From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 13.2 (1993): 135-37.
Copyright © 1993, The Cervantes Society of America


To the Editor:

     Congratulations are surely in order for Burton Raffel. Anyone with the temerity to launch a new version of the Quijote in English has my admiration. His puff-piece* in the Spring 1993 issue suggests that this new version may indeed improve upon some earlier efforts. It may also present problems, however.
     I have an observation on the way his notion of genre colors his reading of the text. If the book is a novel, as Raffel assumes, one can naturally expect character development or, at least, change. But if it is read as a mild Menippean satire, one is less predisposed to read into it those unlikely metamorphoses (i.e., sanchification and quixotization), for the focus in satire is less on characters, or characterization, than on the ideas and the external objects of censure. If it were read as a romance, expectations might need to be adjusted yet again. No doubt he would translate some passages differently if he approached the text with an alternative understanding of its generic dominant.
     Let me then comment on just one passage adduced by Raffel, the one from II, 32, where the duchess says to Sancho, “yo haré que mis doncellas os laven, y aun os metan en colada, si fuere menester.” In these post-psychoanalytic times, it is difficult not to find sexual innuendo behind every word wrap. Raffel misses a marvelous opportunity to rise to that challenge. Instead, he finds what he sets out to find, just as with quixotization and sanchification.
     Covarrubias offers, as part of his definition of colada, “al que no viene limpio dezimos que le pueden echar en colada.” Murillo and Gaos annotate accordingly. What is to be washed is the beard, in any event, not the body, but if the beard does not come clean with soap, the next step will be to use lye —and in a very

     * Burton Raffel. “Translating Cervantes: Una vez más,” Cervantes 13.1 (1993): 5-30. For a continuation of the discussion, see Raffel Replys to Parr, Cervantes 14.1 (1994): 107-09. -F.J.


136 JAMES A. PARR Cervantes

particular way. Lejía was just mentioned by Sancho, it is implicit in colada, and it will come up again when the kitchen pícaros appear.
     Should we assume that Sancho knows what is being proposed here? In I, 20, Sancho uses a related expression, “todo saldrá en la colada,” and in his letter to Teresa in II, 36, he falls back on the identical image. This too is a set phrase, just like “echar [o meter] en colada.” Ginés de Pasamonte uses “salir en la colada” in II, 22, presumably in Sancho's presence, just after the first galeote has revealed his crime, falling in love with a “canasta de colar, atestada de ropa blanca.” Given this context, it is safe to assume that, yes, he knows full well what colada means and what is involved.
     Raffel mentions Smollett's “lay you a bucking,” but seems uncertain of its sense. The phrase sounds suggestive, and the OED does give, as one meaning of buck, “to copulate with, said of male rabbits and some other animals.” But under lay, we find another idiom, “to lay a buck,” meaning “to put clothes in soak for washing (obs.) . . . [possibly confused with some derivative of LYE . . .].” Smollett is surely using the set phrase and, if so, his translation is accurate. As for the “[sic]” Raffel inserts after Smollett's “dutchess” (18), the OED further clarifies that this was the usual spelling until around 1810. Smollett's translation appeared in 1755.
     It seems to me that Raffel reads innuendo into this passage. What the immediate context highlights is Sancho's plebeian politesse —and obfuscation— on one hand, and the cruel humor of his interlocutor, on the other. She says that they will wash “him” (the whole for the part), but, if the beard does not come clean, they may then toss him, beard and all, into the linen colander, where a kind of lye, made by adding ashes to boiling water, is introduced and allowed to seep through the contents as a cleansing and whitening agent. A footnote would explain “linen colander” and the process (see below).
     Perhaps another time, Sancho implies politely, he might reconsider and try that dubious addendum. Here we have a wonderfully sketched patrician power play met by quick-witted plebeian evasiveness. This brief exchange captures important essentials of both characters. There is no need to appeal to innuendo.
     Let me offer this reading of the passage:

13.2 (1993) Forum 137

     “Rest easy, Sancho, my friend,” said the duchess. “I shall have my young ladies wash your beard —and even douse you in the linen colander, if need be.”
     “How about just the beard? —for now, anyway,” answered Sancho; “some other time —heck, who knows?”
     “Butler, take note of Sancho's request,” said the duchess, “and see to it that everything is done exactly as he wishes.”

     Such hyperbolic deference probably invites the singular interpretation it will soon receive. I doubt that this thumbnail sketch invites the reading Raffel gives it, however. While I am not a translator (as may be evident), it seems to me that one should strive for accuracy rather than enhancement.


UC Riverside

Digitized with the help of Kendall Sydnor
Fred Jehle Publications of the CSA HCervantes