Garzón, and what Franco said to Jay Allen before Spanish translators and historians got involved

I think this is the first intended mistranslation I’ve dealt with here. At the tail end of the bizarre campaign to save the skin of socialist magistrate Garzón by portraying fellow-socialist magistrate Varela as a crypto-fascist, Ignacio Escolar has attacked the Falange for claiming that Garzón buttressed his case with mistranslations of an interview conducted by Jay Allen for the Chicago Tribune in late July 1936. The full passage in question in the original reads:

[Franco] “The revolution of 1931 was artificial. Zamora … promised a republic of priests and monks. But the republicans cannot make a bourgeois revolution. Their masses want a red revolution,” the general said.
“In the name of liberty there was frightful license. The constitution was a unilateral affair. Half of Spain was persecuted.”
[Allen] “Then no truce, no compromise is possible?”
“No. No, decidedly, no. We are fighting for Spain. They are fighting against Spain. We will go on at whatever cost.”
“You will have to shoot half of Spain,” I said.
He shook his head, smiled and then looking at me steadily: “I said whatever the cost.”

Garzón, via his sources, renders it thus:

“Nosotros luchamos por España. Ellos luchan contra España. Estamos resueltos a seguir adelante a cualquier precio.” (Citado por Secundino Serrano en “Génesis del Conflicto: La represión de los huidos. Dentro del libro Federación Guerrillera de León-Galicia. El último Frente. Resistencia Armada Antifranquista en España 1939-1952”, de José Arostegui y Jorge Marco (Eds). Editorial Catarata, 2008.)
– Allen: “Tendrá que matar a media España”, dije.
Entonces giró la cabeza, sonrió y mirándome firmemente dijo:
“He dicho que al precio que sea”.
Es decir –afirma Allen- que “estaba dispuesto a acabar con la mitad de los españoles si ello era necesario para pacificar el país”. (Santos Juliá. Víctimas de la Guerra Civil, Madrid, Temas de Hoy. 1999. Página 25.)

Escolar writes that from this

it is clear that the translation quoted by Garzón is pretty reasonable. Like all translations, it is open to nuance. You can argue about whether … “You will have to shoot half of Spain” would [have been more accurate than] “kill half of Spain.” But I don’t think that that changes the meaning of the sentences much.

However, by pointing out a minor error Escolar distracts our attention from three important distortions, the second of which confirms the Falange’s claims of mistranslation and the first and third of which suggest a straightforward intention to mislead.

First, in the original Allen’s “You will have to shoot half of Spain” is clearly a hyperbolic response to Franco’s hyperbolic “Half of Spain was persecuted.” The entire fragment is an exchange about reciprocal justice, but the omission in Garzón document of Franco’s original absurdity makes it appear that Allen is accusing Franco of violent unilateralism. The difference is between that of the rational albeit loathsome concept of an eye for an eye and the bloody irrationality of Cain.

Second, as Jose M Guardia points out, in the original text Franco’s initial reaction to being asked the question is to shake his head. There are perfectly adequate Spanish translations of head-shaking available, but we are told incorrectly in Spanish that “he turned his head.” Shaking one’s head can indicate a wide variety of reactions, including sorrow and denial, but they are precluded by the mistranslation, thus reinforcing the Cainite thesis.

Third, nowhere in his piece does “Allen state that Franco was prepared to finish off half of the Spanish if that were to be necessary to pacify the country.” In fact I think he’s engaging in the classic political strategy of neither ruling out massacres nor ruling them in. For comparison, here complaining of massive injustice in another potentially massively fratricidal situation is Malcolm X:

We have formed an organization known as the Organization of Afro-American Unity which has the same aim and objective to fight whoever gets in our way, to bring about the complete independence of people of African descent here in the Western Hemisphere, and first here in the United States, and bring about the freedom of these people by any means necessary. That’s our motto. We want freedom by any means necessary. We want justice by any means necessary. We want equality by any means necessary.

You may suspect the worst, but there’s nothing in there that will hang him in a decent court.

If the misrepresentation of evidence in this morsel of Garzón’s case is anything to go by, then God help him, and maybe it’s time to reëxamine some of his previous work–the mass detention and alleged torture of Catalan nationalists to prevent disruptions to the 1992 Olympics seems to be springing to minds with which, like the Falange, I have little else in common.

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Last updated 22/04/2010

This post pre-dates my organ-grinding days, and may be imported from elsewhere.

Baltasar Garzón (2): Baltasar Garzón Real is a Spanish jurist.

Barcelona (1399):

English language (462):

Föcked Translation (414): I posted to a light-hearted blog called Fucked Translation over on Blogger from 2007 to 2016, when I was often in Barcelona. Its original subtitle was "What happens when Spanish institutions and businesses give translation contracts to relatives or to some guy in a bar who once went to London and only charges 0.05€/word." I never actually did much Spanish-English translation (most of my work is from Dutch, French and German) but I was intrigued and amused by the hubristic Spanish belief, then common, that nepotism and quality went hand in hand, and by the nemeses that inevitably followed.

Ignacio Escolar (1): Ignacio Escolar García is a Spanish blogger and journalist.

Spain (1881):

Spanish language (504):

Translation (788):


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