Legal Battles over Translations

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Jonathan Basile 2 years, 11 months ago.

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    Jonathan Basile

    When I began this project I noticed some very strange things about the translations of Borges by Andrew Hurley, which are the most widely available English translations. Beyond the strange liberties he takes, which disrupt the voice and tone of Borges’ original texts, simple mistakes abound. For example, in his version of “The Library of Babel” each shelf has 35 books instead of the 32 Borges specified, and book titles appear on the front cover, instead of the spines. One would at least expect a translator to know his numbers.

    I’ve since learned that these translations were commissioned by Borges’ widow Kodama after his death in order for her to obtain more profit from his work. The situation is all the more tragic in that Borges spent over a decade toward the end of his life collaborating with Norman Thomas di Giovanni to create authoritative English translations of his works. The new translations, when they are not plagiarizing di Giovanni, are widely considered to be inferior to his work, and this obviously represents a violation of Borges’ wishes for his literary estate.

    From the link above you can download the English translations which Borges co-authored with his collaborator. Unfortunately, because di Giovanni was never able to secure the rights to Ficciones, some of Borges’ best work is only available in Hurley’s translation. But much of his fiction and poetry is collected here, as well as some of his non-fiction. Enjoy.

    You can also read di Giovannni’s account of his work with Borges and legal battles with Kodama and Viking-Penguin here:

    #987 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    I also came across this recently, which due to the legal situation (I’m assuming) is somewhat hidden on his site:

    His translation of “The Library of Babel”

    #1001 Reply


    Here’s an idea – when you release the All-Books Library, you should post, without explanation, the hexagon names of hexagons containing books containing the legally-sketchy di Giovanni translations of Borges’s stories. Perhaps without wall, shelf and volume locations.

    #6307 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    I also came across more of his unpublished translations on the wayback machine, and put together this edition of The Garden of Branching Paths that he was legally barred from publishing: – it was Borges’ first book of short stories and contains “The Library of Babel.”

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