‘Feminist’ translation of Haddon rejected/Romanübersetzung ins Galizische “zu feministisch”

expatica.com reports that the publisher of the translation into Galician of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime has cancelled the contract with the translator:

María Reimóndez, who translated the story about a 15-year-old with autism for Rinoceronte Editora, says that her employer cancelled her contract because she refused to hand in a sexist translation favouring the use of the masculine gender over the feminine in words where English uses a neutral form.

The publisher, Moisés Barcia, accuses her in turn of systematically changing neutral words for feminine ones, thus introducing a bias into the novel.

The publisher has now translated the book himself and the parties have instructed lawyers. There isn’t enough evidence in the articles I’ve seen to form an opinion.

By the time the Daily Telegraph got the story, the translator had been ‘sacked’ and the case taken to court.

“As we corrected her text, we realised that she was systematically translating neutral words into feminine ones, and masculine words into feminine or neutral forms,” said Moisés Barcia, the editor at Rinoceronte. “She chose to make the narrator’s pet rat a female, even though its name was Toby,” he said. In another instance she changed “men” to “xente”, meaning people.

I’d like to know more about the contract. How many of these divergences really went too far? How much did the author know about the problem when he agreed with the publisher that the translation was unacceptable? Did the publisher really say it had been a breach of contract for the translator to want the translation to appear without her name on it? It sounds as if she might have said, ‘Change these things, but don’t put my name on the translation’.

expatica again:

Reimóndez denies having made such changes and says that cancelling her contract was illegal. Barcia argues that she requested not to have her name appear on the modified translation, and that this constitutes a breach of contract.

Kauderwelsch (a great series of small books that give a summary of the grammar, terminology and cultural background of a huge number of language) Galicisch (Galizische) Wort für Wort

8 thoughts on “‘Feminist’ translation of Haddon rejected/Romanübersetzung ins Galizische “zu feministisch”

  1. I assume this a translation into the Portuguese-Spanish hybrid of Galician as in(DE)Galicien and not East European Galician as in(DE)Galizien.

    The rampant-feminist linguist and translator Prof. Peter Newmark from my Alma Mater used to refer, in his books and talks, to the average translator and interpreter as ‘she’ and ‘her’, claiming that most of the linguistics and translation students he taught were women. I found this irritating, but imagine that it must be just as irksome the other way round, namely for women to be hearing and reading male forms the whole time.

    • I did give some thought to the Galician dualism, but I have never heard of a Galician dialect and thought also that the context would suffice to make it clear to most. I do wonder if the choice of spellings – Galicisch and Galizisch – offered is intended to distinguish.

      What strikes me about this is that it has only been reported in the Telegraph because the idea of feminizing a book seems ridiculous and newsworthy. But we have no idea how far the translator went. OK, if ‘rat’ is masculine in Galician, as it may well be, I see no need to change its sex. But in other cases the translator’s choice may not have been so unusual. On top of that, it does sound as if she offered to have the translation appear without her name and the publisher is trying to get out of paying her. It depends how many changes are necessary, but in German law and I expect in Spain too (EU) she should have the opportunity to make changes. I would be interested to hear how the case is decided.

      But the question of the translator’s contract is not what made it newsworthy for these people!

  2. To save protests from my friends and family hotel-&-catering ex-employees in Vigo etc., Galician or ‘gallego’ is really a ‘discrete’ language and not a dialect. In fact, one or two ITI translators & interpreters offer it as a lingo in its own right.

    The publishers may not be playing fair as the distinction between a rat and mouse in all 3 lingos, namely Galician, Portuguese and Spanish and zoologically hard enough for someone without strong glasses to detect, depends on the gender i.e. masculine is mouse (el rato: Port) and feminine is a rat(la rata: Port) – though the rodent lines become blurred with the masc. el ratao (Port.)= rat. Indeed, a James Cagney-type ‘Dirty Rat’ personified is arguably conveyable in any of those forms in any of the 3 languages.


    • I referred, of course, to the Galician dialect of Polish posited by your first comment, which I claim does not exist, although YMMV.

  3. How interesting. I always try and fight against sexist language and produce gender-neutral translations whenever I can, but never without consulting my client first.

  4. I am the translator in question, if you want to contact me you can send me an e-mail and I will give you all the details. The information you have referred to, which was published in the British press, was not cross-checked and there are plenty of inaccuracies caused by the misinformation spread by the publisher. I can also give you information about the contract. Of course, in Galician, rat is always a feminine noun, independent from the sex of the animal. Therefore there is no sex-change here. Neither in the rest of the text, I just decided not to translate gender-neutral names in English as per the expected patriarchal pattern (usually male). I have taken the publisher to court for the unlawful termination of my contract.

    Galician is a language and has been so since Latin developed into a new form in the North West of Spain. It is the “mother” of Portuguese and they were actually the same language until the 14th century. Please do not refer to my language as a “dialect”, that was a term used during Franco’s dictatorship to “unify” Spain under his fascist regime.

    With regards


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