Thursday, September 23, 2010

De Beauvoir's Second Sex (the new translation)

"It is one thing to ignore the many positive features of “The Second Sex” (for example, the way Beauvoir deconstructs the writings of D. H. Lawrence and other male authors) and quite another to dismiss as “preposterous” Beauvoir’s claim that one is not born, but becomes, a woman. Gray bases her argument on the sight of male toddlers grabbing cars and guns while girls cherish their dolls. The complex interaction between nature and nurturance cannot be dismissed so easily, as the extensive scholarly literature on this subject makes abundantly clear. Let me simply add my personal experience to Gray’s: as the mother of three sons and one daughter, I observed a much greater fluidity in their choice of toys, marked less by gender than by individual temperament.  Just as Gray reacts negatively to the content of “The Second Sex,” so, too, she finds fault with the new translation. It does not “flow as nicely” as the earlier one. Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier produced a highly literal, complete translation, down to Beauvoir’s original punctuation. This sometimes makes for difficult reading, and well it should, since “The Second Sex” is — among other things — a philosophical text. Would anyone think of translating Heidegger so that he flows nicely, when he rarely does?"