May 31, 2010

From "her inwardness is violated" to: she "is like a raped interiority."

Virginia Postrel, noting the "needlessly ugly and opaque the prose" of academics, quotes Francine du Plessix Gray's review of the new translation of Simone de Beauvoir's "Second Sex":
Writing about the aggressive nature of man’s penetration of woman, [earlier translator] Parshley felicitously translates a Beauvoir phrase as “her inwardness is violated.” In contrast, [new translators] Borde and Malovany- Chevallier’s rendering states that woman “is like a raped interiority.” And where Parshley has Beauvoir saying of woman, “It is she who defines herself by dealing with nature on her own account in her emotional life,” the new translators substitute, “It is she who defines herself by reclaiming nature for herself in her affectivity.” In yet another example, man’s approach to woman’s “dangerous magic” is seen this way in Parshley: “He sets her up as the essential, it is he who poses her as such and thus he really acts as the essential in this voluntary alienation.” But in Borde and Malovany-Chevallier, “it is he who posits her, and he who realizes himself thereby as the essential in this alienation he grants.” Throughout, there are truly inexcusable passages in which the translators even lack a proper sense of English syntax: “Moments women consider revelations are those where they discover they are in harmony with a reality based on peace with one’s self.”
You may wonder who will read writing like that, but the book will be assigned in courses... that you'd probably be wise not to take. So the good news is: repellent writing is a good thing. Like evil-tasting poison.

28 comments:

HKatz said...

A contest for bad academic writing:

http://denisdutton.com/bad_writing.htm

The worst do not even function on the level of basic syntax.

rhhardin said...
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traditionalguy said...

Men are the protectors of the women, but if that leads to a raping of her interiority...or some other Man-Crime needing punishment and payment of high reparations, then it is no wonder that many of today's young men avoid today's young women.

rhhardin said...

It's a clumsay way of saying that she plays at distance.

(typo fixed)

Flexo said...

It's all gibberish nonsense no matter how well translated.

shoutingthomas said...

Provides welfare jobs for women with worthless degrees in Angry Studies.

If we can't fire them, we're better off if they just write drivel.

EDH said...

Writing like that gives me an "interiority" complex, as if I'm being penetrated.

Like I said yesterday, those who can eat that shit up at book length (832 pages) are like that girl locked away in a backyard compound of sheds and tarps for 18 years.

Pathetically, at the end of it, they may even come away with a new "favorite author."

Fred4Pres said...

Here is a woman who is a true hero to all men and women who love freedom and self determination, who admired de Beauvoir, getting thrown under the bus by that liberal lion Nick Kristoff. Gadfly? No Nick. Hero.

Powerline gives the rebuttal.

Theo Boehm said...
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Theo Boehm said...
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edutcher said...

inwardness? interiority?

As they used to say in the Company of Miners, Sappers, and Pontoniers, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? What ever happened to the English language?".

Sounds like the daughter of, "It was a dark and stormy night".

And keep in mind, this is the kind of academic environment that produced The Zero.

The Crack Emcee said...

No changing the subject today, sweety - you started it:

"The entire plan to bring Obama into office depended on the glorification of the man, whose actual experience was so bizarrely limited that it took some nerve to claim to be ready. Magic was required. The cult grew up not as he held power and needed to respond to a crisis. The cult was the campaign to bring him into power. It depended on our projecting all sorts of hopes and dreams onto him, and he knew it. Inside, he may have felt embarrassed by the whole enterprise, but he'd figured out that it could work, and he was right."

Ann Althouse*

*And, yes, this is probably why my ex left me.

The Crack Emcee said...

I am demanding rationality.

And honesty.

The Crack Emcee said...

As you once said:

"The trickery is over."

vet66 said...

So what is childbirth to these writers of the purple phrase? Cleansing of the interiority? They certainly spend an inordinate amount of time 'down there' as in the old joke;

Stop! Don't! Stop! Don't stop! Don't Stop!

Their self-flagellating prose gets old quick much like a birch branch in a swedish sauna.

lucid said...
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Kirby Olson said...

P. xxv of the introduction:

"They have no past, no history, no religion of their own; and they have no such solidarity of work and interest as that of the proletariat. They are not even promiscuously herded together in the way that creates community feeling among the American Negroes, the ghetto Jews, the workers of Saint-Denis, or the factory hands of Renault. They live dispersed among the males, attached through residence, housework, economic condition, and social standing to certain men -- fathers or husbands -- more firmly than they are to other owmen. If they belong to the bourgeoisie, they feel solidarity with men of that class, not with proletarian women; if they are white, their allegiance is to white men, not to Negro women. The proletariat can propose to massacre the ruling class, and a sufficiently fanatical Jew or Negro might dream of getting possession of the atomic bomb and making humanity wholly Jewish or black; but women cannot even dream of exterminating the males."

I'm wondering how you could somehow make that passage more palatable. Does the new translation render Negroes as blacks, or as African-Americans, for instance?

According to polls I've read, the black community is split about 50-50 as to which term they prefer.

But also, there have been women who thought about massacring men. There was Valerie Solanas and her SCUM Manifesto, for instance. There was a book in French called Les Guerrillaes, or something, in which women were fighting a war of extermination against men.

Marguerite something, maybe Duras.

I think all these notions that divide the world into one good and one bad, with the implication that one must dream of massacring the other, is probably such a bad start, that it is better not to think of a good and a bad group, but of ways to promote good laws for one's own group, and to hope the others will find decency within their own groups, too.

Too much of academia is already about our group against some other group. The Bosnification of the Humanities was certainly accelerated by this book, but that's almost certainly a horrible thing to have helped along.

Plus, she raped one of her students, and then passed her to Sartre to finish the job.

lucid said...

It is interesting, isn't it, that something that was once important is reduced to ridicule and self-parody as time passes.

Beauvoir now seems sort of like muttonchop sideburns.

William said...

Terror was not a by product of the French Revolution; it was the purpose. In a similar way, opaque prose is not a by product of academic studies but the very purpose. The trick is to express such a level of abstraction that your flight from reality looks like an ideal instead of an evasion. Very few of us get to spend years contemplating our indwardness, much less taking offense at its violation, and still less finding the most elegant way of expressing anger at that violation.

jamboree said...

My problem were the profs who weren't using translators who spoke like this - my greater problem is that it seemed some of their minds actually worked that way.

Sofa King said...

This never gets old:

http://rubberducky.org/cgi-bin/chomsky.pl

韋于倫成 said...

三更燈火五更雞,正是男兒讀書時 ..................................................

Fred4Pres said...

Sofa King

The Chomsky Bot.

wild chicken said...

I read that on my own three times after I left college. It's fascinating stuff whether you agree with Beauvior on everything or not. She was pretty harsh on both sexes to the point that she should probably be repudiated by radical feminists (if she hasn't been already; I don't keep up with that). As Parshley wrote, much of it was peculiar to French culture, not American.

Kirby Olson said...

I actually got the book off my shelf where it sits mostly unread: A Disgraceful Affair: Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, & Bianca Lamblin (Northeastern UP, 1993), trans. Julie Plovnick.

The Sartre-De Beauvoir couple sound a lot like the Clintons translated into a French idiom:

"I realize now that I was a victim of Sartre's womanizing and of the ambivalent and dubious way the Beaver defended his bheavior. I had entered a world of complex relationships that led to pitiful imbroglios, pathetic plotting, and constant lying in which Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre cautiously avoided getting caught. I discovered that Simone de Beauvoir would select ripe young flesh from among her female students and have a taste herself before palming them off, or should I say more vulgarly, thrusting them upon Sartre. In any case, such is the pattern that can explain Olga Kosakievicz's story, as well as my own. Their perversity was carefully concealed beneath Sartre's meek and mild exterior and the Beaver's serious and austere appearance. In fact, they were acting out a commonplace version of Dangerous Liaisons" (6).

Lamblin was a 17-year old Jewish girl when the affair took place, and she imagines that she is part of a serious threesome, and is astonished when she is thrown out into Nazi-occupied Paris the following year, with no place to turn.

Lamblin writes that she was treated as an OBJECT by the couple, but in telling her story, she wanted to become a SUBJECT.

It's hilarious how throughout the book she turns the creepy existentialist duo's terminology on them (Lamblin ended up as a philosophy professor, so she knew how to do it).

As for Theo's suggestion that everyone should read the book in French, I agree, but you can't expect anyone from the victim studies groups to actually bother to read another language. They are joked about as monoglot multiculturals for a reason.

We were supposed to learn to read and speak another language as part of the Ph.D. in English, but almost no one did. I think less than five percent managed it.

I don't know how the others got away with it, but I suspect many of the dissertation advisors wanted good copies of themselves, which of course precluded knowing other languages, too.

I was fortunate to have a dissertation advisor who could read several languages.

But if you can't read French, or can't afford French books (why are they so expensive?) this translation of A Disgraceful Affair is quite good fun. Lamblin even talks about Sartre's lack of technique when it came to love-making. He was a sixty-second man, and totally self-involved.

Chip Ahoy said...

It's funny that you mention this because I too have trouble with odd translations. I just came across a one intended to illustrate emphasized adjectives that has me hopelessly confounded. So much so, I'm afraid the example is useless.

The phrase is translated: "as for a heart (which is) brave in evil case, it is the equal of its lord."

I can't even make sense of that in English.

The glyphs say literally: "So, heart brave in seat, irksome, two (somethings) person, this, in lord its (or his). So how one arrives at that translation is completely beyond me.

I hope to never see the likes of this again because it makes me feel so stuuuuuw-pid.

But speaking of stupid, a later phrase is "nobody has a heart." The glyphs say exactly that. The heart was considered the seat of intelligence not of emotion. The brain was thought to be useless gunk. so to say this is to condemn a whole group as having no sense among them. If the phrase is translated literally, and it is, then it conveys a lack of sympathy not a lack of intelligence, which was undoubtedly the intention. Plus it's funny.

Bob Ellison said...

The plasticity of comments in this thread was high to begin with but has hardened to diamond rigidity, and with that rigidity comes brittleness. To so mangle the primary subject-- translation from French to English-- as to create a platform for such brittleness is to rob a beautiful language of the suppleness of its [admittedly tendentiously verbose] geplanktfreundenischerkeit.

Shame on you all.

Skyler said...

The question would be, which is truer to the original French? If she babbled incoherently in French, it would be improper to make her sound coherent in English.