Editorial Skullduggery

Because of my involvement with the SF&F Translation Awards I keep up with general news about literary translation. One of the best blogs for this is Chad Post’s Three Percent. Today he posted a rather disturbing story about the Best European Fiction 2011 anthology published by Dalkey Archive Press.

Dalkey is one of the leading publishers of translated fiction in the English-speaking world, so this is a very high profile publication. They are also the English publishers of Tove Jansson, which makes this story even more odd.

One of the stories chosen for the anthology was “My Girlfriend” by Croatian writer, Mima Simić. She arranged for the translation herself, including copy editing by English-speaking friends. Nothing was said to her by Dalkey about editing, so she assumed that her friends had done a good job. Mima was therefore horrified to receive the final book and discover that the gender of her narrator, deliberately left unspecified in the original and her translation, had been altered by Dalkey to make the story unambiguously heterosexual. As a lesbian, and a gender-theorist, Mima is understandably upset at having her story “straightened”.

As I noted above, the fact that Dalkey also publishes Tove Jansson suggests that there is no company policy against LGBT material. However, this could be the work of one editor deciding to oppose his or her views on Mima’s story. Alternatively it could be someone deciding that gender ambiguity is too difficult a concept for readers and that the story had to be simplified for publication. For a high profile literary publisher like Dalkey that would almost be more embarrassing.

You can read Mima’s story in her own words on Chad’s blog.