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One effective strategy was to use Spanish equivalents for objectionable words, such as "cojones" for "balls" (318) or "Cabrones! Hijos de puta!" (320) for "bastards" and"sons of bitches" Because obscenity is culture-specific, an off color expression in a foreign language, even if understood, may be sensed as less offensive. In fact, even terms of the same language may have varying connotations in different speech communities, such as "bloody," offensive in Britain but not in the United States (Hughes 169). Likewise, insults involving kin--and parents in particular-- although rude in Spanish, may sound innocuous if translated into English, whereas expletives involving devils, deities, or damnation have less impact in Romance languages than in English. Thus Sp "que demonios" or Pg "que diabos" are not nearly as strong as "What the devil/hell," just as Sp/Pg "maldito" (damned) or Sp "maldita sea" (damn it) are milder than "damn" or "dammit" In Spanish, "[Spanish open quote] Dios mio!" or "[Spanish open quote] Jesus!" are considered pious exclamations, while in English "My God?" or "Jesus Christ!" verge on blasphemy, if only to the conservative.

Another strategy was to replace a vulgar term with a learned synonym lacking its profane connotations, as in "`The fornicator ducked back'" (311), or with a near-sounding placebo, such as "`Go muck yourself, he said in English and then, in Spanish, to the armoured car driver" (241). Yet another was to incorporate the words "obscene" or "unprintable" as euphemistic wild-cards to signify nouns, adjectives, verbs or adverbs as needed, as in "`That we blow up an obscene bridge and then have to obscenely well obscenity ourselves off out of these mountains?'" or in "`Go to the unprintable,' Agustin said. `And unprint thyself'" (45) or in "`And if we do not do this smartly we are obscenitied'" (95).

Translating such expressions requires not only finding semantic equivalents in the target language but also taking editorial constraints into account--a kind of camouflage gymnastics that substantially complicates the translator's task. For example, Pilar's vituperation of the gypsy Rafael--"`What are you doing now, you lazy drunken obscene unsayable son of an unnameable unmarried gypsy obscenity? What are you doing?'" (30)--is generic enough to stimulate the reader's imagination.

Fleshing out the oaths, as in "`[Spanish open quote] Que estas haciendo, borracho repugnante, hijo de puta gitana? [Spanish open quote] Que estas haciendo?'" (What are you doing, you repulsive drunkard, son of a gypsy whore?) (Sp-LA 44) preserves the essential elements of drunkenness, repulsiveness, and bastardy. The Italian version--"`Che cosa fai li, poltrone, ubriaco, figlio di una porca zingara senza marito? Che cosa fai?'" (what are you doing, lazybones, drunkard, son of a husbandless gypsy sow?) (It 63)-- replicates Pilar's accusations of sloth, drunkenness, and bastardy, while skipping two generic euphemisms ("obscene," "unsayable"). The French translation stays close to the original by rendering unsayable and unnameable as "innommable" while fleshing out "obscenity" as putain (whore); "`Qu'est-ce que tu fais maintenant, espece d'ivrogne, de paresseux, innommable fils d'une innommable putain gitane? Qu'est-ce que tu fais?'" (What are you doing now, drunkard, lazybones, unnamable son of an unnamable gypsy whore?) (Fr 46). The Portuguese translation omits some of the impact of the original by focusing on filth while skirting sloth, drunkenness, and bastardy: "`E que anda fazendo voce agora, porcalhao, filho duma porca imunda? Que anda fazendo, sujeira?'" (And what are you doing now, you slob, son of a filthy sow? What are you doing, you dirty one?) (Pg 26).

Although some scatological Spanish expressions have literal cognates in Catalan--which is hardly surprising, considering the similarity between the two languages and their cultures, as well as the fact that most Catalan speakers are bilingual in Spanish--the Catalan translation of For Whom the Bell Tolls bowdlerizes the juicier insults through use of the vicarious term "dallonses" (such-and-such, this-and-that) as a euphemism.(19) Thus "`I obscenity in the milk'" (111, 140) becomes "`Em dallonses en la llet'" (I such-and-such in the milk) (Cat 130, 160). Again demonstrating that insults in another language are less offensive, the rather literal Portuguese translation resorts to italicized Spanish cognates, so that "`Down with the miscalled Republic and I obscenity in the milk of your fathers'" (111) becomes "`Abaixo a infame Republica e me cago (I shit) no leite de vossos pais" (Pg 97).

Some literal translations are rendered innocuous, as when, in the insults uttered by a man about to be lynched, milk in the original (alluding to Spanish leche in the vulgar sense of "semen") becomes Portuguese leite (milk), which does not have that meaning. Thus, whereas the original passage--"`Milk,' Agustin said simply. `And milk again.'.... `Milk,' Agustin said. `Black milk.'" (210)--minimally evokes the Spanish usage, the literal Portuguese translation misses this point--"`Leite' murmurou Agustin.... `Leite preto.'" (Pg 186)-- and is more likely to puzzle the reader.

One Spanish translation truncates easily recognizable oaths, so that "`I obscenity in the milk of your fathers'" (111) becomes "`me c ... en la leche de vuestros padres'" (Sp-LA 141), whereas others resort to euphemistic commentary, as in "agregando varios insultos dirigidos a los progenitores de los campesinos" (adding several insults against the peasants' fathers) (Sp-OS 121, Sp-SS 117) or "y agrego una maldicion obscena dirigida a los progenitores de los aldeanos" (Sp-EJS 114) (and he added an obscene oath against the peasants' fathers). The French translation, however, remains closer to the original: "`je chie dans le lait de vos peres'" (I shit in your fathers' milk) (Fr 130), whereas in Italian anima "soul" is substituted for milk: "`io caco nell'anima dei vostri padri!'" (I shit on your fathers' soul) (It 149).

Euphemisms and calques from Spanish evoke the impact of insults in a bantering mock argument between Pilar and Agustin in Chapter Nine:
 "Where the hell are you going?" Agustin asked.... "To my duty," Fernando
 said with dignity. "Thy duty," said Agustin mockingly. "I besmirch the milk
 of thy duty." Then turning to the woman, "Where the un-nameable is this
 vileness that I am to guard?" "In the cave," Pilar said. "In two sacks. And
 I am tired of thy obscenity." "I obscenity in the milk of thy tiredness,"
 Agustin said. "Then go and befoul thyself," Pilar said to him without heat.
 "Thy mother," Agustin replied. "Thou never had one," Pilar told him [....]
 "What are they doing in there?" Agustin now asked confidentially.
 "Nothing," Pilar told him. "Nada. We are, after all, in the spring,
 animal." "Animal," said Agustin, relishing the word. "Animal. And thou.
 Daughter of the great whore of whores. I befoul myself in the milk of the
 springtime." (92-93)

In the Portuguese version, three instances of Spanish me cago en (I shit on) are used for the original's besmirch/befoul, but other obscenities are replaced by suspension points, and a paraphrase--"a qual retribuiu com toda a riqueza do insulto espanhol" (who retorted with all the richness of the Spanish insult)--is substituted for Agustin's oaths against Pilar's mother. The Italian and French translations, in turn, evince a more direct approach that molds the author's intention into plausibly salty discourse:
Portuguese (81) Italian (129)

"Para onde se atira?" tambem "Dove diavolo vai?" domando
perguntou Agustin, e ... Agustin ... "A fare il mio
Fernando respondeu com toda dovere" disse pieno di dignita
a dignidade: "Cumprir o meu Fernando. "Il tuo dovere!" lo
dever." "Meu dever! Me cago canzono Agustin. "Io sputo sul
no leite desse dever." E depois, sugo del tuo dovere." Poi alla
virando-se para a mulher: donna: "Dove e questa roba che
"Onde esta a m ... dessa p ... debbo sorvegliare?" "Nella
que tenho de guardar?" "Na caverna" Pilar disse. "I due
gruta," respondeu Pilar. "Oh, sacchi. E sono stanca delle tue
ja ando cansada da sujeira da sudicerie." "Io caco nel sugo
sua boca." "Me cago no leite della tua stanchezza."
do seu cansaco," tornou "Allora vatti a far fottere!"
Agustin. "Pois entao va rispose con perfetta calma
e c ... -se," volveu Pilar, Pilar. "Tua madre!" ribatte
de bom humor. Agustin. "Non ne hai mai
Agustin revidou com uma avuta!" disse Pilar.... "Che
ofensa a mae de Pilar, a qual cosa fanno li dentro quei due?"
retribuiu com toda a riqueza chiese con tono confidenziale
do insulto espanhol. "Que Agustin. "Niente" rispose
estao eles fazendo la dentro?" Pilar. "Nada. Alla fin fine
perguntou Agustin em tom siamo in primavera, animale."
confidencial. "Nada," respondeu "Animale" ripete Agustin
Pilar. "Nada, apesar de assaporando la parola. "Animale.
estarmos na forca da primavera, E tu? Figlia della troia piu
nao sabe disso, animal?" grande di tutte le troie. Io
"Animal," repetiu Agustin caco nel sugo della primavera."
gozando a palavra. "Animal.
E voce? Filha da maior p ... de
todas as p ... Me cago no leite
da sua primavera."

French (111)

"Qu'est-ce que tu vas foutre?"
demanda Agustin au petit
homme grave, comme celui-ci
montait le sentier. "Mon
devoir," dit Fernando avec
dignite. "Ton devoir," dit
Agustin moqueur. "J'emmerde
le lait de ton devoir."
Puis s'adressant a la femme:
"Ou est cette connerie qu'il
faut que je garde?" "Dans la
grotte," dit Pilar. "Dans deux
sacs. Et je suis fatiguee de ta
grossierete." "J'emmerde le
lait de ta fatigue," dit
Agustin. "Alors, va-t'en et
emmerde-toi-meme," lui dit
Pilar sans colere. "Et ta
mere," riposta Agustin. "Tu
n'en as jamais eu," lui dit
Pilar.... "Qu'est-ce gu'ils
font la-dedans?" Agustin
interrogeait maintenant
d'un air de confidence.
"Rien," lui dit Pilar. "Nada.
Nous sommes au printemps
apres tout, animal." "Animal,"
dit Agustin goutant le mot.
"Animal. Et toi. Fille de la
grande putain des putains.
J'emmerde le lait du

There is considerable divergence among the spanish texts, particularly as regards taboo language. Recovery of semantic content is a key parameter in assessing the solutions adopted when a translator cannot, or will not, render an oath in full. While Sp-LA, which follows the original text integrally,(20) uses suspension points that maintain visual decorum while fully informing the savvy reader, Sp-Os and Sp-EJS employ metalinguistic comments that recall the mores of an earlier era and leave clarification to the reader's imagination, as the following passages show:(21)
Spanish (LA 119) Spanish (Os-102)

"[Spanish open quote] Adonde "[Spanish open quote] A donde
diablos vas?" pregunto vas?" le pregunto Agustin [...]
Agustin [...] "A cumplir "[Spanish open quote] A cumplir
con mi deber," contesto con mi deber!" replico Fernando
Fernando, con dignidad. con dignidad.
"[Spanish open quote] Tu "[Spanish open quote] Tu
deber?" pregunto Agustin, deber!" se
burlon. "Me c ... en la leche burlo Agustin, calificando con
de tu deber." Y luego, algunas de sus selectas
dirigiendose a la mujer de Pablo obscenidades el deber de
"[Spanish open quote] Donde Fernando. Despues, dirigien-dose
esta ese c ... que tengo que a la mujer le pregunto:
guardar?" "En la cueva" "[Spanish open quote] Donde
contesto Pilar, "dentro de los diablos estan las porquerias
dos sacos. Y estoy cansada de que tengo que
tus groserias." "Me c ... en la guardar?" "En la cueva,"
leche de tu cansancio," siguio repuso Pilar. "En dos sacos. Y
Agustin. "Entonces vete y c ... estoy cansada de tus
en ti mismo," dijo Pilar, sin obscenidades. "Agustin le
irritarse. "Y en tu madre," respondio muy expresivamente
replico Agustin. "Tu no has lo que pensaba de su cansancio,
tenido nunca madre," le dijo a lo que ella contesto con
Pilar [...] otro insulto mayor, aunque
"[Spanish open quote] Que es lo todo ello sin rabia ni odio
que hacen ahi dentro?" pregunto alguno, sino amigablemente.
Agustin a Pilar "[Spanish open quote] Tu madre!"
confidencialmente. exclamo Agustin
"Nada" contesto Pilar; a una de las obscenidades
"nada. Despues de todo, estamos mayores. "[Spanish open quote]
en primavera, animal." Tu nunca la tuviste!"
"[Spanish open quote] Animal?" dijo ella [...]
pregunto Agustin "[Spanish open quote] Que
paladeando el piropo. estan haciendo esos alli
"Animal. Y tu, hija de la gran dentro?" pregunto Agustin
p ... Me c.. en la leche de la confidencialmente
primavera." [Spanish open quote] "Pues
 nada!" contesto Pilar.
 "Despues de todo estamos en
 primavera, [Spanish open quote]
 animal!" "[Spanish open quote]!"
 repitio Agustin, regocijandose
 con la expresion.
 "[Spanish open quote]!" Y lleno
 de calificativos a Pilar y a la

Spanish (EJS 96)

Agustin [...] le pregunto [Spanish open quote] A
donde diablos vas?" "A
cumplir con mi deber," dijo
Fernando, con dignidad. "[Spanish open quote] Tu
deber!" dijo Augustin, burlon-amente.
Y califico con algunas
de sus selectas obscenidades "el
deber" de Fernando. Luego,
volviendose a la mujer:
"[Spanish open quote] Donde diablos esta la
porqueria que yo tengo que
cuidar?" "En la cueva," dijo
Pilar. "En dos bolsas. Y estoy
cansada de tus palabrotas." A
lo que Augustin respondio con
una nueva ristra de
expresiones soeces, y Pilar le
respondio con otras igualmente
insultantes; Ante una de
selectas palabrotas con que
Augustin se sintio calificado,
respondio: "[Spanish open quote] Tu madre!"
"[Spanish open quote] Tu
nunca la has tenido! le replico
Pilar. [....] "[Spanish open quote] Que estan
haciendo esos ahi adentro?"
pregunto Agustin. "Pues,
[Spanish open quote] nada!" respondio Pilar.
"Nada. Despues de todo, estamos
en primavera, [Spanish open quote] animal!"
"[Spanish open quote] Animal!" repetio Augustin,
regocijandose en las expresion.
"[Spanish open quote] Animal" Y rocio de calificativos
a su interlocutora, y a la

For Whom the Bell Tolls succeeds linguistically by creating a literary dialect that harmonizes a three-way contrast among standard English, phrases in Spanish, and the characters' Spanish-in-English, thus imparting to their voices an alien dimension whose stylistic importance can hardly be overestimated. While a shared language creates an empathy between the English-speaking reader and Jordan, the contrast between standard English and the Spanish-in-English dialogue interposes a distance between the reader and other characters, thus promoting an interpretative process in which the foregrounded language plays a dramatic role all its own. The translation process, however, alters the original relationship between reader and text. Although the Spanish versions naturally capture a sense of Hispanidad through language, they inevitably obliterate the peculiar diction intended as a reminder of the Spanish characters' otherness. As a result, not only are they brought closer to the reader, but it is now Jordan, the Spanish-speaking American, who becomes an alien. In the other translations, the similarity among Romance languages facilitates direct comprehension of the passages in Spanish and contributes to bringing the characters closer to the reader. In the case of the Catalan translation, in fact, bilingual readers may require suspension of disbelief when faced with the implausibility of an American chatting with Castilian peasants in standard Catalan. By failing to replicate the impression of otherness conveyed by Hemingway's linguistic tour de force, these versions make the characters speak the translation language naturally, and the task of creating a Spanish accent, propped by a sprinkling of expressions in Spanish, is left to the reader's imagination. In every case, not only is the impact of the original literary dialect absent, but also the combination of each language with the passages in Spanish articulates a new linguistic entity that reinterprets the tension between the reader and the other for whom the Spanish characters stand. True enough, Romance languages share so many morphosyntactic structures that manipulating them to achieve a Spanish-sounding effect might result in an aesthetically unpredictable hybrid speech. Nevertheless, inasmuch as Hemingway's literary dialect is a key element in defining such otherness, it constitutes an integral formant of that tension, and if translation fails to replicate it, one cannot help feeling that the shadow of something vital is missing.


This article is part of an ongoing project on linguistic aspects of literary translation that includes Azevedo 1995, 1996, and 1998. Unless otherwise indicated, translations of citations are mine. I thank Arthur Askins (University of California, Berkeley) and the two anonymous referees for their helpful comments.

(1.) Quotations from For Whom the Bell Tolls, with page numbers shown in parentheses, are from the 1987 paperback edition published by First Scribner Classic/Collier Books/MacMillan Publishing Company. The translations compared here are: Catalan: Per qui toquen les campanes, by Jordi Arbones (Barcelona: Edicions Proa, 1978). French: Pour qui sonne le glas, by Denise Van Moppes. Italian: Per chi suona la campana, by Maria Napolitano Martone (Rome: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore). Spanish: Por quien doblan las campanas, by Eduardo Johnson Segui (Buenos Aires: S.A.D.E., 1942; Por quien doblan las campanas, by Olga Sanz (Buenos Aires: Editorial Claridad, 1944); Por quien doblan las campanas, by Lola de Aguado (Barcelona: Editorial Planeta, 1968); Por quien doblan las campanas, by Silvia Saldivar (Mexico: Editores Mexicanos Unidos, S.A., 3rd printing, 1992). Portuguese: Por quem os sinos dobram, by Monteiro Lobato (Sao Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1941). The Spanish translations are identified by the translator's initials (EJS, OS, LA, SS), and the other translations by the language (Cat, Fr, It, Pg, followed by a page number. Quotations are transcribed literally, even when not conforming with current spelling or punctuation norms.

(2.) On language and dialect, see Romaine 69-75. On literary dialect, besides Ives, see also Traugott and Pratt 376-86, Cole, and Furbank.

(3.) Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York: Pocket Books, 1982. De Kleur Paars. Translated by Irma van Dam. Amsterdam: Rainbow Pocketboeken, 1983.

(4.) Las aventuras de Huckleberry Finn, translated into Spanish by Amando Lazaro Ros (Barcelona: Editorial Bruguera, 1981), 8.

(5.) Aventuras de Huck, translated into Portuguese by Monteiro Lobato (Sao Paulo: Editora Brasiliense, 1959, 5th edition). Les aventures d'en Huckleberry Finn, translated into Catalan by Joan Fontcuberta (Barcelona: Editions de la Magrana, 1979).

(6.) Pigmalion, translated into Spanish by Julio Brouta (Barcelona: Editorial Seix Barral, 1985). Pigmalio, translated into Catalan and adapted by Joan Oliver (Barcelona: Edicions 62, 1996 [orig. 1957]). Pigmalio, translated by Xavier Bru de Sala on the basis of Joan Oliver's adaptation (Barcelona: 1997). I thank Mr. Bru de Sala for kindly providing me with a copy of the stage manuscript.

(7.) In the Prague School tradition, foregrounding refers to the use of an intentionally deviant language form to call readers' attention to something that the form in question represents. See Mukarovsky.

(8.) As critics such as Rudat have pointed out, Jordan thinks in English rather than Spanish.

(9.) Highet's 1941 witty parody, "Thou Tellest Me, Comrade," showed much keener understanding of this linguistic aspect of For Whom the Bell Tolls. For other criticism of Barea's analysis, see Capellan (130); for an overview of Hemingway's reception in Spain, see LaPrade 1992.

(10.) Rudat offers a balanced criticism of Josephs's analysis. While it seems established that Hemingway could read and speak-however imperfectly--several languages, his ability to write Spanish was limited (Capellan 188). Gould points out that "[w]ith only the holograph manuscript, one cannot possibly trace the source of Hemingway's apparently faulty command of Spanish in the published text" (75). This view is reinforced by Josephs's comments (Hemingway's Undiscovered Country 159-60) on the poor editorial assistance afforded to For Whom the Bell Tolls at Scribner's.

(11.) The translations differ on this score. While the Spanish and Catalan translations use [Spanish open quote]? and [Spanish open quote]!, the French, Italian, and Portuguese translations use single interrogation and exclamation marks.

(12.) On pidgin languages, see Trudgill and Romaine.

(13.) There is no telling how today's readers react to these forms. I have known otherwise quite literate students who were totally unfamiliar with the thou/thee/thy pronouns and their verb forms.
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Publication:The Hemingway Review
Article Type:Critical Essay
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Date:Sep 22, 2000

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