Translating Crime Fiction between the Wars


(French Translators for Le Masque Series : click to enlarge)

Studying Crime Fiction Series in their cohesion and complexity, rather than works and authors for their originality, presents a radical departure from the type of literary work traditionally done in academia.  Compared with close reading and textual analysis, this seems a more appropriate way to approach the conditions of production of a material culture, and hence, to better understand Crime Fiction. It takes the  observer away from the ideology sacralising the unique and  celebrating the individual, and promotes  the discovery of the collective and relational nature of what we call literature.  It also requires different tools and poses different research questions.  The shift in  focus helps revealing   a series of phenomena and circumstances, as well as an entire population of agents usually falling under the radar of literary research. Such  is the case of the fascinating, yet totally under-researched subject of translators of crime fiction.

An interesting research project in translation studies would be to look at the translators of crime series. Many approaches would be possible and one could choose for example to focus on one figure of a famous translator, chosen for his/her distinction, the scope of his/her output or any quality looking relevant and intriguing. An obvious candidate would be the amazing  Bruno Just Lazzari, the translator of notably Wiilliam Irish, Chase (Niente orchidee per Miss Blandish! ) and of dozens of novels by San-Antonio  for the editions Mondadori, and probably the chief artisan of their enduring success in Italy. Another, would look at the achievements of the heroic Louis Postif, a childhood friend for all readers of the Bibliothèque verte, and the translator of Agatha Christie in French. Or one could compare the respective fate of their translations. Lazzari’s are quasi canonized; their symbolic value seems to have surpassed that of the author  translated (E/O Edizioni onty republishing the San-Antonio novels translated by him). By contrast, Postif’s have been  retranslated.

Another approach would involve looking at an entire series. Here are a few names, to facilitate first  observations towards such a project. This is based on the translators of the early Series Giallo Mondadori and the Series Le Masque.

1/ Giallo : Translators of Christie and Wallace in 1930’s Libri Gialli

Translators Giallo743959

2/Le Masque: Translators and gender


One name emerges in the background, that of  Miriam Dou- Desportes, certainly a very active agent in the field of crime fiction translation between the wars. And certainly someone whose work would deserved to be rediscovered.Miriam

The same list based this time on only the first names of the translators, shows as well the important representation of women as translators of Crime Fiction in interwar France.

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