Not So True, Not So Simple: The Spanish Translations of The Sun Also Rises.
The Hemingway Review - March 22, 2004
Gabriel Rodríguez-Pazos


Analysis of the four Spanish translations of The Sun Also Rises published to date reveals the difficulties faced by translators when dealing with the works of Ernest Hemingway. The target texts show different types of deficiencies: 1) elisions, slips, and errors at the level of decoding, 2) mistranslations that result from differences in the cultural contexts, 3) mismatches in the knowledge of the external field of reference, and, most importantly, 4) defective rendering of Hemingway's unique style. As a consequence, the Spanish versions of Sun fail to convey the strengths of the original--its truth and simplicity.


HEMINGWAY SCHOLARS HAVE PAID LITTLE ATTENTION SO far to the rendering of his works into other languages. (1) However, outside the English-speaking world most readers access--or, rather, do not access--the genius of Ernest Hemingway through the often obscure filter of poor translations. (2) Thus, in the country that Hemingway loved more than any other except his own, the image that has prevailed amongst the general public is that of the snobbish American aficionado, drunk, and braggart, (3) rather than of the writer who changed literature and influenced generations of writers after him. (4)

In the present article I will analyze some selected instances of how the four existing Spanish translations of The Sun Also Rises fail to convey the strength of the original; at the same time, the reader will get an idea of the main difficulties faced by translators dealing with the texts of Hemingway. (5) I have distinguished four groups of mistranslations: 1) elisions, slips, and errors at the level of decoding, 2) mistranslations resulting from cultural differences between Hemingway's context and the context of the readers of the translation, 3) mistranslations resulting from mismatches in knowledge of the external field of reference, and 4) deficiencies in the rendering of style, the main problem posed by Hemingway's texts to his translators and one which puts their condition as artists to the test. (6)

The foundation stones of Hemingway's writing are truth and simplicity. The writer has to write about things he has experienced and tell them in the simplest way possible. Hemingway's main concern was to create a new type of narrative whose language was as transparent and free from previous conventional patterns as possible. He strove to reduce the mediating position of the text to a minimum, and to make the reader feel "a naive contact with the world" (Doody 103). Beatriz Peñas-Ibáñez describes Hemingway's texts as "representations which strive to minimize the visibility of language and thus seek to eliminate the mediating distance which separates the representation from the represented. They seek a literary truth in a linguistic illusion" (Peñas-Ibáñez, "Very Sad," n.pag.)

The failure to understand the radical importance of Hemingway's quest for a transparent language--the creation of literary truth through a linguistic illusion--is at the core of the exiguous quality of the Spanish translations of The Sun Also Rises. Once the translator becomes aware of the aim of Hemingway's simplicity of style, the transparency of his language should facilitate the task of the translator. Except for those cases of reproduction of oral speech, where the use of slang and colloquialisms might pose serious difficulties to the translator, the lexical items used by Hemingway are usually very common and, therefore, easily translatable. Yet paradoxically, the analysis of the four target texts shows that the tendency of the translators has been to complicate the simplicity of Hemingway's language, to obscure its transparency.

As Douglas LaPrade tells us, "[n]o work of Hemingway's was published in Spain in Spanish until 1946" (LaPrade, "Reception" 43). The Torrents of Spring was the first work by Hemingway to be published in Spain (1937) but it was a Catalan translation. However, "[i]t is true that The Sun Also Rises was published in Spanish in Argentina in 1944, and that Latin American editions of other Hemingway books, including For Whom the Bell Tolls, often have circulated in Spain before being brought out by a Spanish publisher (LaPrade "Reception," 43).

The first works of Hemingway published in Spain in Spanish were The Torrents of Spring and the short story "The Undefeated" (translated as "El torero"). The novel and the short story appeared in a single volume entitled Torrentes de primavera, translated by Enrique Romero and published by Albón in Barcelona in 1946 (LaPrade, "La censura" 155).

The Sun Also Rises was the next work by Hemingway with a Spanish translation--Fiesta (7)--published in Spain. The translation--published in Barcelona by José Janes in July 1948--was one by José Mora Guarnido and John E. Hausner, originally published in Buenos Aires by Santiago Rueda in 1944. There were several subsequent editions of this translation.

In 1979, a "new" translation by Maya Ramos Smith was published by Promexa in México D.F. The title belonged to an Argentinean edition of Guarnido-Hauner's translation that had appeared in 1958: Ahora brilla el sol (8) (LaPrade "La censura," 148). This translation is actually a plagiarism of Guarnido-Hausner's text. The only significant contribution of this "translation" is the inclusion of a Spanish version of the epigraph quoting Ecclesiastes. (9) Curiously, the expression "ahora brilla el sol" does not appear in the quotation; instead, "the sun also ariseth" is translated as "levántase el sol"--both translations miss the idea of relentless natural cycles present in the original adverb "also."

Volumes of selected works by Hemingway started to be published in Spain in 1969 and a new Spanish translation--by M. Sola--was included in one of those volumes in 1979. In 1983 Joaquin Adsuar's translation was published in Barcelona by Bruguera and subsequently, by Planeta in 1984, 1988, 1990, and 1993. A new edition of this translation, revised by José Hamad, was published by Editorial Debate in April 2003. Hamad adds little to Adsuar's text; many of the passages where there were clear problems of decoding remain untouched, and the revision has not addressed stylistic deficiencies.

The last Spanish translation of The Sun Also Rises was brought out in Pamplona by local newspaper Diario de Navarra just before the Sanfermines of 2002. The book--a limited edition--is part of a collection called "Biblioteca básica navarra," which Fundación Diario de Navarra launched on the occasion of the newspaper's centennial. The translation was made by Miguel Martinez-Lage, entitled Fiesta [También sale el sol], and, for the first time, Gertrude Stein's remark was included as an epigraph, along with the quotation from Ecclesiastes.

All of the Spanish translations of The Sun Also Rises contain a number of elisions and instances that show a clear misunderstanding of the source text. An exhaustive listing goes far beyond the purpose of the present article; moreover, this type of mistake has a minor impact on the target texts in comparison with failure to perceive the essential role of stylistic features. The fact that Adsuar's posada is dusty ("mucho polvo" [124]) instead of "dusky" (SAR 101), or that his bull stands firmly ("se mantenía firme sobre sus piernas rígidas" [254]) when, in fact, the bull's legs are "settling" (SAR 197), has little influence on the overall impression the reader gets from the novel. However, failure to convey the irony or the simplicity of Hemingway's original text results in a translation that has little to do with what the American writer strove for.

Connected with these kinds of semantic errors, we can distinguish a second group of mistranslations due to cultural mismatches between the original context of the author and the context of the target readership. Whereas mistakes at a purely semantic level are easily avoidable, in the case of cultural differences, sometimes the only way to bridge the gap completely is by means of footnotes. Nevertheless, even American readers of the original may experience cultural mismatches. Some references familiar to Hemingway's contemporaries in 1926 might not be part of the context of 21st century readers of The Sun Also Rises, as is the case in the following passage: "'They thought we were snappers, all right; the man said. 'It certainly shows you the power of the Catholic Church'" (SAR 84). (10)

The colloquial expression "snappers," once used to refer to Roman Catholics, is very dated. Besides, the expression is not complete in the text; it is actually "mackerel snappers": (11) "Hubert's father refers to Catholics as "snappers" (... i.e., mackerel snappers, because Catholics ate fish on Fridays, formerly a meatless day)" (Mandel 102).

Adsuar: Sin duda pensaron que éramos de los suyos ... (103)

Guarnido-Hausner: Pensaron que éramos ladrones ... (76)

Sola: Pensaron que éramos unos frescos, señores ... (83)

Martínez-Lage: Se pensaron que éramos unos descarados, desde luego ... (111)

The target texts reflect that the translators did not have this information. None of the Spanish terms they use correspond to meanings of the original "snapper." Translators have to figure out the sense of the term by looking at the text where it occurs. This is what Adsuar has done. The text makes it obvious--even if you do not know the meaning of the word "snapper"--that the waiters have mistaken Hubert's family for Catholic pilgrims, and that is why they have been served their lunch without having to wait. (12) The logical interpretation then is that the term "snappers" refers to Catholics and that it is slang--given the context and the fact that it does not appear with this meaning in ordinary dictionaries.

Although Adsuar's interpretation of the original is correct, he fails to reproduce the informal, derogatory quality of "snappers." This is an important characteristic of the term that must be taken into account by the translator, especially in the context of a conversation critical of Roman Catholics. (13)

A third group of mistranslations is the consequence of mismatches in knowledge of the external field of reference. In some cases the mistranslation results from lack of knowledge of the reality Hemingway is talking about; but, more often, the translator's preconceptions produce a misinterpretation and a consequent mistranslation. The Sun Also Rises reveals the good knowledge Hemingway had of Pamplona. (14) An equally sound knowledge of the external field of reference would undoubtedly have helped the translators in their task, but the main difficulty here is one of achieving correspondence between the terms of both texts. For example, the translation of the noun "fort" as in: "Up on the top of the mountain we saw the lights of the fort" (SAR 166).

Adsuar: En su cumbre [la de la montaña] vimos las luces del castillo (214)

Guarnido-Hausner: Sobre la cumbre de la montaña se veían las luces del fuerte (153)

Sola: [E]n la cumbre [se veían] las luces de la fortaleza (171)

Martínez-Lage: En la cima vimos las luces de la fortificación militar (205)

Each translator gives a different translation of "fort." (15) But the Spanish equivalent of "fort" is "fuerte," the solution given by Guarnido-Hausner. In fact, Hemingway is referring to the Fuerte de San Cristóbal, a military fort on top of the Monte San Cristóbal, opposite Pamplona. He almost certainly used the term "fort" because he had heard the people in Pamplona call the San Cristóbal fort "fuerte." Hemingway had been to the Pamplona Sanfermines four times before the novel was published and he was a consummate observer, particularly gifted for capturing the expressions and tone people used in conversation, as his dialogues clearly show.

Adsuar, who translates "fort" as "castillo" must have brought to bear his own experience, so typical of Spain, of castles on the tops of mountains, as well as an assumption that a foreigner might have mistaken a castle for a fort. But in other passages of the novel, when Jake sees a castle--and these castles are, as always with Hemingway, identifiable--he calls it a castle: "and off on the left was a hill with an old castle" (SAR 90), "[o]ff on the right, almost dosing the harbour, was a green hill with a castle" (SAR 214).

Sola opts for a synonym, "fortaleza," that misses the fact that local people called--and still call--the actual fortification that the characters see "fuerte." This is a case where lack of knowledge of the external field of reference prevents the translator from realizing the relevance of a literal rendering. Martínez-Lage, in spite of having lived in Pamplona since his childhood, does not consider the literal rendering relevant and gives an explanation--"fortificación militar"--instead of using the equivalent "fuerte."

"The Inevitable Consideration of Hemingway's Style" is the felicitous title given by Linda Wagner-Martin to the second part of her edited book Ernest Hemingway: Seven Decades of Criticism. Similarly, after having considered different types of mistranslation at the semantic level, we come now to the "inevitable consideration" of what in my view constitutes the most significant drawback of the Spanish translations of The Sun Also Rises published to date--the failure to preserve Hemingway's unique style.

The explication of terms and expressions is only justifiable insofar as the interpretation pointed to by the source text could not be inferred in the target text. So long as there is a possibility of rendering the original into a translation with a similar breadth of interpretation, there is no need to explain elements unexplained in the source text. Moreover, the poetic effects associated with simplicity of style would be lost.

The following instance illustrates this point: "[The dam] was built to provide a head of water for driving logs" (SAR 112).

Adsuar: la presa, cuyo objeto era contener y regular el agua con el fin de que tuviera fuerza suficiente para arrastrar los troncos durante la época de la tala (139)

Guarnido-Hausner: la presa, construida para proveer agua que arrastrase troncos por el río (102)

Sola: la presa, construida con la finalidad de dar al agua la presión suficiente para arrastrar troncos (112)

Martínez-Lage: la presa. Su función era la de servir de agua motriz de los troncos que bajasen por el río después de la tala (141)

The translator's concern for clarity probably underlies his decision to explain things when an equivalent utterance in Spanish, with a similar semantic value, would have been possible. Adsuar translates "to provide a head of water for driving logs" (nine words) into "cuyo objeto era contener y regular el agua con el fin de que tuviera fuerza suficiente para arrastrar los troncos durante la época de la tala" (twenty-six words; literally, "whose object was to contain and regulate the water in order for it to have enough strength to drive logs during the period of felling"). In my opinion, Sola's is the best solution here because he uses the most suitable Spanish equivalent of the term "head" (16) in this context, which is "presión."

Both Guarnido-Hausner and Martínez-Lage redundantly make explicit something that is obvious and implicit in the source text: "por el río." In like manner, Adsuar and Martínez-Lage specify the origin of the logs: "durante la época de la tala"/"después de la tala." Why make explicit what is implicit when the inference does not require specific, culture-bound assumptions? In this case, the source text reader and the target reader are in a similar position and, therefore, respecting the original would have resulted in a translation with the same breadth of interpretation.

Economy and simplicity define Hemingway's ideal in his effort to get the words right. The American writer always tried to avoid superfluous words and, given the choice, normally opted for the item that was more common and more easily understandable. As a consequence, repetition is a common trait in Hemingway's narrative because the writer's goal was not interior decoration but architecture (DIA 191), a language that is highly denotative--simple terms with clear meanings--and allows a wide scope for the reader's involvement. If the translator fails to perceive and render this essential characteristic of Hemingway's writing, then the translated text will be anything but Hemingway.

The following instance shows how simply Hemingway identifies the different characters in the dialogues and the way translators try to add variety to the text:

Hemingway uses just two different reporting verbs ("ask" and "say"); Adsuar uses thirteen. Only Martínez-Lage achieves complete resemblance in the transference of these verbs, by using the equivalents "decir" and "preguntar." The use of different verbs where the source text uses only two is not just a stylistic question; it is also a question of interpretation The new verbs are not just synonyms of "decir" and "preguntar"; they add nuances that presuppose an interpretation of the context by the translator. This is another instance of making explicit what is implicit.

Terrence Doody refers to another type of repetition--polysyndeton--which in his view has a "democratizing effect" upon sensations and impressions, and "in giving them all their equality ... preserves the primitive fullness and immediacy that is the hallmark of Hemingway's prose" (Doody 105). Doody analyzes Hemingway's polysyndeton within the overall narrative structure of The Sun Also Rises, and more specifically with respect to the voice of the first person narrator, Jake:

   There was a crowd of kids watching the car, and the square was
hot, and the trees were green, and the flags hung on their staffs,
and it was good to get out of the sun and under the shade of the
arcade that runs all the way around the square. Montoya was
glad to see us, and shook hands and gave us good rooms looking
out on the square, and then we washed and cleaned up and went
down-stairs in the dining-room for lunch (SAR 90)

Doody interprets the polysyndeton of the passage this way: "To the arrival scene in Pamplona, however, these same and's are spoken in a more active voice that imparts a rush of enthusiasm to Jake's happy first impressions" (105).

The ten and's of the source text become four in Adsuar's target text, five in Guarnido-Hausner, three in Sola, and six in Martínez-Lage. To interpret the accumulation of the coordinating conjunction and in this case as conveying Jake's enthusiasm is certainly debatable, as are other interpretations of the effects of polysyndeton in other passages. Very probably, not all critics would agree on a single interpretation of such a technique. Nevertheless, if the number of conjunctions is significantly reduced, as in the Spanish renderings under study, not even the possibility of debate would remain; in other words, the breadth of interpretation of the source text has disappeared in the translations. It could be argued that in Spanish this type of polysyndeton turns out very odd and should be avoided, but the fact is that it is odd in English too. Hemingway's is a modernist text in which the author exploits "the power to conceive new rules so as to increase the semiotic force of the literary work" (Peñas-Ibáñez, "Between Melancholia" 641). This is an essential aspect of The Sun Also Rises overlooked by the translators and consequently only faintly reflected in the Spanish target texts.

Hemingway said that his secret was to write poetry into prose (qtd. in Phillips 4). The rhythm of the prose plays a fundamental role in the reader's perception of the text and is, therefore, a stylistic element that must be taken into account by the translator, but is very often neglected. I want to look now at one particular instance in which the rhythm of the prose clearly aims at reproducing the rhythm of the music and the dancing it describes: "The fiesta was really started. It kept up day and night for seven days. The dancing kept up, the drinking kept up, the noise went on" (SAR 142).

Adsuar: La fiesta había comenzado de verdad, e iba a durar así, día y noche, a lo largo de toda una semana. Se seguiría bebiendo, bailando, haciendo ruido (180)

Guarnido-Hausner: La fiesta había empezado de verdad. Siguió día y noche durante siete días. Continuó el baile, el beber y el ruido (129-130)

Sola: La fiesta había empezado de veras, y durante siete días no paró, ni de día ni de noche. No se paraba de bailar, ni de beber, el barullo era constante (144)

Martínez-Lage:  La fiesta había empezado en serio. Duraría a partir de entonces, día y noche, siete días seguidos. Continuaron los bailes, continuó el ruido (177)

In the original text, the rhythmical distribution of stressed and unstressed syllables is facilitated by the predominance of monosyllabic words (in the second and third sentences, eighteen words out of a total twenty-one are monosyllabic); by the repetition--three times--of the same syntactic scheme (the + noun + verb + preposition); and by the repetition--three times--of the same phrasal verb ("keep up"), which serves as a nexus between the second and third sentences. The translators have not attempted repetition at the syntactic level nor at the lexical level and, consequently, the regular rhythmical pattern of the original has disappeared and, with it, the accompanying poetic effects. The last two sentences of the passage could be metrically analysed as follows: (18)

It--kept--up day--and--night for--se / ven--days.

The--dan--cing / kept--up, the--drin--king / kept--up, the--noise /went--on.

Although monosyllabic words are not so common in Spanish as they are in English, a certain rhythmical regularity can always be achieved in Spanish so that the language symbolizes the music and dancing of the referent: Due to the normal intonation pattern of English, most of the poetic production in this language since the 14th century has used accentual-syllabic meter; by contrast, poetry in Spanish has normally followed a pattern more syllabic than accentual, and the unit has been the verse--with the stresses falling onto fixed positions--rather than the foot (Quilis 21-36). I propose a solution which relies more on regularity in the number of syllables than on the accentual patterns: "La fiesta había empezado de verdad. Y así siguio día y noche, siete días, sin parar. Se siguió bailando, se siguió bebiendo y el ruido continuó."

The second and third sentences could be metrically analysed as follows:

Ya--si / si--guió dí--ay / no--che, sie--te / dí--as sin--pa / rar.

Se--si--guió / bai--lan--do, se--si--guió / be--bien--do yel rui--do / con--ti--nu--ó

This rendering reproduces a certain rhythmical regularity, and preserves the lexical repetition of "kept up" ("siguió") and the syntactic repetition of the third sentence.

Finally, let us look at the translation of an essential element of Hemingway's narrative: irony. "Playing with the multiple meanings inherent in words is a pervasive feature of Hemingway's writing" (Hinkle 107). Translators need to be able to perceive the extent to which the writer plays with these different meanings in order to transfer the humor of the source text to the target text.

In the passage below "Jake suggests the crowded condition of hell when he is talking with Cohn about going to South America" (Hinkle 114).

   "Well, why don't you start off?"


"Well," I said, "take her with you."

"She wouldn't like it. That isn't the sort of thing she likes. She
likes a lot of people around."

"Tell her to go to hell." (SAR 41)

Adsuar: …Siempre quiere estar rodeada de conocidos.

--Mándala al díablo (49)

Guarnido-Hausner: ... Le agrada tener mucha gente alrededor suyo.

--Dile que se vaya al díablo (34)

Sola: ... Le gusta tener un montón de gente a su alrededor.

--Dile que se vaya al cuerno (39)

Martínez-Lage: ... lo que ella necesita es tener gente alrededor.

--Pues dile que se vaya al infierno (61)

The text here plays with the two possible meanings of the expression "go to hell." On the one hand, an ironic literal interpretation, to go physically to the place we call "hell," where Frances will find a lot of people, which is what she likes. On the other hand, the usual interpretation of the interjection "go to hell," meaning something like "be damned." The expressions used by the first three translators ("vete al díablo", "vete al cuerno") are equivalent to the English "go to hell." However, the literal interpretation--"go to a place which is supposed to be crowded"--is not possible with these Spanish expressions. By contrast, Martínez-Lage has opted for a literal rendering that is possible in Spanish (19) and preserves the verbal irony of the source text.

In Brett Ashley we have a prototypical example of structural irony, constructed throughout the narrative by different linguistic devices that become especially relevant due to Brett's pivotal role. One of Hemingway's greatest achievements is his masterly management of dialogue, unfolding the personalities of his characters before the reader's eyes in a far more vivid way than any psychological introspection could do. Dialogue in The Sun Also Rises shows that one of Brett's most apparent characteristics is the demanding nature of her style, reflected linguistically by the use of imperatives. The imperatives of the source text are normally translated as imperatives in the target texts, but this does not necessarily mean that the translator has perceived the relevance of Brett's commanding way of address. For example, when the original reads "You two run along to the fight...." (SAR 78), Adsuar transforms the command into a piece of advice: "Vosotros dos podéis iros a ver la pelea--nos aconsejó Brett" (Adsuar 94) (literally, "You two can go and see the fight--Brett recommended us").

More revealing of this lack of perception is an inconsistency in the translation of certain terms that Brett repeats again and again. Brett's use of certain words in a polysemic way is even pointed out by the narrator: "What a lot of bilge I could think up at night. What rot! I could hear Brett say it. What rot! ... The English talked with inflected phrases. One phrase to mean everything" (SAR 137).

The translators did not understand the last two sentences of the passage:

Adsuar: Los ingleses hablan con frases que tienen distintas inflexiones. Una frase puede significar cualquier cosa, todo lo que se quiera según la inflexión o el tono de voz con que se pronuncie (173) (20)

Guarnido-Hausner: Los ingleses hablan con frases afectadas. Una frase para significarlo todo (126)

Sola: Los ingleses declinaban las frases; una misma frase podía significar cualquier cosa (140)

Martínez-Lage: Los ingleses hablan en función de la entonación. Usan una misma frase para decir prácticamente todo (171)

The Spanish equivalent of "phrase" is not "frase"; normally, the Spanish "frase" is equivalent to the English "sentence," and the English "phrase" is a grammatical term equivalent to the Spanish "sintagma." In the context of the passage we are considering here, the best equivalent of "phrase" would be the generic "expresión" because Jake is thinking of expressions--not necessarily sentences--such as "what rot!" and "rotten," which Brett uses constantly and in a polysemic way ("to mean everything").

Only Sola seems to have understood what the text ironically refers to with the adjective "inflected" from "inflection." (21) Adsuar and Martínez-Lage have interpreted "inflection" as "[c]hange of intonation of the voice" (Simpson and Weiner 1363), but the context confirms that Sola's is the correct reading: (22) "The English spoken language--the upper classes, anyway--must have fewer words than the Eskimo" (SAR 137). Obviously, if a language is made up of inflected phrases, "one phrase to mean everything" very few words are needed. Guarnido-Hausner's translation--"afectadas"--does not correspond to any of the meanings of "inflected" or "inflection" (see OED 1363), and their target text is unintelligible because there is no connection between "frases, afectadas" and "una frase para significarlo todo"; whereas in the original it is clear that "one phrase to mean everything" explains "inflected phrases."

The renderings of the following passage show very clearly that the repetition of expressions such as "what rot!" is not considered relevant by the translators:

   "Where the hell have you been?" I asked.

"I brought them up here," Cohn said.

"What rot!," Brett said. "We'd have gotten here earlier if you
hadn't come."

"You'd never have gotten here."

"What rot! You Chaps are brown. Look at Bill."

"Did you get good fishing?" Mike asked. "We wanted to join

"It wasn't bad. We missed you."

"I wanted to come," Cohn said, "but I thought I ought to bring

"You bring us. What rot." (SAR 125)

Adsuar (156) Guarnido-Haus Sola 125-126 Martínez-Lage
113-114 156

!Qué tontería! !Qué porquería! !Vaya una sandez! !Qué chapuza!
!Qué tontería! !Qué porquería! !Menuda tontería! !Qué estupidez!
!Vaya tontería! !Qué idiotez! !Vaya una trola! !Pero qué trola!

None of the translators maintains the exact lexical repetition in the three cases, although Adsuar is very near it. Besides, if we read a few pages further on ("What rot! I could hear Brett say it. What rot!" [SAR 137]), the translators inconsistently use terms different from those used in the previous passage:

Adsuar 173        Guarnido-Hausner 125     Sola 139     Martínez-Lage

!Qué porquería! !Qué de porquerías ... !Qué asco! !Qué asco!
!Qué porquería! !Qué podredumbre! !Qué asco! !Qué asco!

Not having understood the source text, the translators do not realize the importance of repeating the same expression. What we have here is, therefore, a combination of a problem of decoding (the translators did not understand the original) and a contextual mismatch (they did not notice that Jake is echoing Brett's speech of a few pages before). The result is that one essential element in the construction of Brett Ashley is not accurately reflected in the target texts: her characteristic way of speaking.

The quality of the translations of the works of Ernest Hemingway must not be taken for granted. In this article I have presented just the tip of the iceberg, and only in one novel. Unfortunately, what I have pointed out here can be applied, to a greater or lesser extent, to the translations into Spanish--a language spoken by some 400 million people--of other works written by Ernest Hemingway. The reception in the Spanish-speaking world of the most influential American writer of the 20th century will depend upon the quality of future translations. At present, we still can describe Spanish translations of Hemingway's works by paraphrasing Bill: "Not so good, Jake. Not so good" (SAR 70). Not so true, not so simple.

THE SUN ALSO RISES  Adsuar         Guarnido-Hausner  Sola
(40-43) (47-51) (33-36) (38-41)

asked Krum preguntó Krum preguntó Krum preguntó Krum
said Krum dijo Krum dijo Krum dijo Krum
Woolsey asked preguntó preguntó preguntó
said Krum dijo Krum dijo Krum respondió
Woolsey said se lamentó dijo Woolsey dijo Woolsey
said Krum exclamó Krum comentó Krum dijo Krum
I said les dije dije dije
Krum said me respondió dijo Krum dijo Krum
he said protestó dijo dijo
he said me saludó dijo dijo
I asked le pregunté pregunté pregunté
I said le dije propuse dije
I said le expliqué dije dije
Cohn said insistió Cohn dijo Cohn dijo Cohn
I said le corté dije dije
I said le respondí afirmé respondí
I said le dije dije repuse
I said repliqué dije
I said le ordené dije dije
I said to apacigüé dije dije
Cohn said asintió Cohn dijo respondió
I said dije confirmé anadí
2 verbs 13 verbs 7 verbs 5 verbs

(40-43) (60-63)

asked Krum preguntó Krum
said Krum dijo Krum
Woolsey asked preguntó
said Krum dijo Krum
Woolsey said dijo Woolsey
said Krum dijo Krum
I said dije
Krum said dijo Krum
he said dijo insistí
he said dijo
I asked
I said le dije
I said dije
Cohn said dijo Cohn
I said dije
I said dije
I said le dije
I said
I said le dije
I said le dije
Cohn said dijo Cohn
I said dije
2 verbs 2 verbs


I wish to thank the Asociación de amigos de la Universidad de Navarra for funding that made research for this article possible. I would also like to thank the anonymous referees for their helpful comments.


(1.) An exception is Milton Azevedo's "Shadows of a Literary Dialect," which analyzes strategies followed by the Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish translations of For Whom the Bell Tolls to render the peculiar literary díalect used by characters in the novel.

(2.) In a review of two new editions of old Spanish translations of The Sun Also Rises and The Old Man and the Sea, Spanish writer José María Guelbenzu wrote that in Spain Hemingway has not been very lucky with the translation of his works and that we could say that the Spanish reader has not read Hemingway yet ("En España, Hemingway no ha tenido mucha suerte [con la traducción de sus obras] ... Es más, podríamos decir que el lector español todavía no ha leído a Hemingway" [Guelbenzu 16]).

(3.) Spanish best-selling writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte published an article--on the occasion of the Hemingway centennial celebrations--which synthesizes the image quite a number of people in Spain have of the American novelist. In the outrageous language that characterizes his articles, Pérez-Reverte starts by saying that he does not give a damn about Hemingway ("Hemingway me importa un carajo") and then goes on to state that with the passing of time he has come to hate Hemingway and his pathological continuous assertion of virility, that Hemingway knew nothing about bullfighting ("Hemingway de toros no tenía ni puta idea"), etc. He concludes by strongly criticizing Hemingway's coming to the Spanish Civil War. Significantly enough, the only work by Hemingway ("un libro de Hemingway, uno solo") that Pérez-Reverte considers worth reading is París era una fiesta, a translation of the posthumous A Moveable Feast by the Spanish poet Gabriel Ferrater (1922-1972) and published in 1964. See Pérez-Reverte 5.

(4.) In an article published by newspaper ABC on Hemingway's centennial, there was a section entitled "España olvida a Don Ernesto" (Spain forgets Don Ernesto). The journalist reported that very few activities had been organized in Spain to commemorate the centenary of Hemingway's birth and that none of the so-called summer universities was going to deal with the work of the American writer (Armada 43).

(5.) The theoretical standpoint behind my analysis is based upon the concept of context developed by Sperber and Wilson and, more specifically, on Gutt's application of Sperber and Wilson's Relevance Theory to the field of translation. For a discussion in detail of the theoretical foundations of my approach, see Rodríguez-Pazos, "Contextual Mismatches," and my forthcoming paper "The Preservation of Style in the Translation of Literary Texts."

(6.) I have taken the concepts of external field of reference and internal field of reference from Harshaw.

(7.) Spanish translations of The Sun Also Rises have taken this title from the first English edition of the novel. Fiesta was one of the titles that Hemingway considered for his novel but he eventually discarded it because it "was misleading unless you had been to Pamplona" (Reynolds 326).

(8.) The translation of the title (literally, "now the sunshine") shows how far from the intention of the text was the interpretation of whoever devised that title for the Spanish version of The Sun Also Rises.

(9.) Gertrude Stein's remark is not included though.

(10.) Unless otherwise stated, emphasis in bold always added.

(11.) The expression does not appear in Webster's (edited by Gove) or in the twenty volume second edition of The Oxford English Dictionary (edited by Simpson and Weiner). I have found it in the Dictionary of American Slang (edited by Wentworth and Flexner): "mackerel-snapper: A Roman Catholic. Not common" (330; emphasis as in original).

(12.) Just before Hubert's father said that the waiters thought they were "snappers" his wife had said: "We set right there when [the Catholic pilgrims] started to come in, and they must have just thought we were in the party. One of the waiters said something to us in French, and then they just sent three of them back" (SAR 84)

(13.) I would suggest "papistas" instead because this Spanish adjective, and the corresponding abstract noun "papismo," refer unequivocally to Roman Catholics and are also derogatory, as in the Spanish expression "ser más papista que el papa": "[e]xagerar en la defensa de una cosa o en el celo o interés por ella, superando al o los directamente interesados" (Moliner 561).

(14.) See Rodríguez-Pazos, "La recreación artística."

(15.) "A building or place fortified for defensive or protective purposes, usu. surrounded with a ditch, rampart, and parapet, and garrisoned with soldiers" (OED 1009). Here and henceforth OED stands for The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, edited by Lesley Brown.

(16.) "A body of water or other liquid kept at a height in order to provide a supply (e.g. for a mill); the height of such a body or the pressure it exerts" (OED 1201; emphasis added).

(17.) This is the only reporting verb in the whole passage that has been changed in Hamad's revised version (62-766). Hamad substitutes "dije" for "ordene." All the rest of Adsuar's renderings analyzed in the current article remain unchanged in Hamad's version.

(18.) The emphasis in bold indicates a stressed syllable. This is just one possible metrical interpretation to illustrate my point and justify a target text solution.

(19.) MANDAR a alguien AL INFIERNO. Echar a alguien o cortar bruscamente y con enfado la conversación o el trato con la persona de que se trata, iVETE (QUE SE VAYA, etc.) AL INFIERNO! Exclamación de significado correspondiente al de la frase anterior (Moliner 54)

(20.) This particular rendering is but another remarkable instance of explication in the target text. "One phrase to mean everything" becomes, literally, "one sentence can mean anything, everything that you want depending on the inflection or the intonation of the voice with which it is pronounced."

(21.) "Modification in the form of a word by means of a affixation, vowel change, etc., to express a particular grammatical function or attribute, as number, case, gender, tense, mood, etc." (OED 1363)

(22.) Instead of Sola's "declinar," which changes the grammatical category of the original "inflected" and is not an exact semantic equivalent, I propose the adjective "flexivas."


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--. París era una fiesta. Trans. Gabriel Ferrater. 1964. Barcelona: Editorial Seix Barral, 2001.

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Rodríguez-Pazos, Gabriel. "La recreación artística de Pamplona en Fiesta. The Sun Also Rises." Principle de Viana Año LXI.219 (2000): 223-283.

--. "Contextual Mismatches in the Translation into Spanish of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises." Hermeneus. Revista de traducción e interpretación de la Universidad de Valladolid 4.1 (2002): 161-179.

--. "The Preservation of Style in the Translation of Literary Texts." Actas del congreso internacional Análisis del discurso: lengua, cultura, valores. Pamplona 2002). Eds. Manuel Casado, Maria V. Romero, and Ramón González. (Forthcoming).

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Wentworth, Harold, and Stuart Berg Flexner. Dictionary of American Slang. 2nd ed. New York: Thomas Crowell, 1975.


University of Navarra

Citation Details

Title: Not so true, not so simple: the Spanish translations of The Sun Also Rises. (Critical Essay)
Author: Gabriel Rodríguez-Pazos
Publication: The Hemingway Review (Magazine/Journal)
Date: March 22, 2004
Publisher: Thomson Gale
Volume: 23    Issue: 2    Page: 47(20)