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The Problem of the Explanatory: Linguistic Variation in Twenty-First-Century Spanish Retranslations of Huckleberry Finn


Starting with an overview of the complex notion of “retranslation,” this essay examines the six different translations of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that have been published in Spain in the early twenty-first century. Specifically, this paper ponders how the newer Spanish versions of Twain’s novel tend to contradict the retranslation hypothesis, as they do not often portray the seven literary dialects announced by the Explanatory that opens Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The linguistic varieties included in the source text seem problematic for Spanish translators, whose strategies entail paratextual additions, depicting regional target dialects to recreate an interplay of voices, playing with nonstandard spelling, omitting the introductory note, and suppressing any trace of literary dialects in the target text. The analysis leads the author to observe how publishing norms—particularly publishers’ tendency to reprint previous translations, publishers’s commercial interests, and their predilection for unmarked texts in standard Spanish—have led to translations that ignore the diversity of voices portrayed by Twain’s novel.

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