Academic journal article Style

The Implied Author as an Ethical Buffer: An Argument from Translated and Censored Fiction

Academic journal article Style

The Implied Author as an Ethical Buffer: An Argument from Translated and Censored Fiction

Article excerpt

If the Implied Author (IA) is the Object of a Belief, (1) then let me start by confessing that I am a believer--though an unorthodox one as will become apparent. On the one hand, I will welcome the IA as a tool to analyze a particular comic narrative and its censored translation. On the other hand, and perhaps because I do not belong to any narratological church that takes Wayne C. Booth's notion of the IA as a dogma, I will dare to propose an IA concept that only roughly connects with Booth's and the orthodox believers' many descriptions of the IA. That rough connection is our shared concern for the ethics of fiction, for the role of the IA in this ethics, and for positing an author who is not the flesh-and-bones author (FABA). Yet my proposal should not take its strength as much from continuing a tradition--since my IA-guided ethics of reading will also be opposed to Booth's--as from throwing fresh light on the interpretation, translation, and censorship of a comic narrative. To that effect, I will first briefly turn to the concept of the author who seems in need of a conceptual defense too. For both arguments--pro-author and pro-IA--I will mainly refer to the Spanish author Elvira Lindo and her comic narrative Manolito Gafotas (1994), and its American translation Manolito Four-Eyes (2008).

It may be true that the IA debate has turned somewhat sterile over time (on which see Lanser, "Manifesto" 2011), but in my view this is mainly so because it has become primarily conceptual. The IA comes to life in specific ethical readings and specific translations of specific literary texts. Indeed, though my argument includes general discussions of genre (viz., fiction and comedy), it is entirely inspired and motivated by a specific censoring translation of a particular work of fiction.

The Author Exists--Who Else Does the Comedy?

Lindo's Manolito series, of which Manolito Gafotas was the first book to be published, is a comic narrative series immensely popular among Spanish children and adults. Manolito, the protagonist and first-person narrator, is a charming little boy who uses his particular sense of humor as he tells us about life in a working-class suburb of Madrid. He admits his real name is Manolito Garcia Moreno but also insists that in the suburb "everyone knows me as Manolito Four-Eyes." He then sets out to explain this apparently pleasing fact:

I was named Manolito after my dad's truck, and the truck was named after my dad, whose name is Manolo....

I like that they call me Four-Eyes. At my school--which is called Diego Velazquez--anyone who's a little important has a nickname. Before I had a nickname, I used to cry plenty. When a bully started in on me at recess, he always ended up calling me Four-Eyes or Fat Glasses. Since I've officially become Manolito Four-Eyes, insulting me is a waste of time. (Manolito Four-Eyes 3-5) (2)

The narrator's idiosyncratic explanations and evaluations are not the only source of comedy, as the characters are also responsible for some pretty incongruous behavior--and incongmity is a well-known mechanism of humor. (3) We learn for instance that one day Manolito got caught up in a street protest in Madrid. His grandfather, who accompanied him, asked a man to put Manolito up on his shoulders so that he could see what was happening. Manolito then realized that the man had dandruff:

   I noticed that the guy had dandruff so I decided to brush it off a
   little. I asked him why he didn't buy one of those shampoos they
   advertise on TV that gets rid of dandruff (and if you don't watch
   out, gets you a girlfriend, too). The guy put me down on the
   ground, all in a huff.... (my translation) (4)

All of this is quite funny, yet so far we have no trouble explaining the comedy without recurring to the concept of the author. The protagonist's actions are incongruous, the dandruff guy feels ridiculed, and Manolito the narrator has his tongue-in-cheek way of telling things. …

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