Australian Journal of French Studies

Translating and Traducing: Zola and the Art of (Mis)Quotation

Australian Journal of French Studies (2020), 57, (1), 115–124.

Abstract

Deliberately angled towards the two areas in which Brian Nelson has made so many invaluable contributions during his scholarly career, this essay explores several related themes. Largely focused on Zola’s art criticism, it highlights errors in the translation of his texts for the Russian periodical Vestnik Evropy, exacerbated by their re-translation into French for modern editions of his work. More problematic are Zola’s unsigned articles in Le Sémaphore de Marseille, composed from material in the Parisian press but inflected by personal commentary to the extent of traducing the original source. This is also visible in his reviews of exhibitions and critical studies of contemporary artists. Zola’s recourse to a metaphorical “translation” in writing about Manet is brought into sharper relief by his inability to find a language to make sense of the paintings of a Moreau or Cézanne.

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LETHBRIDGE, ROBERT