More on M. Blanchard’s adventures in France and other European countries. (Part 1; part 2.) Here’s a brief recap: J. D. Salinger published The Catcher in the Rye in 1951. Jean-Baptiste Rossi, later known as Sébastien Japrisot, translated it into French in 1953. In one passage in the original, Holden Caulfield talks about a character from a novel, named Blanchard, who was so handsome that he had to beat women off “with a club.” In Rossi’s version, Blanchard spent his days beating women with a cane. Annie Saumont’s 1986 failed to correct this: she had Blanchard beat his women with a golf club instead.
Unbelievably, the standard Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish translations all have Blanchard beat women with a stick or a club. Moreover, Rita Rait-Kovaleva’s famous Russian translation (1960) is guilty of the same error. Rait wasn’t a novice translator, a literary ingénue or a Soviet ignoramus. She was born a year before Nabokov and a year and half after Roman Jakobson. She had graduated from an old-fashioned imperial gymnasium before the revolution destroyed the elite education system. In the 1920s, she gave German lessons to Mayakovsky. English was her third foreign language, in all likelihood; perhaps she wished to check her understanding against a French translation and so was led astray. But what about the Romance translators?