[lit-ideas] Borges's Gaffe

  • From: jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2008 20:25:24 -0500

I was reading Apollodorus' Bibliotheke and come across a sort of a gaffe in the 
oeuvre of J. L. Borges.

Borges has this short story, "The House of Asterion" (in Penguin, Labrynths), 
which, he claims in the Foreword, he found
inspiration for in 'an oil painting by Watts' --. He fails to say it's a 
representation (Rortian almost) of the minotaur. So far so good, as Borges is 
always _playing_ (ludic).

But then he goes on to quote as epigraph this quote from the Bibliotheke,

          "and she gave birth to Asterios".

-- the Greek reads. Actually, it's accusative 'Asterion'. Frazer's translation 
is the Latinate "Asterius". Modern Italian or Spanish would be "Asterio".

In any case, the translation Borges was working with -- a copy of which I found 
in the National Library of Buenos Aires -- was not Loeb's, but a Spanish one 
that I seem to remember as going,

       "y la reina dio a luz a un hijo, al que llamo Asterión."

As I remember it, it was a bad, soft-cover, cheap Spanish translation of the 
classic, and I wonder if the gaffe could be ascribed to the cheap Spanish 
translator (They say "Platón", and not Plato in Spanish, but the case is not 
analogical, since it _is_ Platon in Greek, if not Latin). 

When the story by Borges was translated into English -- only after the French 
version received the Fomentor prize shared with Samuel Beckett --, the 
translator could have rightened things up by rendering the story as "The House 
of Asterius" (or "Asterion", if you must). Instead, as I recall, it is kept as 
"The House of Asterion". But Asterion is an accusative, never a nominative.

Tough titties, as my Ligurian grandfather would say!


J. L. Speranza
        Translator of "Traitor"

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