Saturday, February 13, 2010

The New English Translation of THE SECOND SEX

More than half a century too late, we finally have a complete English translation of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. That's the good news. (It has been common knowledge for years that the original American publishers, not translator H.M. Parshley, cut about 10-15% of the French text from the classic English-language edition.) The bad news is that the new translation, according to Toril Moi in the current London Review of Books, is a botch job. Moi points out howling errors and major misunderstandings, but the most damning evidence against the translators consists of quotes from the new English text. It appears to be very badly written, a grave disservice both to the book and Beauvoir. English readers deserve better; Beauvoir deserves better; feminism and existentialism deserve better. I don't blame the new translators (too much); I blame the publishers who could have chosen an experienced translator like Richard Howard, Lydia Davis, or any of the writers Moi mentions. This is a big disappointment. I was looking forward to finally reading a complete English edition, but now I'm not going to waste my money on this unreadable piece of junk. I guess I'll pick up a French edition the next time I'm in Paris. That's the only way I'll ever get the complete text.

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