Pseudotranslations OR Four eyes see more …

A while ago, during one of our presentations on the project, the topic of pseudotranslations was brought up, meaning: texts that appear to have been translated from a foreign language, even though no foreign language original exists. At the time, I’m not sure how relevant we deemed this particular issue to be for the collection of our data. But recently, Marina – who has been busy tidying and merging all our individual datasets – stumbled across a case where a pseudotranslation tricked me into believing it to be a real translation.

In going through all the issues of Der Monat, I added plenty of ‘letters’ from foreign cities as translations to our database. These articles were part of a regular segment of the magazine, a correspondences-section used to further the international appeal of Der Monat and a way to stay in touch with voices from all around the world as well as travelling writers. One of these ‘letters’, about and supposedly coming from the city of Madrid, was written by a man called Valeriano Bajocapa. Because I could not find any information on Bajocapa that would allow me to assume that he had written this article in German himself, I added his ‘letter’ to our list as an inferred translation and thought nothing more of it.

MagazineYearIssueTranslatorAuthorTitleSource LanguageTarget Language
MO195691Anon.Bajocapa, ValerianoBrief aus MadridSPDE

Until, that is, Marina sent me the following note: “Something else to double-check: Might Bajocapa (literally ‘under (a) cape’) be a pseudonym and this maybe not a translation?”

Together we looked at the only source we could find online that included the name Valeriano Bajocapa: a book on Walter Boehlich, a German critic and writer, edited by Helmut Peitsch and Helen Thein, in which an article by Christoph Kapp talks about Boehlich’s early years. In this context, the Monat-article is mentioned: “Only once did Boehlich express himself under a pseudonym in an article […] about the domestic political conditions in Spain at that time. Under the name of Valeriano Bajocapa, an article appeared in Der Monat in 1956 …”1

The conclusion was obvious: Marina’s instinct had been right; Bajocapa was a pseudonym of German writer Walter Boehlich, and his ‘letter’ subsequently not a translation. We have since taken Valeriano Bajocapa’s article out of our database; the only part of him that will remain is this anecdote and the lesson we – once again – learned about four eyes seeing more than two, especially when each pair of eyes is capable of reading different languages!

Dana Steglich

1 “Nur einmal äußerte sich Boehlich unter Pseudonym in einem Artikel […] über die innenpolitischen Verhältnisse in Spanien zu dieser Zeit. Unter dem Namen Valeriano Bajocapa erschien 1956 im Monat eine Reportage …” Kapp, Christoph: “… und die Thoren enttronte in mit den Jahren” Walter Boehlichs frühe Jahre – eine biographische Skizze, in: Peitsch, Helmut und Helen Thein (Ed.): Walter Boehlich. Kritiker. Akademie Verlag, Berlin, 2011, 34 (quote translated by D.S.).

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