Best of List/Historical Research Follow-up

I’m honored to say that Library Journal has selected The Golden City as one of the top 5 Fantasy and SF novels of 2013.

That’s a nice boost to the confidence ;o)

In a follow-up to my earlier posts about King Solomon’s Mines

I earlier noted that the writer who translated the book into Portuguese, José Maria Eça de Queirós, took quite a few liberties in his translation. Among other things, he smooths over Haggard’s rather unpleasant view of the Portuguese in Africa. But he also interjects things that don’t appear in the original manuscript, some of which have nothing to do with that. (I’m reading the original and the translation side by side, which makes it clear.)

In trying to figure this out, I ran across this academic article: Versions of the imperial romance: King Solomon’s Mines and As Minas de Salomao (Sorry, I can’t seem to find the full article now.)

Among other things, this article discusses the underlying political pressures of the time of the translation (1889-90). The powers of Europe had just met to partition Africa, slicing it up into colonies under the control of various European countries.

Long story short, it seems that Portugal lost a lot of African territory to England in that conference (the Berlin Conference of 1884-85) followed by a 1890 ultimatum by the English that the Portuguese should get out of certain territories. Portugal said “Hey wait, we were there first!” while England said “Yeah, but possession is nine-tenths of the law. Get out.”

So that’s the atmosphere behind the translation into Portuguese of an English adventure story set in Africa.

It seems that both Haggard and Eça de Queirós were in Berlin around the time of that conference. In fact, I think I recall seeing that Haggard was inspired to write the book during that conference.

And when you’ve got a wildly popular English book that hinges on the fact that the Portuguese were in Africa first, wouldn’t it make sense to translate it into Portuguese? Among other things, it reinforces the popular perception that the Portuguese were wronged in the conference by being forced to give up territory that should have–by antiquity–been theirs.

(OK, I’m flattening this out a bit, but that’s a simplified version behind the reasoning.)

So some of the mystery behind a) why this is the only English book that Eça de Queirós ever translated, and b)why he made some changes to the text during that ‘translation’ is now solved.

(Not all of it. Some of the changes just seem to be Eça de Queirós’ personal taste…)


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