ABOUT THE TRANSLATION...

The overall objective has been to produce a text that flows fluently and easily to today’s reader while obviously remaining faithful to Lesage’s text and construction. This has led to occasional simplifications and compressions when long-windedness or repetitiveness get the better of him – but never at the expense of his meaning and intent – and some clarification of phrases that have to do with chivalrous etiquette or the occasional remnant of mediaeval or feudal custom. On the other hand, chapter headings have been rendered very freely, and Lesage’s punctuation has not necessarily been respected, for he fails to identify direct speech and frequently uses a semi-colon where a full stop (or merely a comma) is more common today. We have carefully adhered to the author’s paragraph structure, but within each, direct speech is placed in inverted commas and indented. Sentences have been broken up, where necessary, to best reflect meaning and flow.

Proper names hispanicised

Lesage chose to frenchify Spanish proper names. The translator has the choice of leaving them like that, or even anglicising them. But since the story is set in (17th century) Spain, and therefore to be truer to the story’s roots, I have preferred, with one or two exceptions, to hispanicise them. So Xelva becomes Chelva, Lirias Llirias, Hillary Hilario and Andalusie Andalucia with a th as the final consonant, as it can only be!

Respecting Jobs and Titles

translation

On the other hand, I have taken some liberties with some jobs and titles. There is no handy English equivalent, for example, for the Spanish coregidor, and an aguazil in Lesage’s world is not quite the bailiff he is today. The men of the Inquisition, stamping out heresy, are not quite the same as our police, although they have many similarities with the religious police found in the Muslim world. Indeed, 17th/18th century administration of justice and law enforcement has little to do with contemporary practice, and therefore many of the words we use to describe it are wrong if translated literally. Given the absence of a police force (not yet invented), I’ve called the men who patrolled the streets ‘the watch’ and its individual members ‘men-at-arms’. The aguazil I’ve made a constable and the coregidor a magistrate. In reality, both were something more than these descriptors for the scope of the functions evolved considerably from one epoch to another but these terms adequately cover what their bearers in the novel actually did.

Keeping the bourgeois out of politics

translation

The reader should also beware the term bourgeois which Lesage uses frequently and which I have tried to avoid because of its political baggage. We are in pre-revolutionary France, so when Lesage writes about a bourgeois, he means a man who dwells in a burg or town as distinct from a noble, a churchman, or a banal member of the third estate, neither humble artisan nor tradesman, linked to some country place with its feudal connotations and obligations: tithes and corvées were still very real obligations to many country people; neither part of the gentry, nor a captive of its peasant proletariat, he is a townsman, a citizen, a burgher, but not yet classified as a member of this oft-hated strata.

Obscurities explained in Endnotes

Similarly, a squire who occupied a rather secondary position in those days, has become a much grander personage today. One step up from a page in the hierarchy of chivalry and a person of relative note in the service of his lord, he is little more than a gentleman-in-waiting or general gofer by the 17th century. There were squires and squires of course, and the squire to a poverty stricken elderly dowager in Oviedo would be but a pale reflection of the squire clearing a path through the crowd for the Duchess of Medina Sidonia.

I have also tried to clarify some of Lesage’s classical references without inflating them, referring for example to the Goddess of funerals rather than merely to Libitina who may not be familiar to many. Other obscurities are explained in the notes.

Have Fun!

translation

Christopher L. Fisher

I hope these small touches will make the reader’s experience more enjoyable and make the story accessible to a wide audience. I have tried to make reading a three-hundred-year-old-story as un-daunting as possible, and to restore the freshness and brio that is overwhelming in the original but has always been somewhat lacking in English. Above all I hope that having dusted off the cobwebs that obscured the work, the reader will discover many an hour of pleasurable entertainment.
The translator.

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