Home > About > Conferences > Galway 2007 > List of Papers > Abstract: Novillo Corvalán

Adventurers, Emissaries and Settlers: Ireland and Latin America
27-30 June 2007, National University of Ireland, Galway

Overview  - List of Papers - Schedule - Gallery


"Fallen on his feet in Buenos Aires": Ulysses in Argentina

Patricia Novillo Corvalán (Birkbeck College, University of London)

In this paper I examine Borges’s pioneering reception of Joyce’s Ulysses in relation to the literary, cultural and historical contexts in which it took place. In a 1982 interview with Seamus Heaney and Richard Kearney conducted during the celebrations that took place in Dublin on 16th June 1982 (Bloomsday), a blind and elderly Borges revealed that in the early-twenties his friend and collaborator, the Argentine writer Ricardo Güiraldes, presented him with a princeps edition of Ulysses. Güiraldes obtained his copy of Ulysses through his personal and literary friendship with the French critic, writer and translator, Valery Larbaud, who coincidentally happened to be at the time the official promoter of Joyce in Paris. I argue that if Larbaud has been unanimously recognized as the European promoter of Ulysses, then Borges fulfils a similar role in Latin America as the Argentine publicist of Joyce’s experimental novel. The arrival or ‘migration’ of the controversial Ulysses to Argentina in 1924 fostered a timely cultural transaction between France’s cultural elite, Joyce’s Ireland, and Borges’s peripheral Buenos Aires. The auspicious transatlantic journey of Güiraldes’s copy of Ulysses from Paris to Buenos Aires also signals the nomadic trajectory of the translated text which, according to Walter Benjamin in his seminal essay ‘The Task of the Translator’, the original [Joyce] is endowed with an ‘afterlife’ [Borges], a utopian survival in which it depends upon the translation for its ever-recurring existence.

The second part of the paper discusses Borges’s publication of a review and translation of ‘Penelope’ in the Buenos Aires avant-garde periodical Proa [Prow]. The review Proa was founded in 1924 by a young Borges, along with Güiraldes and other fellow Argentine writers. In the January 1925 edition of Proa appeared Borges’s review ‘Joyce’s Ulysses’ and fragmentary translation of ‘Penelope’ (he only translated the last two pages of the book). Following his avant-gardist impulses, Borges equates the innovative Ulysses with the futuristic title of the journal and projects the principles of the magazine into Joyce’s own writings. By the same token, he infuses his translation of ‘Penelope’ with his current nationalistic agenda by rendering Joyce’s passage into a distinctive type of vernacular Spanish saturated with River Plate diction. Borges’s translation strategy also seeks to create a polyvalent image of Molly Bloom, a hybrid version that adds to Joyce’s Hibernian and Gibraltarian heroine a clearly defined Argentine identity. In a 1946 review of the first complete translation of Ulysses into Spanish by the Argentine José Salas Subirat, Borges acknowledges the difficulties inherent in any rendering of Joyce’s experimental language and recommends a re-creative translation practice that encourages inventiveness and emulates Joyce’s own experimental use of language. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of Borges’s translation of ‘Penelope’ in relation to the subsequent translations of Ulysses into Spanish by J. Salas Subirat (1945), J. M. Valverde (1976) and F. García-Tortosa (1999).

Online published: 24 April 2007
Edited: 07 May 2009

The Society for Irish Latin American Studies

 Copyright Information