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Home News Translator sues boss over sexist translation

Translator sues boss over sexist translation

Published on 03/04/2008

3 April 2008

SANTIAGO – The translation into Galician of Mark Haddon’s award-winning novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, has sparked a bitter confrontation between the translator and publisher over an alleged case of sexism in the translation.

María Reimóndez, who translated the story about a 15-year-old with autism for Rinoceronte Editora, says that her employer cancelled her contract because she refused to hand in a sexist translation favouring the use of the masculine gender over the feminine in words where English uses a neutral form.

The publisher, Moisés Barcia, accuses her in turn of systematically changing neutral words for feminine ones, thus introducing a bias into the novel.

"The translation strategies I use include not using the masculine form systematically," said Reimóndez in a press statement. "I haven’t invented this; it’s nothing new, and linguistically you cannot find fault with it."

Reimóndez, a writer herself who is currently working on a dissertation about how ideology and translation influence each other, said that, unlike Galician, which always uses masculine or feminine, the English language has a neutral gender and there are cases where "it is impossible to know the gender of a word, and one must be selected."

But Barcia, who opted for re-translating the book himself and publishing it as O curioso incidente do can á media noite, said Reimóndez was in fact manipulating the original.

"As we corrected her text, we realized that she was systematically translating neutral words into feminine ones, and masculine words into feminine or neutral forms," he said, citing the example of "men," which at one point she translated as "xente," which in Galician means "people."

"Unacceptable" changes
"In the end we got in touch with the author of the book, who said we were right, and this whole issue should have ended right there," said Barcia. In an email that Rinoceronte Editora has made public, Haddon writes that "changing a character’s gender when it is sufficiently clear is totally unacceptable."

Reimóndez denies having made such changes and says that cancelling her contract was illegal. Barcia argues that she requested not to have her name appear on the modified translation, and that this constitutes a breach of contract. The confrontation has escalated to the point where both parties have hired attorneys to try to break the deadlock.

[El Pais / Daniel Salgado / Expatica]