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Post Angel Vinas's Latest Book
Created by John Eipper on 03/16/21 1:13 PM

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Angel Vinas's Latest Book (Paul Preston, -UK, 03/16/21 1:13 pm)

Today's post from Ángel Viñas merely hints at the achievement of both his most recent book El gran error de la República and his previous and closely linked ¿Quién quiso la guerra civil?

Professor Viñas's work over the last forty-odd years has completely transformed the way in which the Spanish Civil War and particularly its international dimension are seen. He is arguably Spain's greatest contemporary historian and it is a matter of concern, and sadness to me personally, that his work is not translated into English.

Incidentally, what he says about treachery within the military establishment confirms my findings about it in my book The Last Days of the Spanish Republic.

JE comments:  One titan historian praising another--I can only stand on the sidelines in awe!  Thank you, Paul.  

Come to think of it, I've never seen any English editions of Ángel Viñas's books, and that's a pity.  Is this a brutal question of economics?


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  • Why Aren't Angel Vinas's Books Available in English? (Enrique Torner, USA 03/18/21 3:26 AM)

    I would like to congratulate Ángel Viñas on his latest publication: El gran error de la República. I'll make sure to add this latest title to our university library, and am looking forward to reading it as well.


    I consider myself very blessed to be surrounded by so many experts on the Spanish Civil War in WAISland, and my knowledge on this subject has become deeper and more rounded thanks to this great Forum.


    Paul Preston and John Eipper's comments about Ángel's works not having been translated into and published in English is a big puzzle to me: why is this so?  Given the fact that I have been a translator for many years and have translated several history books (though from English to Spanish), I can't understand why no English-language publishing company has translated and published any of Ángel's books. I would even volunteer to translate any of his books if I had somebody to edit it later!


    In the translation field, though, the general rule is for a translator to translate into his native language. There are very few translators who professionally translate both ways: all my book translations have been from English into Spanish, though I have done a few translations of articles or brochures into English. Despite the fact that I have spent more years of my life in the US than in Spain and that I have read and written in English a lot for over 30 years, whenever I write anything in English, I can never be completely positive that I have made no mistakes! My hardest challenge in the English language is, without a doubt, prepositions.


    Given the fact that our dear editor has spent years editing posts in this Forum, including my own (and I have been posting here for quite a few years now), I think he would be the most qualified person to judge whether my English would be good enough to translate one of Angel's books (or any other), since I never have taken the trouble to compare my original posts to the final ones. Of course, that's just an aspect of writing.


    Ironically, I am presently teaching a course entitled "Intensive Writing," but it's in Spanish, of course! However, I am now having a flashback of one of my college professors at Indiana University saying: "If you know how to write well in your language, you should be able to write well in English too." However, I am not sure I agree completely with his statement. I wonder what my dear WAISers think about this: after all, many of you are multilingual as well.


    JE comments:  Enrique, you've passed the editing test with flying colors!  (Why do colors "fly"?  The eternal mysteries of language.)  The only thing I've done to your draft is capitalize "Forum," even though it's technically incorrect:  some years ago I decided that WAIS should be a Forum, not a lowly forum.


    Regarding translation, there is the technical aspect and the more brutal one of economics.  Translations of scholarly works don't sell well in the Anglo world.  I lack the data to prove my hypothesis, but it seems to me it's easier to publish an English-language book translated into Spanish than the reverse.


    I hope Ángel Viñas will comment.  In the meantime, he has responded to the latest from Eugenio Battaglia (next in the queue).


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    • The Difficulty of Publishing Scholarly Translations (Paul Preston, -UK 03/19/21 3:02 AM)
      Ángel Viñas will no doubt have his views on this question.

      However, I can say that the publishers with which I have dealings will publish books on the Spanish Civil War by Spanish authors--after the usual peer-review processes--if they are provided with a decent translation. They will pay to have textbooks translated or sure-fire commercial hits.


      I have published numerous works by Spanish scholars in the two series that I edit on contemporary Spanish history but, in all cases, the author was able to get it translated.


      JE comments:  Yes indeed, Ángel Viñas has also commented on this topic.  Stay tuned!



      Yesterday I had the pleasure of an in-person (Facebook) chat with Paul Preston.  It was the first time we actually talked in four or five years.  We're all aware of Paul's phenomenal scholarship and sharp wit at the keyboard.  But every time we speak I am also reminded of his skills as a raconteur.  Sir Paul, so good to catch up!

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    • Why Aren't My Books Available in English? (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/19/21 3:47 AM)
      I thank John Eipper and Enrique Torner for having raised the point of why none of my books have been translated into English. I'll endeavor to reply truthfully to their query.

      1. The first reason is purely economic. In Spain there's no great official support for financing translations of Spanish book into foreign languages. The Ministry of Culture has some money, but the administrative proceedings are tedious and cumbersome. The Ministry of Education, via the universities, also has money. The same applies.


      However, a great part of my career was spent in other Ministries or in international organizations so that I couldn't apply via my university. When I came back in 2007 to the Complutense I was too busy to waste time in applying. It follows that I would have to pay for the translation myself. This is costly and I have always preferred to spend money on research and connected travels. Going from country to country, working in archives, photographing documents and buying books is quite expensive. Additionally in the English-speaking world you have to put your MS on the table in English. In general no publisher considers a manuscript or a foreign book but in English.



      2. The second is "ideological." I'm obviously interested in that people in the English-speaking world come to know my books, but those interested in Spain at least read Spanish and should know some of them, whether they agree with them or not. What I write has generally been in a direction which goes against the myths dear to the Spanish Right or to those who still believe that the Francoist canon has any validity. Since the past doesn't exist and people have to do with representations of it, I think that in Spain there has been a battle for interpreting the past and therefore for historical interpretation. I feel quite at ease being called a "warrior historian" (as by Sebastiaan Faber who coined the concept). My writing is therefore addressed to Spain.


      3. This doesn't mean that I´m averse to publish in English or in other languages (French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian) but it's mostly for articles. Some of them I have written in those languages. Others were translated. The only book where I participated with others which was translated into German was at the 50th anniversary of the Civil War with funds provided by the Government. It was published by Suhrkamp, one of the leading German publishing houses.


      Now I am too busy to worry about these things. I would rather go down in history as a modest writer like the count of Toreno, whose book on the Peninsular War (1808-1814) is still worth reading.



      Thanks a lot again.


      JE comments:  Thank you, O Illustrious Warrior!  I see myself more as a peacemaker, but WAIS does provide me with a modest bully pulpit:  Sebastiaan Faber, where have you been?  Please check in with your fellow and fellowess WAISers.  We miss you!


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      • In Praise of Angel Vinas...and a Forthcoming Book (Sebastiaan Faber, USA 03/21/21 3:56 AM)
        To add a quick note to Ángel Viñas's post: I wholeheartedly agree that his groundbreaking scholarship should be made more widely available to English-language readers.

        In fact, I have included interviews with Ángel (in English) in two books: Memory Battles of the Spanish Civil War (2018) and my forthcoming Exhuming Franco: Spain's Second Transition, which should be out in a couple of weeks, and which I am happy to say will be quite affordable ($15 or so).


        JE comments:  Sebastiaan, I've missed you!  But it's good to see that your time away from WAIS (unthinkable!) has been very productive.   Congratulations on your new book from Vanderbilt UP, which will hit the streets on April 15th.  I'll pick up a copy for the WAIS HQ library, which I am happy to report, has now spilled over to a third shelf.


        https://www.amazon.com/Exhuming-Franco-Spains-Second-Transition/dp/0826501737


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    • Scholarly Translation: A Labor of Love (Silvia Ribelles de la Vega, USA 03/20/21 3:26 AM)
      I have been following the interesting thread started by Enrique Torner in which both Professor Ángel Viñas and Sir Paul Preston have clarified the issue at hand based on their own experiences. They are both renowned scholars and writers. I am not, but I would like to add the following, based on my own experience both as a published minor writer and as a translator.

      I am a free-lance scholar, my original field is (was) the Spanish Civil War from an international perspective, although I have as of lately gravitated towards biographies. I enjoy the necessary research into the different aspects of the extremely volatile and fluid history of the first half of the 20th century in which my characters lived. I have published the life of the Spanish communist leader Luis Montero Álvarez (1908-1950), and my latest book will come out one of these days (it's already in press). It is the biography of Sir George Dixon Grahame (1873-1940), who, among many other things, was the British ambassador in Madrid between 1928 and 1935.


      But I have also translated academic books, from English and French into Spanish. The last one I translated was published by Editorial El Paseo, in Sevilla. It was, by sheer coincidence, written by "our" very own Ronald Hilton, who chose French to compose his work. The publisher payed me the going market price, I was not given anything less than any other translator would have received, it was all "legit," no under-the-table business or anything like that: 20 euros per 1,000 word clusters. So, for this book, which took me about four months to translate, after taxes and so on, I received eighteen hundred euros.


      As a writer, and because my latest book, the one about Sir George, could be potentially interesting for the British public, I toyed with the idea of having it translated into English, and then looking for a publisher in the UK. Like Sir Paul says, publishers in the UK will very rarely pay for translating books, unless they know it will be a blockbuster and so on. I naively thought I could invest the money I got from translating Hilton's book into having someone translate my own book. But, guess what, a translator here in the US charges 8-10 cents per word. I was looking at almost seven thousand dollars to have my book translated. Just so that you understand: had I charged my publisher in Spain by American (or British, because they are similar) standards, I would have received almost six thousand euros for my work... A huge difference.


      The publishing world is one that is very opaque to me. It must be a very difficult world to survive in, specially if you are a small publishing house, even more so if you publish academic books. The writer only gets 8% of the selling price per book. Think about it. How is the rest of the money distributed? I don't know. And you don't see the owners of Spanish publishing houses driving around in expensive cars, do you? So I don't think they keep a lot of money themselves, either.


      I have, thus, come to the conclusion that the act of writing, translating and publishing an academic book in Spain, in most instances, is a labor of love.


      JE comments:  Silvia, you are correct.  It's a labor of love.  I am reminded of the time many years ago that a mom-and-pop translation firm offered me fifty dollars to translate a 30-page technical manual.  It would have taken two weeks of work.  Even though I was a destitute grad student at the time, I turned that gig down.


      Felicitaciones on the Sir George Dixon Grahame book!  Please let us know when it's available.  And in the meantime, could you share with us a few highlights of your research for the project?


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      • Translators Earn a Meager Living (Enrique Torner, USA 03/21/21 3:25 AM)
        I have been correcting compositions this whole semester, and students think that spelling mistakes should not be counted against them because they are no big deal. Well, they are wrong: I hate spelling errors! You mix up two letters and your whole one-liner gets urined!

        Now that I have let off some of the steam I have accumulated this semester correcting Spanish compositions, I'd like to comment on the responses I received about my post on the "non-translation" of Ángel Viñas's books on the Spanish Civil. Silvia Ribelles (March 20th) stated that translating in Spain is a labor of love because the pay is ridiculously low. She compared that with translator fees in the US, where going rates range between 8 and 10 cents per word. In comparison, she says that if her translation had been paid at the US current fees, she would have received about triple the pay. This is mathematically correct, but it does not correspond to reality.


        The truth is that freelance translators in the US charge what Silvia mentioned, but that's not necessarily the case for those who translate for publishing companies, who tend to impose their own fees, which are about half, or 4-5 cents per word, more or less depending on the company and the field.


        I have been both a freelance translator and a translator for the publishing field. I belong to the American Translators Association and have belonged to the Upper Midwest Translators Association for some years. The first time I attended the yearly conference of this last association, their president, upon finding out that I had translated books for publishing companies, suggested I write an article about that for the ATA Journal because what I had done was the dream job of any freelance translator! I was also asked to present on the topic. I did both. The truth is that freelance translators mostly translate short articles, brochures, or other kinds of short documents, and they have a very hard time getting enough work to survive. If you add to that the fact that self-employed people pay additional taxes, even in the US translators make very little money.


        In my case, I started translating for Crítica, a small scholarly publishing company in Barcelona, right after I finished my Bachelor's degree in Spain. The pay was low, but, for a young guy who still lived at home with his parents, it was good enough and it helped improve my resume. That may have helped me to later win the scholarship that brought me to the US. Once I came to the US and during all my career, translation has always been both a way to improve my CV and a way to earn some needed extra money. Translating scholarly books requires research and is considered as such in my institution and others like mine; I have learned that this is not the case at bigger, more research-oriented universities. In conclusion, even in the US, translating is still a labor of love, as Silvia stated.


        Publishing scholarly works is not only a labor of love but also a "pain in the pocket": I had to pay to get my PhD thesis published! And that was at a peer-reviewed publishing company! Regarding royalty payments, I never received a cent! I was told from the beginning that the publishing company first had to sell a number of copies just to recoup their loss; only after that number had been sold (if it were reached), I would start getting royalty fees. My book was published in 1996. The publishing company never contacted me about my royalties, so I assumed they had not sold their quota. A few years ago, out of curiosity, I wanted to find out how many copies I had sold. After I Googled the publisher, I found out that they had been bought by another company. Even so, I called them to check if they could tell me. They did: they told me they had sold 7 copies! I told them that was impossible because I have seen my book in library catalogs all over the world. Their response? This woman told me that if I had seen that in the WorldCat Database, that their database was incorrect, and that was that! That is exactly where I had seen my book being in libraries all over. Conclusion? Scholarly publishing companies are in big trouble and doomed.


        I think that another factor that accounts for the difference between translating from English into Spanish and from Spanish into English is that in the reading culture between Spain and the US. In Spain, there are bookstores all over the place: practically every neighborhood in every Spanish city has at least one bookstore, and people buy and read books of all kinds there. This is not the case in the US, where bookstores and readers are much fewer. In the US, it seems that only bestsellers thrive, and scholarly books are mostly bought only by libraries and students. I think this is also a major factor in the difference.


        JE comments:  The high-water mark for reading culture in the US may have come at the dawn of the Internet age, when every mall in America had a Borders bookstore.  Book culture flourished when customers lounged and browsed in those mammoth stores--and then made their actual purchases on Amazon.  Hence the death of Borders by 2011.  I remember the famous sign on a boarded-up Borders:  "Need to use the restroom?  Try Amazon.com."


        Enrique, while we're on the subject of translation, what are your thoughts on Google Translate and its equivalents?  Much to my chagrin, they are getting very good.  Even two or three years ago, it took veteran teachers like us about a minute to expose a cheating student who wrote out an essay in English and then e-translated it.  Now it's harder and harder, although red flags remain.  One that comes to mind is the Spanish auxiliary verb "soler" (with apologies to WAISer José Ignacio Soler):  If you type "used to [verb]" into the English window (I used to play basketball), out pops a form of soler (to tend to).  Anglophone students would never generate this construction naturally.


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      • Who Was Sir George Dixon Grahame? (Silvia Ribelles de la Vega, USA 03/21/21 11:39 AM)
        John, thank you very much for publishing my post, and for showing interest on my research. I am very happy to share this summary of my book. I hope WAISers will find it interesting.

        Sir George Dixon Grahame, (1873-1940)--G.C.M.G. (Grand Cross of Saint Michael and Saint George), G.C.V.O. (Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order), P.C. (Privy Council)--was one of the most experienced and highly regarded diplomats of his time. His first assignment, as Third Secretary, was Paris in 1898, and after short stays in Buenos Aires and Berlin, he returned to the capital of France in 1905.


        George Grahame played an especially important role in Anglo-French negotiations during the Agadir Crisis. Once that crisis was brought to an end, both Lord Bertie, the British Ambassador, and George Grahame were staunchly opposed to France's wishes to restrict the Spanish zone of Morocco even further. At the outbreak of the Great War, George Grahame had already been promoted to First Secretary, and still worked under the orders of Lord Bertie. A mere six months before the war's end, Lord Bertie fell ill and was replaced by Lord Derby, a member of the military with no experience in diplomacy, though quite charismatic amongst high-ranking allied officials. George Grahame bore the burden of the embassy throughout the final months of the conflict, until the signing of the armistice on 11th November 1918. During the Paris Peace Conferences, once the war was over, he signed the Treaty of Sèvres, which split up the Ottoman Empire. In 1920, he was named ambassador in Brussels, where he weathered the storm which had arisen in the checkered relations between France and the United Kingdom as a result of war reparations, and the Ruhr Crisis, when the French and Belgians decided to occupy that part of Germany.


        But the most widely covered part of his career in this work are his years as British Ambassador in Madrid. In 1928, he was stationed in the Spanish capital, and while he remained in Spain at the helm of the embassy until 1935, he was given the task of dealing with the fall of the monarchy and the proclamation of the Spanish Republic. Reading his detailed and interesting dispatches and reports, one can get an idea of the situation in Spain during that volatile first half of the 1930s. They transpire his deep knowledge of the political and sociological situation of the country. He was never judgmental, and always informative. But not only that. His conciliatory reports to the Foreign Office from Madrid, submitted from 14th through 21st April 1931, contributed in large part to the United Kingdom's early official recognition of Spain's new regime. During his stay in Madrid, he also handled the crisis entailed by the revolution of 1934, with a much more liberal attitude than could have been expected from a member of Britain's high society and the representative of a country which leaned conservative. In fact, a few years later, he would end up unabashedly condemning the July 1936 military coup, by saying:


        "I sometimes wonder how with my upbringing in a Tory milieu of landed gentry, I came to hold the views I do. I think one of my ancestors must have been a Cromwellian 'round-head,' and his blood moves within me" [1].


        Shortly after he passed away in July of 1940, his good friend Claude Bowers, the American Ambassador in Madrid, wrote about him in his diary: "Born a conservative, life and a good heart and sound principles made him a liberal."[2] This liberalism would contribute to his fall from grace amongst colleagues in the Diplomatic Service as his life drew to an end.


        During his years in Spain, he was very active in social circles. Sir George also visited different parts of the country, both officially and unofficially. He mixed and mingled with both the higher and the lower ranks of society. Like Azaña said about him, "He likes to mingle with the masses at the parks and in Madrid shows, and he knows many local pet phrases"[3]. A recalcitrant bachelor, Sir George even found a potential Spanish wife when he was past his sixties in a woman eight years younger than him, Julia Heredia. Like he himself said in one of his letters to a good friend only two months before retiring and leaving Spain, "I have had an interesting and, what matters also, a happy time in this country"[4].


        He became good friends with different political and intellectual figures in the country, such as Manuel Azaña, Alberto Jiménez Fraud or Ramón Pérez de Ayala; but he also made some enemies, namely, King Alfonso XIII who, while on exile in London, smeared the reputation of Sir George spreading false rumors about him as a payback for having pushed for the speedy recognition of the Republic by the British Government. This, combined with the mystery that always accompanied him among his colleagues, contributed not only to his falling in disgrace, but also to his being cast into complete and utter oblivion. Just as a token of this, he was one of the very few British Ambassadors who did not have a Wikipedia entry when I first started researching his life [5].


        In order for me to follow the trace of this elusive character, I have visited archives, museums and libraries in the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, France and Argentina. I have researched in private collections, and I have interviewed, and corresponded with, the descendants of friends and family of Sir George. I have also consulted varied and pertinent bibliography: books, memoirs, newspapers and articles.


        This work is an effort to rescue Sir George Dixon Grahame from the abyss in which he had been pushed; to bring back into the flow of history the figure of a man who found himself at the relevant historical crossroads of the first four decades of the 20th Century, sometimes as a mere witness, others as a main character, like his years in Spain. His name should not be forgotten and we should not let his star go extinct forever.


        NOTES:



        [1] Letters from G.D. Grahame to C. Bowers, 7th September 1936. Bowers MSS Collection. II, 1893-1960, Lily Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana (USA).


        [2] Lilly Library, Bowers MSS, II, diary, 13th July 1940.


        [3] Manuel Azaña, Memorias políticas y de guerra. Volumen II. Año 1932, Afrodisio Aguado, Madrid 1976, p. 49.


        [4] Letter from Sir George to his friend Leslie Scott 9th April, 1935, Private Collection of Sir George's descendants.


        [5] Now he does, because I created it.


        JE comments:  A splendid overview, Silvia!  Looking forward to reading the biography.  Besides the Spain years, I'm also interested in Sir George's Great War-era service in Paris. 


        Tell us, what was the most interesting experience you had while interviewing Sir George's relatives?


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        • Sir George Dixon Grahame, Diplomatic Giant (Angel Vinas, Belgium 03/23/21 4:17 AM)
          Silvia Ribelles' post on her biography of Sir George Grahame is very welcome indeed.  I'm looking forward to reading it.

          I first become aware of Sir George's doings in Spain when I wrote La conspiración del General Franco in 2011. The second chapter dealt with British policies towards the Second Republic from 1931-1936. Sir George appeared to me as a diplomatic giant (physically he was one, the tallest man in the British foreign service). His successor, Sir Henry Chilton, was a disgrace. Sir George has always figured prominently in my books about the Republic in peace. Even in the latest one.


          My most sincere congratulations to Silvia. I hope her work will also appear in English.


          JE comments:  I second your congratulations, Ángel!  Sir George Dixon Grahame must have stood a good six inches over six feet.  I found this photo for comparison:  Sir George is pictured between, and dwarfs, two icons of the Great War:  Field Marshal Douglas Haig (left) and Admiral David Beatty.

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    • Scarcity of Translations in Anglo-American Market (Edward Jajko, USA 03/23/21 3:17 AM)
      Looking at the discussion of Ángel Viñas's book, for which congratulations, and comments that have been made about his new book and others not being available in translation, I have something of a sense of almost déjà-vu.

      Years ago--and I must ask the help of our editor here--I commented on works by a prolific French author whose oeuvre, although of value, was not available in English. The author had been brought up in discussions by a member of WAIS who was later drummed out of the group; I don't remember his name. I have a recollection of making some sort of unverified comment about greater general availability of translations in the Anglo-American market (a conceit perhaps derived from my decades of experience in research libraries).


      Some European WAISers immediately jumped on this/me, asserting that I knew not whereof I spoke and that translation within Europe and its languages was in fact vigorous and wide-spread and a contrast to the publishing world of the US. I am somewhat bemused by the recent discussion. And hope that Ángel's books will be translated.


      JE comments:  Ed, I snooped a bit through our archives, which are getting huge (43,770 posts).  Do you mean the works of the prolific Egyptologist Guy Rachet?  Here is your comment from November 2006:


      https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=11944&objectTypeId=6194&topicId=59


      On Rachet, still going strong at 90, click below for his (French) Wikipedia entry.  Tellingly, there is no biographical information available in English...


      https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Rachet


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