Eleanor Marx and Gustave Flaubert
DOI link for Eleanor Marx and Gustave Flaubert
Eleanor Marx and Gustave Flaubert book
Eleanor Marx’s translation of Madame Bovary, a commission she obtained through the novelist and francophile George Moore, was published by the advanced publishing house of Vizetelly in 1886, thirty years after its publication in France and the obscenity trial in which Flaubert was acquitted. It was the first English translation to appear and remained the only English version for many years, and although several more have been undertaken in the past half-century it remains among the most readable. Yet for reasons that I believe were sometimes unconnected with the translation itself, it has often suffered harshly at the hands of the critics. Vladimir Nabokov, for instance, in his reading of Madame Bovary, rages against translators in general – ‘ignorant, treacherous and philistine’ 1 – and Marx in particular. Lectures on Literature, published after his death, reproduces a page from his teaching notebook in which he lists what he considers to be some of her mistakes, and includes an appendix containing no fewer than eighteen essay questions on the novel, ranging from ‘Discuss Flaubert’s use of the word “and”’ to ‘All translations of Madame Bovary are full of blunders … Describe Emma’s eyes, hands, sunshade, hairdo, dress, shoes.’ 2 This may seem obsessive but then Madame Bovary often inspires devotion. It certainly did in its English translator.