A translation that improved the original

Exploring the Hispanic-Anglosphere…

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Images of the Preface from an original first copy of Miguel de Unamuno, The tragic sense of life in men and in peoples, trans. J. E. C. Flitch (London: Macmillan, 1921), courtesy of Casa-Museo Unamuno, Salamanca, Spain

Author: Cristina Erquiaga Martínez

This is the preface that the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno penned in Salamanca for the English version of his work Del Sentimiento Trágico de la Vida (1912) published by Macmillan in London as The tragic sense of life in men and in peoples in 1921. This was the first English translation of one of his works and, although he had previously written for the English-speaking public in some journals, this text can be considered a sort of personal introduction to these readers, bearing in mind the broadest scope a book can achieve. He had great hopes arising from this endeavour: ‘It would advantage me greatly if this translation, in opening up to me a public of English-speaking readers, should some day lead to my writing something addressed to and concerned with this public’. We can observe in this Author’s  Preface some of the characteristics of his involvement with the British Isles. We can see that this engagement was not an abstract one but one based in a rich network of personal contacts, starting with John Ernest Crawford Flitch ((1881-1946), the translator of the book. Unamuno celebrated the outcome of their collaboration to the extent of practically granting Flitch some co-authorship: ‘Hence this English translation (…) presents in some ways a more purged and correct text than that of the original Spanish’.  He also explicitly recognized that his ‘spirit has been nourished upon the very core of English literature’. He contextualised his message by anchoring into the aftermath of the First World War, an event that in itself could had been considered that had not affected his homeland to the extent than to other Western countries, due to Spain’s neutrality, yet that he reckoned it had a borderless impact. Similarly, Unamuno’s works deal with universal issues which are meant to awake the interest of the foreign public.

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Sources and Suggested Reading: J. Biggane, ‘Las huellas de Unamuno en el Reino Unido’, in A. Chaguaceda Toledano (ed.), Miguel de Unamuno, estudios sobre su obra, IV, (Salamanca: Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, 2009);  D. Callahan, ‘The Early Reception of Miguel de Unamuno in England, 1907-1939’, The Modern Language Review, 91, (2), (1996), 382-392; M. García Blanco, ‘Un hispanista británico olvidado: Mr. J. E. Crawford-Flitch’, in C. Jones and F. Pierce (eds.), Actas del Primer Congreso de la Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas celebrado en Oxford del 6 al 11 de septiembre de 1962, (Oxford: The Dolphin Book, 1964), 289-297; J. L. Mora García, ‘La recepción de Unamuno en lengua inglesa. Un ejemplo: la revista Hispania’ in P. Ribas (ed.), Unamuno y Europa. Nuevos ensayos y viejos textos, (Madrid: Cuaderno Gris, 2002), 47-70.

How to cite: To cite from this page, please use any style (Chicago, Harvard, etc). Our preferred citation form is: Cristina Erquiaga Martínez, A translation that improved the original‘,  Exploring the Hispanic-Anglosphere, an online exhibition – The Hispanic-Anglosphere: transnational networks, global communities (late 18th to early 20th centuries), project funded by the AHRC and the University of Winchester in partnership with the National Trust, [https://hispanic-anglosphere.com/online-exhibitions/a-translation-that-improved-the-original , accessed – please add the date of your visit].

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