An ionarts post on the new French translation of Ulysses from Gallimard includes a tantalizing excerpt of Bruno Corty’s interview with the head editor of the translation, Jacques Aubert, in Le Figaro Littéraire. Unfortunately, it seems to be impossible to get to the original interview (you get redirected to the Figaro home page; if you’re interested, a Le Monde interview with Aubert is here), but I’ll quote a couple of exchanges from the translation:

In 2000, Joyce’s grandson asked Gallimard to start a new translation of Ulysses, to be placed under your leadership. Why did you choose a team instead of a single translator?

It was clear to me from the start that this new translation should be entrusted to several people. This was not only to give in to the spirit of the times, by influence, by example, for a project like a new translation of the Bible. We were ordered to publish it in 2004, and the work that had to be done made it seem difficult to me to conduct this work in a rigorous way with only one translator. Group translation is not the easy solution at all. Particularly in this case, where there are resonances, echos, and repetitions in the text that are furthermore subjected to variation throughout.

Joyce plays constantly with words and languages. Isn’t that the biggest danger for this translation?

In effect, Joyce tells us that there is translation inherent in reading. He says that and he puts it into action. Buck Mulligan himself plays on his nickname from the second page of Ulysses. We made the decision not to translate the word “Buck.” Leaving the English nickname, from the moment where the rest of the text illuminates it, this is part of the mixture of languages that Joyce begins to unfold. In the third episode, among the traps that Joyce lays for us, there is “Los demiurgos.” You could read “Los” as the article that goes with “demiurgos.” In fact, the context indicates that this “Los” is a proper name borrowed from William Blake [The Song of Los] and that, as a result, it should not be put in italics like the word that follows it. This is just one of numerous polyglot traps. It’s one of those aspects by which Ulysses already has, I dare say, one foot in Finnegans Wake.

Ionarts adds that “the same team will proceed now to the even greater challenge of translating Finnegans Wake into French.”

(Via wood s lot [06.14.2004].)


  1. You could read “Los” as the article that goes with “demiurgos.”
    You could? I couldn’t.
    Sounds solid: made by the mallet of Los demiurgos.
    Kind of a weak trap, as they go, isn’t it?

  2. I seem to be in a mood for picking nits this week. Never you mind.

  3. We like nothing better than picked nits here at LH.

  4. I couldn’t
    I could. Even knowing of the Blake allusion, it still sounds Spanish to me. I imagine “Los Demiurgos” – the Demiurges – as a network of bandits in 19th century Mexico who assassinated corrupt mine owners, leaving a mallet by the body as trademark.

  5. Just checked my Penguin print edition: the phrase is both italicised and capitalised – Los Demiurgos – increasingly the resemblance to Spanish.

  6. Odd. Oh well. Goes to show, those who live in fat fingers shouldn’t pick nits.

  7. Mind you, looking at online editions, there’s a deal of variation in the typography on this phrase. Certainly I agree that “the mallet of Los demiurgos” (“Los” the proper name from Blake, “demiurgos” Greek singular for the Gnostic supreme being) makes far more sense than mallet-wielding Spaniards called The Demiurges. However, according to this Robot Wisdom concordance, Joyce did underline “Los” on the manuscript to indicate italics. All I can conclude is that I’m glad I’m not having to translate it all.
    Oh: increasingly -> increasing

  8. For what is worth, I personally would never ever mistake Los for the article of Demiurgos, because, as a Greek native speaker, I could barely think of anythink else than ο δημιουργός (the creator), with the masculine singular article. Linguistic background always influences the way one enjoys a literary work, but it reaches a paroxystic level with Joyce and Pound (and Language Hat, and anyone playing with more than one language).

  9. For author Jim Holt’s reaction on finding a French copy of Finnegan’s Wake in Paris. (See last paragraph of article)

  10. has anyone found other references to aubert’s translation of ulysses? i’m trying to find substantive articles about it and so far my searches have turned up very little in terms of review, criticism, or press about this newest french translation. would appreciate any hints…

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