V.S. Naipaul is a Nobel laureate of literature. He authored the following short essay about Jorge Luis Borges, published in 1972. Harking from 1972, Naipaul appeals popular media and critics to read the canon of works rather than the popularised short fictions alone.
Do read : Comprehending Borges by V.S
An interesting note from this essay, one of many, is the discussion of Borges’ writing in Spanish, ‘irresponsible’ language and it’s interpretations by translators. The essay notes Norman Thomas di Giovanni as a significant translator of Borges’ works into English, working alongside Borges, and who had been, as Naipaul says, “translating Borges full time for the last four years, and has done more than anyone else to push Borges’s work in the English-speaking world.” Giovanni and Borges discussed words and intentions in the writing, the sort of layered seemingly inconsequential, and chance, chit chat which undoubtedly imbued the subsequent published works. Giovanni’s translations were allowed to go out of print after the death of Borges in 1986 when Borges’ heir, Maria Kodama, dissolved the publishing rights with Giovanni [the translator’s royalties were not to Kodama’s liking] and commissioned a new set of translations.
I don’t pretend to know many details around this story, especially regarding Kodama’s intentions. Perhaps Borges left instructions with Kodama to renegotiate the translation rights, perhaps Borges ultimately didn’t treasure Giovanni’s translations or that Borges wished for more interpretations of the works, seeing the exercise as palimpsestic and enrichening. Borges was a man who found great pleasure in rare books; perhaps he took steps to ensure his special translations were rarified posthumously, an act of concealment and generating intrigue and mystery.
Though perhaps, rather less romantically, Kodama wanted to make more money for the Borges Foundation and felt that Giovanni’s English translations held no critical or special value since the original Spanish text remains untampered.
I’ve purchased the Giovanni translations of Borges’ Selected Poems to explore further.