Academic journal article Marvels & Tales

Back to the Future: The Journey of the Bloody Chamber in Italy and France

Academic journal article Marvels & Tales

Back to the Future: The Journey of the Bloody Chamber in Italy and France

Article excerpt


The main object of this essay is to analyze how The Bloody Chamber has been received, decoded, and "positioned" within the cultural and literary space of the two countries that, as it is generally acknowledged, are seen as the "home" of the fairy tale as a genre. In the last few decades much work in the area of translation studies has been directed toward demonstrating how importing a foreign text into another culture does not consist of merely rendering its verbal component into another language, but instead involves a complex set of linguistic, cultural, and historical factors. As Susan Bassnett and André Lefevere put it: "Translation ... is never innocent. There is always a context in which the translation takes place, always a history from which a text emerges and into which a text is transposed" (11). Hence, context is important as a source of insight into the reasons why texts are translated at a certain point in time and to understand the particular "cultural transactions" that take place to make texts acceptable in the target culture, since the publication of a foreign text always requires a series of negotiations between the various actors involved: the source text, the target text and its culture, the potential readers' expectations, and the publishing industry (cf. Eco 18).

Such negotiations take place at different levels - through the translator's strategies that mediate between different languages and cultures but also through the way the publisher wishes to present the book, an operation where para texts play a fundamental role. In particular, as recent research has shown (see, e.g., Tahir-Gürcaglar; Harvey), the analysis of paratexts is useful in shedding light on the cultural context of the reception of translated texts and has further highlighted the function of such liminal elements as places of "transaction" as well as "transition" (Genette 2). While it is not possible to gauge the actual impact of such elements on the readership, the analysis of paratexts offers a powerful tool for understanding what particular image of the text that agents of mediation, such as publishers and editors, intended to promote to encourage consumption at a certain point in time.

Applying this theoretical premise, in the following analysis of the process of importing The Bloody Chamber into Italy and France, we combine a reading of the translations with that of the paratexts in order to gain insights as to the context of the reception of the book in these two countries and to get a better understanding of how different publishers and translators dealt with the operation of transferring the text into two different spaces, each with its own literary and cultural tradition. In particular, our analysis will demonstrate how very different strategies were employed by these agents in order to mediate the novelty of The Bloody Chamber. As we will show, whereas in the French version literary links were strengthened and enriched, the Italian translation exhibits an overall distancing effect and only occasionally establishes links with the established tradition of the target culture.

Contextualizing The Bloody Chamber in Italy and France

When we look at the publication history of The Bloody Chamber in Italy and France, we see that the translations were published a few years after the original text first appeared in Britain and very close to the date of release of The Company of Wolves (1984), the well-known Neil Jordan film based on three stories from Carter's volume. Looking at these dates, it is easy to see that the translations were intended to benefit from the visibility offered by the film:

January 1984 - publication of La camera di sangue in Italy by Feltrinelli

September 1984 - release of the film The Company of Wolves

February 1985 - publication oí La compagnie des loups et autres nouvelles in France by Seuil

This hypothesis is further strengthened by the fact that the three stories on which The Company of Wolves is based - "The Werewolf," "The Company of Wolves," and "Wolf-Alice," the closing set of stories in the collection - are foregrounded in the two translations and placed immediately after the first story, "The Bloody Chamber," whose position was probably retained because it is the title story and the longest. …

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