Friday, November 24, 2017

Lloyd Alexander -- the Translator of Jean-Paul Sartre?

As part of my Stephen R. Donaldson, I've been reading some Jean-Paul Sartre -- mostly Being and Nothingness and his novel, Nausea. I'm pretty familiar with Sartre in broad outlines, of course. My first semester in college, I went through a pretty big existentialist phase thanks to my Introduction to Philosophy course, which had a "Existentialism is a Humanism" as one of the optional readings in the back. What self-absorbed, rebellious 18-year-old atheist wouldn't be captivated by a philosophy marked by "anguish, despair, and forlornness?" I eventually got over that phase, partly because it seemed pretentious and partly because I couldn't (then) understand any of the harder philosophical works, but I still loved Donaldson (whose link to existential thought I hadn't then quite realized). 

Anyway, reading Nausea for the first time, and I noticed that it was translated by a "Lloyd Alexander." 

"Huh!" I thought.

So I checked this out, and it turns out to be true -- the guy who wrote The Chronicles of Prydain, a classic of children's fantasy, also translated perhaps the most important existentialist novel ever. He also translated Le Mur by Sartre and selected writings by Paul Eluard, a French surrealist. I'm not quite sure what to make of that. On one hand, you can kinda sorta see Taran as an existentialist hero; on the other hand, the the standard existentialist emotions aren't there at all. I'm sure some enterprising scholar of Alexander has already explored this link. I might have to delve into that sometime.

Incidentally, I hated Nausea. France just seemed to produce a lot of grotesque and depressing novels in the 1930s -- Jean Rhys's Good Morning, Midnight is set in Paris, and Djuna Barnes's Nightwood is also set there. Happy-go-luck fellas like myself really are tempermentally unsuited to novels like that.

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