Sunday, August 22, 2004

A Problematic Translation

The New York Times Book Review has an excellent article about Simone de Beavoir and her book The Second Sex. Apparently the English translation of this book is horribly mangled to the point of cutting out about 145 pages. The American translator was not fluent in French, had no philosophy training and knew nothing about Existentialism. There is much interest from scholars for a new translation, but Knopf, who owns exclusive rights to the English translation, refuses to commission a new one claiming that there is not enough interest. Currently 12,000 copies of Knopf's Vintage paperback are sold each year and about 1, 000 hardcovers. Not enough interest? I'd buy one for sure. And all those scholars out there would too and they'd have all their students buy the new edition as well. I think important books like this should not be held hostage. If Knopf doesn't want to publish a new translation, that's fine. But they should then sell the rights to another publisher who will. Knopf's rights don't expire until 2056. I hope we don't have to wait that long. I feel a letter to Knopf might be in order. If you are interested in sending a letter too, here is their contact information.