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'Simone de Beauvoir, Brigitte Bardot and Back-Translation: The Trajectory of Beauvoir's Discourse on the 'Eternal Feminine'

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Pauline Henry-Tierney


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This article traces the translation trajectory of Simone de Beauvoir’s essay ‘Brigitte Bardot and the Lolita Syndrome’. First published in Esquire in 1959, Beauvoir’s text was subsequently back-translated into French in 1979, and, most recently, an edited version of the English translation appeared in 2015. Exploring how Beauvoir’s philosophical discourse is restored via back-translation, how both her English and French translators play a pivotal role in assimilating her voice for their respective target audiences, and how presumptions about Beauvoir’s lost original French text influenced changes made in the edited English version, this article seeks to probe the dynamics of literary back-translations, to consider how they disrupt traditional hierarchies subjugating a translation to its original and threaten the viability of such a model. Furthermore, the role of paratexts is discussed, analysing how the inclusion of photographs of Bardot in certain versions of Beauvoir’s text functions as a form of intersemiotic translation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Henry-Tierney P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: In Press

Journal: Translation and Literature

Year: 2020

Volume: 29

Issue: 3

Acceptance date: 05/06/2020

Publisher: Edinburgh University Press