Denise Kripper
Lake Forest College
ORCID 0000-0002-0629-1406
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Stranger than Fiction: The Biographies of Shiki Nagaoka and José Salas Subirat
Dedalus 26 (2022), pp. 205-221. Download PDF


Following the “cultural turn” of translation studies, recent works centered around translators have highlighted their longstanding invisibility while bringing to the fore the importance of their figure. The portrayal of translators in academic research, memoirs and biographies, and literary fiction can challenge commonplace assumptions about their task. In this article, I address the tension between the real practice of translation and its literary rendering by focusing on two biographies: a fictional one and a real one. The novel Shiki Nagaoka: Una nariz de ficción, by Mexican writer Mario Bellatin (translated into English by David Shook as Shiki Nagaoka: A Nose for Fiction), recounts the life of a Japanese writer and translator, and El traductor del Ulises, by Argentine scholar Lucas Petersen, researches the life of the first translator into Spanish of James Joyce’s masterpiece. Comparing and contrasting the fake biography of a fictional translator and the real biography of an actual translator, I draw especially from their paratexts: prologues, translation commentaries, archival research, and photographs that introduce the text, frame the narrative, and can corroborate or falsify its authenticity. The aim of this article is to foreground how representations of translators, whether historiographical or fictional, can assist in visibilizing the role of translators and, in turn, rethinking their task.
Keywords: fictional turn; translator; biography; paratexts