El largo adiós

12 October 2008

In my new living room is a bookshelf full of a numbered series of white, hardcover “classics” translated into Spanish, a puzzling & sometimes eclectic series of titles – not just Joyce, Camus, Borges, Neruda & Cortázar, but Hemingway – The Old Man & the Sea, of all choices – Truman Capote, & Sigmund Freud –

– and Chandler, whose “El largo adiós” I started last night, & spent five minutes wrestling, dictionary open, with the first line:

La primera vez que le eché la vista encima, en el interior de un Rolls Royce Wraith, junta a la terraza de The Dancers, Terry Lenox estaba borracho.

“Le eché la vista encima” – this makes almost no sense. Which as near as I can make out means that, in the great game of telephone that constitutes literary translation, especially from Spanish, already a terse language and one liable to destroy the rat-a-tat laconic sneer of the noir original, a genre that the Spanish call negro, the literal English opening of Chandler’s immortal The Long Goodbye, that in its original does not have a single word in it longer than a syllable and clocks in at two dozen words, is:

The first time that I threw out or cast off or tossed away an overhead, as though from an outcropping, wide view upon Terry Lenox, (from an outcrop that was on the inside of a Rolls Royce that itself was adjacent to the terrace of The Dancers), he, Terry Lenox, was and had been drunk.


A belated consultation with the original informs me that le eché la vista encima means, “laid eyes on him” – four syllables to eight, Chandler wins by a factor of two – and it is almost enough to make me give up altogether.

2 Responses to “El largo adiós”

  1. […] sayings. I was looking for <le eché la vista encima> (for reasons I’ve gone on about at length), but as soon as I read this one I got […]

  2. […] November 2008 Reading Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye in Spanish: a good way to find out that esposas means not just wives, but […]

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