Hofstadter and the Paradoxes of Translation
Douglas Hofstadter (born in 1945) is a peculiar scholar: a Pulitzer-prize winner and a specialist in cognitive science, he is nevertheless quite fond of translation, to the point of practicing (and studying) it in several publications since 1997. Our essay focuses on his latest work in this field, That Mad Ache / Translator, Trader (2009). It is a double book, with two covers and two reading directions: on the one hand, readers will find Hofstadter’s retranslation of Françoise Sagan’s 1965 novel La Chamade (1965); on the other hand, turning their book, they will be faced with a long essay on the translation of that book into English. It is truly a double book, with theory and practice of translation going one towards the other, highlighting all along the role of the translator, too often underestimated in the Anglo-American publishing scene. Analyzing such a peculiar book, we should try to sketch an unconventional figure of a (re)translator and translation scholar: he is fascinated by the paradoxes and possibilities of translation, and his fame, together with his excellent vulgarization skills, manage to renew the charms of translation and share them with a larger audience.