and wordplay Hemingway and Steinbeck prefigured many current Chicano writers, and exhibited an empathy and affinity qualifying them as the primary Hispanophiles of their time.


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University of Texas at El Paso


I would like to thank Professors Fernando Garcia and Richard Ford of the Languages and Linguistics Department at UTEP for reviewing this paper and making many helpful suggestions for its correction and improvement.

(1.) The University of Texas at El Paso has, as of this writing, the only Bilingual Creative Writing Department in the country. Professor Lex Williford, when teaching his Fiction Writing class, regularly assigns For Whom The Bell Tolls as an example of using two languages in a work of creative writing.

(2.) Yarmus's article, "Exploring the Hispanic Linguistic Elements in John Steinbeck's Novels," appeared in 1977, while her dissertation, The Hispanic World of John Steinbeck (1984), has been excerpted in a number of articles.

(3.) Steinbeck also did research for his Viva Zapata! script in Mexico City.

(4.) The OED defines Spanglish as "a type of Spanish contaminated by English words and forms of expression" I think the use of the word "contaminated" is unfortunate. As this paper will demonstrate, for those who use it, Spanglish can be a rich source of humor.

(5.) In a recent article, President Diana Natalicio calls UTEP "the only major research university serving a student population that is predominantly Mexican-American," 7B.

(6.) In the course of the semester, students in my graduate seminar on Hemingway and Steinbeck are asked to write brief reader response papers on a number of critical questions including the authors' use of Spanish.

(7.) Aldaco's response is typical for the Spanish-speaking students in the seminar.

(8.) Jose Antonio Burciaga's essay "Bilingual Cognates" in his book Spilling the Beans is a brief exploration of what he calls bilingual bloopers.

(9.) Islas admired Hemingway; Islas's "Hemingway and Fitzgerald" seminar was one reason for his numerous teaching awards at Stanford University.

(10.) At a recent thesis defense in the Spanish Department, the thesis director turned to the thesis author and asked, "Todo el mundo esta aqui?" I was startled as there are usually no more than a dozen people at an oral defense. It was just another instance of Spanish hyperbole. Literally, what he said was, "Is the whole world here?"

(11.) Tortilla Flat was published in 1935 and therefore not influenced by Hemingway's translation technique in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).

(12.) Disappointed when the critics did not catch the Arthurian parody at work in Tortilla Flat, Steinbeck added a preface to the second edition in which he writes: "For Danny's house was not unlike the Round Table, and Danny's friends were not unlike the knights of it."

(13.) Writing to his editor Pat Covici about changes the publishing house wanted him to make in The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck argued that while he would change some words, words that "stopped the reader's mind," he balked at deleting the epithet "shit-heads" to denote the people in the hamburger stand. He wrote: "There is no term like it. And if it stops the reader the hell with him. It means something precise and I won't trade preciseness even if it's colloquial preciseness" (Life in Letters 176).

(14.) Spencer Tracy has the distinction of being miscast as a Hispanic in adaptations of both Hemingway and Steinbeck works. He played Pilon in Hollywood's misbegotten version of Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat.

(15.) This story's autobiographical context helps us understand Hemingway's own delight in instances of literal translation and cross-cultural misunderstandings. Carlos Baker details the accident and hospital stay that provided the raw materials for "The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio" (216-18).

(16.) For example, in The Resisting Reader, Judith Fetterley reads A Farewell to Arms as a resentful cryptograph against women. Philip Ortega takes Steinbeck to task in "Fables of Identity: Stereo-type and Caricature of Chicanos in Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat.

(17.) I use student response papers and anecdotal evidence from the classroom in support of my argument because these students are part of the new generation of bilingual readers I reference. These bilingual students represent a growing demographic, and will be the high school and university teachers who will help shape future attitudes and reading preferences. There may even be future Hemingway and Steinbeck scholars among them. One student, Dawn Colley, presented a paper at the Steinbeck Centennial conference in Hofstra University in 2002.
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Title Annotation:For Whom the Bell Tolls
Author:Gladstein, Mimi R.
Publication:The Hemingway Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2006
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