‘Le traducteur E. M. (une femme)’: Conrad, The Hueffers and the 1903 Maupassant translations

Chambers, Helen (2016). ‘Le traducteur E. M. (une femme)’: Conrad, The Hueffers and the 1903 Maupassant translations. In: Becquet, Alexandra and Davison-Pégon, Claire eds. Ford Madox Ford’s Cosmopolis: Psycho-geography, Flânerie and the Cultures of Paris. International Ford Madox Ford Studies (15). Amsterdam: Brill Rodopi, pp. 155–173.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004328372_010

Abstract

In 1903, Duckworth’s Greenback Library published Elsie Hueffer’s translations of nine Maupassant short stories, with a preface by Ford and with Conrad’s encouragement, editorial input and subsequent promotion in Paris and London. This slender volume was one of the earliest collections of English translations of Maupassant’s short stories, works which overall were considered unsuitable for Anglo-Saxon sensitivities. The stories, conservatively chosen, had originally appeared between 1882 and 1890 in the Paris periodicals Gil Blas, Le Gaulois and Le Figaro, with a subsequent convoluted publication history. The following essay examines the significance of this minor literary collaboration, using evidence from Conrad’s letters and from the corrected typescript, to argue that these translations are of interest in a number of ways. They reveal the gendered and idiomatic ‘voice’ of Elsie Hueffer’s translation and her fidelity and sensitivity to Maupassant’s style and meaning. They also enable an assessment of Elsie’s, Ford’s and Conrad’s shared reading, past and present, of Maupassant, reveal something of the two men’s public and private views on this translation project, and reflect the triangular friendship between the three during the early 1900s.

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