A translator’s notes.
The indefatigable Bernard Hœpffner, who translated many English masterpieces into French—among them Huckleberry Finn, The Anatomy of Melancholy, and John Keene’s Counternarratives—drowned off the northern coast of Wales this past May. Many obituaries in the French press highlighted Hœpffner’s involvement in an eight-person retranslation of James Joyce’s Ulysses. In homage to an extraordinary figure, The Paris Review Daily presents a translated selection from his Ulysses “logbook.” —Jeffrey Zuckerman, translator
Summer 2000 – Phone call from Jacques Aubert, asking if I might be interested in retranslating James Joyce’s Ulysses. Immediate disappointment upon learning this would be a team effort. Each episode having been written in a different style, he asks me which one I like best, and, without any hesitation, I name Ithaca, in the question-and-answer style of the Catholic catechism.
October 30, 2000 – First meeting at Éditions Gallimard with several staff members, Stephen Joyce and his wife, Jacques Aubert (the general editor), and nine of the other preliminary translators. I am the sole professional translator. Antoine Gallimard appears briefly. Stephen Joyce promises not to interfere in the translation. Homage is paid to the “complete French translation of M. Auguste Morel, with the help of M. Stuart Gilbert, fully revised by M. Valery Larbaud and the author” (1929), which we decide to stow out of sight, at the expense of using the edition’s critical apparatus.
We agree, as our guiding principle, on the credo in Stephen Hero: “He put his lines together not word by word but letter by letter.” We also decide not to Gallicize everything, as Larbaud had done with the preceding translation.
Contract terms are discussed. The new translation will be published on June 16, 2004, the one hundredth anniversary of Bloomsday, with no notes. Read More