In "Treasure Island" there is this original (English) text:

Mr. Dance stood there, as he said, "like a fish out of water," and all he could do was to dispatch a man to B---- to warn the cutter. "And that," said he, "is just about as good as nothing. They've got off clean, and there's an end. Only," he added, "I'm glad I trod on Master Pew's corns," for by this time he had heard my story.

The Spanish translation of that is:

El Inspector se quedó allí, según su propia expresión "como pez fuera del agua" y todo lo más que pudo hacer fué enviar un hombre á Brístol para prevenir el arribo posible de la falúa aquella, lo cual era lo mismo que nada, en su opinión.

Not only is the translation somewhat "loose" in general, but why would "B----" be translated as "Bristol"? Even if it's obvious from the text or context that Bristol is meant, shouldn't the original deliberate opacity be retained?

Now why the placename is obfuscated in the original, I don't know, but isn't it a bit presumptuous for the translator to make himself into a co-author?

  • 1
    Is that spanish translation exactly as written? Because there are many grammar mistakes in it. Other than that it would be helpful to know what publisher and what edition of Treasure Island in spanish you refer to.
    – Joze
    May 29 '15 at 9:12
  • 1
    Which flavor of Spanish is this? I agree, doesn't look very professional
    – Roberto
    May 29 '15 at 12:48
  • I think it's "Spain" Spanish; it surprises me how - not bad, but not overly good - many translations seem to be. I'm a native English speaker (U.S.), know German well, and Spanish well enough to know what's being written, and almost all translations I've read (into German and into Spanish, from English) have a surprising number of mistakes. I also get (it's a long story) a lot of emails from translators looking for work, and it's almost ludicrous how bad their English often is, even though they claim to be able to translate into that language. May 29 '15 at 16:52
  • 1
    That's correct Spanish, but very old; formerly, some monosyllables would carry accents, but they were dropped some decades ago. Also, the Hispanicization of "Brístol" would have been correct at the time, but not nowadays.
    – JMVanPelt
    May 29 '15 at 20:49

I guess it's just that in Spanish such a way of writing the name of a place is very uncommon and, since it can be inferred that the place named is Bristol, it just would be more natural to write it. The translations I found over the internet and in Google Books seem to rely on the one found at Wikisource, which writes "Bristol" too. I think it's more to be wondered why the author chose to write "B----", because there's no apparent reason in the narrative to do so.

  • Yes, I found it odd, too - the exact location is supposed to be a secret? He does that at the beginning of the book with the year, too, saying it is 17--. I can understand that more, but if he doesn't want to say Bristol, why not do like Twain did with Hannibal, calling it "St. Petersburg"? May 29 '15 at 21:05
  • Comparing what we can read in WikiSource with the google e-book, I find none of them are very good to use to learn spanish: The wikisource one is a better text to use as spanish only, and the google helps bad to learn spanish. May 29 '15 at 21:21
  • 2
    I remember the same device being used in Poe's The Gold-Bug when mentioning the year of the events ("18--") and a certain person ("Lieutenant G---"); but curiously, the translations I have seen do scrupulously respect the original, instead of writing something more common in Spanish such as "mil ochocientos y algo" or "el teniente G.". In this case, I suppose the "---" are used to indicate that both elements are not relevant; In the case of Stevenson and the date, it may be that the narrator doesn't remember the exact date; but in "B---", I don't quite understand the reason.
    – JMVanPelt
    May 29 '15 at 22:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.