Corps de l’article

In 1970 E. M. Forster dies at the age of 81. His death meant the removal of a lifetime ban to publish his sixth novel, Maurice, written at the turn of the century and which had remained unpublished since then. The manuscript, which had been known to Forster’s closest friends for many years, was published in 1971 giving way to a revival of anything Forsterian, from a renewed interest by critics to reprints of his already published works.

The interest in Forster’s work continued in the 1980s in the form of film adaptations of most of his novels. The trend began in 1984 with David Lean’s production of Forster’s most loved and best remembered novel, A Passage to India, which would obtain international acclaim and eleven Academy Award Nominations. Two years later, producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory followed suit with the adaptation of A Room with a View. The film became such a huge international success that it was related to a renaissance of English cinema, both commercially viable and appreciated by film critics. The success of A Room with a View, which won three Academy Awards, encouraged the same team to make Maurice the following year. Two more films would be made based on Forster’s novels at the beginning of the 1990s: Where Angels Fear to Tread would be adapted in 1991 by Charles Sturridge, and the Merchant-Ivory team would conclude their Forsterian stint with the film version of Howards End, giving way to a concept still much in use nowdays, that of Merchant-Ivory England exploited by British Tourist Boards in order to attract overseas visitors by offering a theme-park image of certain parts of England (Prieto Arranz 2002).

The most interesting consequence of the publication of his so-called homosexual novel would be the appearance of a wave of revisionist critics who interpreted his five other novels in the light of the topic presented in his posthumous work (including a collection of short stories published the following year, The Life to Come and Other Stories). Meyers (1970) had already opened this trend with an article in which he viewed the famous bathing scene in the woods in A Room with a View as the epitome of a homosexual encounter. In it, Mr Beebe would fall for George and, from then on, ignore Lucy’s sentimental problems. Steiner (1971) takes a similar stand in regard to A Passage to India, where the conflicts arising from the clash between two contrasting civilizations reflect the conflict between homosexuality and society itself. Hynes (1971), Cusham (1973), and Salter (1975) also provide us with new interpretations of the various relationships among the characters in Forster’s novels, always portrayed against the homosexual nature of the author. Herz (1985: 87) even speaks of the “surface heterosexual romance and the interior homosexual romance” whereas King (1982: 80-82) views Maurice as a predecessor of Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover in an article challenging many other traditional interpretations of both Forster and Lawrence.

Other authors have attempted to present a more comprehensive view of Forster’s six novels, in which other aspects of the process of literary creation were also considered, such as his style or the humanistic preoccupation always present in his works (Colmer 1971; Gillie 1983; Valdeón 1995a). In this sense, they have tried to analyze Forster’s posthumous novel considering those aspects shared by the other five. Gillie (1983: 127-128) views Maurice as a “case-story,” and believes that “Maurice is in many ways a character remote from himself.” He also believes that, although it is not a good novel, it is an understandable novel from a human point of view, which also provides us with a better understanding of his other works. Valdeón (1995a: 373-375) believes that we should interpret Maurice against the background of the other novels, thus the reader might discover a clear coincidence in the topics, in the interest to promote understanding amongst human beings as the only way to self-fulfillment. The controversy remains and recent studies on the author range from emphasizing the homosexual theme (Martin and Piggford 1997) to omitting it altogether (Edwards 2002).

Therefore, even though Maurice does not reach the peaks of Forster’s other works the reader could easily make connections between novels, comparing characters, situations, developments, and topics. Maurice must also be credited with bringing Forster back to the forefront, to the scrutiny of critics and readers alike. The film adaptations of the 1980s and early 1990s would equally contribute to this renewed interest in Forster’s novels and, consequently, Maurice would play a double role, both thanks to its publication in 1971 and to the release of the film version in 1987. In this regard this novel holds a unique position in promoting this interest. For this reason, now that over two decades have elapsed since the film was first shown and bearing in mind the unprecedented literary controversy of the 1970s and beyond, we have undertaken to examine a new aspect of his work. We shall compare his less admired novel, but also the one that made such a contribution to his revival in the last part of the 20th century, with the translated version widely available in Spain during the 1970s and 1980s. Thus, we will be able to explore the way in which the novel might have been viewed by non-native speakers of English who depended on its translation into Spanish to make judgements about its theme and literary qualities.

The literary controversy surrounding the publication of the novel brings us to the issue of how an artistic work, which has been so widely written about, can be viewed by readers belonging to a foreign culture, when presented in their own language rather than English. Translators play a central role in rendering accurately a literary work to a new readership since the source text (ST) combines linguistic, cultural and literary elements that must also be present in the target text (TT). This role has often been discussed and the debate lives on. However, we intend to apply some of the concepts discussed in recent decades in Translation Studies without entering the controversy as such, as we aim to analyze three aspects of the English text and its Spanish version to decide on the effectiveness of the TT.

We shall start by referring to some of these concepts and defining the way in which they will be used in this article. We believe that the notion of communicative translation is fundamental in a literary translation for the target readership. In their classic treaty, Nida and Taber (1969) underlined the linguistic peculiarities of a language and the need to adapt the message of the ST to the features of the TT, stressing the communicative value of the translation as well as the effect that the TT must have on the readership: “The new focus, however, has shifted from the form of the message to the response of the receptor” (Nida and Taber 1969: 1). Newmark recaptured Nida and Taber’s words, placing the focus on the message and the target readers (Newmark 1982: 68; 1991: 51; 1988/1995: 47-49) but also on the context: “Communicative translation is always concentrated on the reader, but the equivalent-effect is inoperant if the text is out of TL space and time” (Newmark 1982: 69). He mentions the notion of equivalent-effect, which would refer to the need of the TT to have a similar effect on the reader as the ST has in the original language. In fact, he argues that communicative translation is the type that more aptly conveys this effect on the reader (Newmark 1988/1995: 49), and this does not exclude the challenge to be faithful to the literary style of the original.

This equivalent effect or the notion of equivalence, as it is usually referred to elsewhere, has caused a considerable amount of controversy, ranging from Toury’s acceptance (he argues that “equivalence is not a postulated requirement but an empirical fact, like TT itself: the actual relationships obtaining between TT and ST” – Toury 1981: 13) to Nord’s highly critical approach on the grounds that it “is one of the most ambiguous concepts in translation studies” (Nord 1991: 22), and, therefore, too fuzzy to be defined precisely. This view is also shared by Vermeer (1996: 47-51). A comprehensive discussion and a solid attempt at defining the term can be found in Rabadán (1991: 49-99). However, in this paper we shall use the term as presented by Baker (1992), although her classification will be adapted to the study of the three different levels specified below.

Another important issue for this paper is the role of the translator as an intermediary between the TT and the ST. For this reason, translators have been regarded as “intercultural mediators” (Zlateva 1990: 32; Wolf 1995: 127) and some have openly defended a translator-centred translation (Campbell 1998: 3) following Venuti’s (1995) thorough discussion on the role of the translator. However, for most the emphasis must be placed elsewhere. For Toury (1995: 12), translators “operate first and foremost in the interest of the culture into which they are translating.” Therefore, they will require sound knowledge of the culture of the Other before making assumptions. This also falls in line with Venuti’s (1986) view that translation in this context is a transformative act. The translator should try to optimize communication between cultures (Chesterman 1995: 149) if the texts are to succeed, and, thus, he/she becomes an interlocutor between author and readership (Peeters 1999: 217-227).

In a posthumous article, Vidal (1995) went even further when he claimed that translators were not just mediators. In effect, he argued, they found themselves at the crossroads between the author and the ultimate reader. He conceived the translator as a receiver of a text in language A and, in his/her turn, a sender of a text in language B, with all the implications that this would entail: “Il est donc important de reprendre le schéma de la communication pour voir les constatations qu’il autorise quant à la place revenant au traducteur dans l’échange translinguistique” (Vidal 1995: 372).

Apart from these concepts, we also believe in the importance of the whole in literary translation, and in particular in the case of novels, as Bassnett (1980/1991) mentions. She underlines that TTs are not ordinary class exercises where extracts are normally used without a context (Bassnett 1980/1991: 110). Additionally, she emphasizes the function of the literary devices the author may use to set the tone of the novel (Bassnett 1980/1991: 118). This, as commented above, will be particulary important in the case of the ST and TT of the novel we are about to study. In this respect, García López (2002) writes about some of the difficulties the translator of a literary text might encounter:

Las dificultades de traducción se derivan también de la disparidad de las lenguas en contacto como productos de dos culturas. El traductor se halla ante dos sistemas, dos normas, dos usos de la lengua diferentes, planteando su divergente valor comunicativo problemas que sólo su destreza y competencia enciclopédica pueden resolver, si no a plena satisfacción, al menos con el mayor grado de proximidad comunicativa.

García López 2000: 240

In this text, she deals with the notion of encyclopedic competence, which corresponds to what has been termed as translation competence by other scholars (Wilss 1989: 140; Bell 1991: 41; Nord 1991: 150-155; Nord 1992: 47; Toury 1995: 251), and is, in fact, a combination of five different types of competence, namely, linguistic, cultural, contextual, cotextual, and TT production. Bell (1991) mentions four (grammatical, sociolinguistic, discourse, and strategic) whereas Neubert (2000: 6) has also defined this competence around five parameters, which he labels as language competence, textual competence, subject competence, cultural competence and transfer competence. In his view, the interplay of these five types of competence would characterize a good translation. The debate about the number of categories that defines translation competence underlines the fact that the translator must be able not only to transfer a text into the target language (TL) but also to interpret the ST and its culture. This notion is connected with Wuilmart’s (2000: 19) view, as a translator, that “il s’agit de savoir lire.”

Consequently, we could assume that the strategies used to render these materials into the target language will necessarily involve some kind of alteration of the original message, since the recipient culture or cultures will not necessarily be familiar with the material used in the original texts. In fact, they could differ considerably (Toury 1995: 25). Thus, following Rabadán’s (1991: 26) view that “[la traducción] ha ayudado a modelar, de forma significativa, culturas y civilizaciones,” we also highlight the fact that the translator should bear in mind the culture and interests of the target reader, and be aware of the strong relation between language, culture, and society (Vestergaard and Schroeder 1985; Fairclough 1989), and, consequently, of his/her power to present a foreign culture in a new environment (Venuti 1998: 67). The elements to be taken into account in the translation process (readership, norms, culture, setting, and tradition) will differ, and this divergence will certainly affect the so-called directions or strategies to be used by translators (Newmark 1988/1995: 4-5).

Finally, we shall mention a concept introduced by Milton (2001: 57-65) in connection with a series of translations carried out in Brazil by the Clube do Libro, a book club whose aim is selling literary works of various styles and quality to a readership unaccustomed to buying books. In his view these texts are examples of factory translation, which he defines around a number of characteristics, among which we shall retain team translation, loss of sacredness and recycling. This type of translation is clearly linked to meeting deadlines and marketing campaigns. We shall retrieve this concept in the final discussion.

Going back to Maurice, the novel is set at the turn of the 20th century and tells the muddle of a conventional young man, Maurice Hall, who is deeply tormented by a feeling he does not understand until he meets Clive Durham at Cambridge, where both study and fall in love. As Maurice gradually accepts his homosexuality, Durham breaks off their relationship pressurized by the obligations of society and his family. They remain friends and Maurice keeps visiting Penge, Clive’s estately mansion, where he will eventually encounter physical love through Alec Scudder, Clive’s gamekeeper. To carry out the comparative study of the novel and its TT we have used the following texts:

  • Source text: Maurice, Hardmonsworth: Penguin Books, 1972/1987. It is, in fact, the same version published by Edward Arnold in 1971.

  • Target text: Maurice, Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1985/1988. Translated by José M. Álvarez Flórez and Ángela Pérez Gómez.

It is worth noting that the Spanish version used here was published at the time as the Merchant-Ivory film version was released, and two years after the success of the screen adaptation of A Room with a View. The front page carries a photograph depicting the two protagonists, James Wilby and Hugh Grant, clearly anticipating or meeting a demand in the market. However, it is the same translation used in 1973 when the novel was first published in Spain (Barcelona: Planeta). Bearing all this in mind, we shall analyze the texts in order to ascertain the following points:

  1. Considering the literary controversy surrounding the publication of Maurice and the consequent re-interpretation of Forster’s five other novels, we shall try to establish whether the translated version will allow the Spanish reader to value this novel with regards to his other novels and whether the main features of Forster’s narrative are present in the TT.

  2. We shall also attempt to decide whether the translated version manages to convey some of its intrinsic qualities to the Spanish readership. Consequently, we shall analyze certain relevant features of the novel, notably the linguistic choices and the transference of cultural references.

  3. Finally, we aim to determine whether the Spanish version might be merely considered, as publication dates seem to suggest, a commercial consequence of the Forster’s revival thanks to the homosexual theme and the film versions mentioned above, and, therefore, we shall discuss the effects a fast and sloppy translation can have on the reputation of the novel and the author himself. The quality of the translation will also help us ascertain whether this type of TTs does justice to the original literary work and we shall consider the extent to which the TT examined here can be considered a product of factory translation.

To reach some reasonable conclusions, we have divided the study into three sections: text-level analysis (covering both the language of the narrator and the dialogues as well as a specific subsection for the lexical choices), cultural-level analysis (dealing with the transference of cultural references) and literary-level analysis (covering two of the main features of Forster’s narrative: the concept of muddle as a recurrent theme in his work, and what we call the anticipatory technique, whereby the narrator anticipates future developments in the plot by dropping hints at the readers).

Then, we shall proceed to analyze one chapter in order to examine all these aspects at play and decide on the coherence of the resulting text. For this purpose, we have selected a key chapter in the novel, chapter 25, which brings the second part to an end. It is a fundamental chapter in Maurice’s personal evolution, as Clive Durham breaks off their love affair. This chapter strategically marks the first half of the novel.

1. Text level

In this first section we shall study those aspects of interest as regards linguistic choices made in the two texts. We propose three subsections for the purpose of clarity, although it should be underlined that there is no clear-cut division and some of the aspects studied in one of them will be related to or have an effect on the other two. We have chosen those examples which are primarily concerned with structural choices in the first subsection, stylistic differences in the second one, and semantic variation in concrete words or phrases derived from the lexical choices in the third one.

1.1. Grammatical choices

We shall begin by studying verb patterns in narrative passages. Although English and Spanish offer a fairly simple correspondence between verb tenses, this is not always the case. Duff (1989: 74) mentions that we must be particularly careful with the choice of tenses whereas Mott (1993: 71-75) provides abundant examples of lack of correspondence between tenses and voice between Spanish and English. Let us begin with chapter 5, which provides us with two examples of wrong choices in the TT. Sisley, one of the secondary characters in the story, is conversing with Maurice and Chapman about Sisley’s cousin, the Dean. He comments on a previous meeting in which the four had been present and proclaims:

  1. ‘You didn’t see. My cousin wasn’t being human.’

    ‘He’s good enough for us; that’s all I know,’ exploded Chapman. ‘He’s absolutely delightful.’

    ‘Exactly. Eunuchs are.’ And he was gone.

  2. - ¿Has visto? Mi primo no es un ser humano.

    - Con nosotros es bastante bueno, eso es todo lo que sé – explotó Chapman –. A mí me parece muy agradable.

    - Exactamente. Los eunucos lo son.

    Y se fue.


Sisley’s views are distorted in Spanish as he declares “¿Has visto?” (33) while the implication of the original is precisely the opposite: Maurice had not noticed. Still, it is the reference to the Dean which becomes more alien to the text: “Mi primo no es un ser humano.” The use of the continuous aspect in English is not realized in any way in the Spanish version, and, consequently, modifies a temporary state. This produces a much more negative evaluation of the character (“was not being human” becomes “is not human,” altering the aspect as well as the tense). The argument becomes much more heated when Chapman replies that “He’s absolutely delightful.” In the Spanish text, the contrasting views become more intense but less effective, since Sisley’s words are definitely stronger (permanent versus temporary state) and Chapman’s reply more tentative: “A mí me parece muy agradable.” Consequently, the strength of the scene is lost because Sisley and Chapman do not antagonize each other as in the ST, the former being more assertive and the latter more cautious. For this reason, Sisley’s final reply in the TT (“Los eunucos lo son”) and Chapman’s reaction are incomprehensible since the strong antagonism is not fully realized. The scene is also fundamental in creating a state of mind in Maurice, which, in our view, has been lost too.

The Dean also features in our next example. In chapter 14, Maurice is confronted with the Dean, who is about to expel him from Cambridge because he had refused to stop when being called earlier that day, and following the most poetic scene in his relationship with Durham. After the Dean had witnessed how the two protagonists had left the college together, the narrator describes his reaction: “In a dead, bloodless way, he even guessed what had happened” (75). All the same, he cannot tolerate a breach of discipline and, later on, will send Maurice down from Cambridge. The readers figure out that the Dean must be firm but also sympathetic. The Spanish text, on the contrary, becomes confusing as the verb tenses are changed: “Fría y desapasionadamente, se preguntaba aún qué podía haber sucedido” (71). The resulting effect is that the TT creates no element of compassion as the Dean is totally unaware of the situation.

Another good example can be found in chapter 16. Maurice’s arrival in Penge, his friend’s county estate, is presented as painful for the protagonist. His first moments in Penge are compared to a previous meeting in a restaurant where both had felt out of place. Forster writes: “No, it was worse than the restaurant, for there Clive had been out of his element too” (82). The TT offers a confusing version: “No era aún peor que el restaurante, pues allí Clive estaba también fuera de su elemento” (78). The wrong verb tense besides the lack of the preposition “en” in “el restaurante” makes it very difficult for the reader to link the two scenes, as the narrator, and obviously Maurice, does.

Many of these cases of structural non-equivalence have been discussed by Muñiz Chacón (1998), who defines them as grammatical false friends, in the sense that although they are grammatical forms that can be used in both languages in certain contexts, in others “tienen una estructura aparentemente semejante pero que proyectada hacia la realidad configuran referencias diferentes” (Muñiz Chacón 1998: 152). In other cases, the structures in one language parallel those in the other but their usage is rare and, therefore, unnatural. This can be exemplified in rhetorical questions of the type Maurice uses when Mr. Ducie, his primary school teacher, makes reference to a speech made by his own father when he was a child: “When I was your age, my father told me something that proved very useful and helped me a good deal” (18). To signal interaction between the two speakers, Maurice utters: “Did he, sir?,” whose function is similar to Spanish “¿De verdad?.” However, the TT uses the awkward literal translation “¿Él se lo dijo?”(17), grammatically correct but completely unnatural. In other cases, the grammaticality of the sentences is doubtful. Thus the following English original:

  1. After lunch he changed for football, and being in good time flung himself on his sofa to sleep till tea. But he was not hungry. Refusing an invitation, he strolled out into the town and, meeting a Turkish bath, had one.


where non-finite clauses provide the reader with a feeling of immediacy, is rendered in the TT as “rechazando una invitación se fue a pasear, y, pasando frente a unos baños turcos, entró a tomar uno” (40), both unacceptable in standard Spanish.

Another difficult point is the translation of the emphatic use of pro-forms such as “did” in “When Maurice did go to bed, it was reluctantly” (23). The emphasis is lost in the TT as we read “Cuando Maurice se fue a la cama, lo hizo a regañadientes” (22), in a scene where the auxiliary is the narrator’s device to further emphasize Maurice’s reluctance to go to bed. The use of “did” as a first indication of a strong personality that will defy social and moral conventions is lost in the TT.

As discussed so far, verb phrases can be particularly demanding. The presence of English phrasal verbs in the ST poses additional problems that would require compensation strategies in the TT. This is not also achieved as can be seen in the opening paragraphs of the novel. The narrator in the ST offers the reader a presentation of the characters: Maurice, his teachers and other students. One of the teachers is positively characterized by stressing his efforts to help his pupils. The narrator tells us that he “…had even coached pupils into a scholarship” (16). However, the TT loses this point as “coach students into” is rendered as “instruir” and the sentence “[…] y hasta había instruido alumnos becados” (14) does not correspond to the meaning of the original.

However, and despite these and other errors of judgement that will be commented in the next two sections, narrative passages are more aptly translated than dialogues. In fact, they also manage to offer some insight into the protagonist’s traumatic nature. Thus, chapters 9 and 10, which represent the first stages of the process of self-discovery for Maurice, provide the reader with some of the best of Forster’s prose and are accurately rendered into Spanish. Even if the style does not do justice to the author, it is also fair to acknowledge a great effort on the part of the translators to convey very difficult passages revealing Maurice’s most inner feelings. Forster’s tendency to the poetic in these situations is obvious in sentences like: “The storm had been working up not for three days as he supposed, but for six years. It had brewed in the obscurities of being with no eye pierces, his surroundings had thickened it…” (58) and the Spanish reader also has the opportunity to experience it as we read:

La tormenta no había durado seis días, como él suponía, sino que había estado fraguándose durante seis años. Se había preparado en las obscuridades del ser, donde ningún ojo atisba, y el medio ambiente en que había vivido, la había alimentado.


1.2. Stylistic variation

More debatable are the choices concerning the dialogues. It is worth underlining the influence that the work of Text Linguistics, and notably Halliday and Hassan on register (1976; 1985), has had on Translation Studies. The style of a text, the variety chosen by an author helps to establish relationships between the characters, but also between the author and the prospective readership (Peeters 1999: 148-150). Consequently, the translator must be aware of the implications of using a given variety (Carbonell 1998: 97) since otherwise nuances of the ST would be lost (Hervey, Higgins et al. 1995: 74, 118-119). The scale of formality proposed by Newmark (1988/1995: 14) will be useful in this section. Forster often resorts to numerous features of conversational English, other than just lexical choices, in an attempt to make the speech of his characters more relaxed and naturalistic. This is achieved by using ellipted forms throughout and, in particular, amongst friends, or when a senior member of the community addresses a younger one. This also contributes to establish the hierarchical relationship between Maurice and teachers, or Maurice and old friends of the family. Thus, in the first chapter, as Mr. Ducie attempts to instruct Maurice on the rather delicate subject of the things of life, he also enquires about what his colleagues might have already told the young boy: “Told you you were a miserable sinner, I hope” (16), the speaker is emphasizing the key point by omitting the subject in the main clause and focusing on the information conveyed by the relative clause. The use of “I hope” as a discourse marker at the end also contributes to build up the conversational tone. The Spanish text becomes a more formal “Supongo que te diría que eres…” (15).

A similar situation occurs in chapter 15 as Maurice meets Dr. Barry about his reasons for leaving Cambridge:

  1. ‘Well, Maurice, and how goes the career? Not quite as you expected, eh?’

    Maurice was still afraid of their neighbour.

    ‘Not quite as your mother expected, which is more to the point […] Worrying too much because you don’t apologize […]’

    ‘How do you mean, sir?’


The informal tone of the ST disappears as all the non-standard grammatical forms (questions, ellipsis, tags) are lost (¿cómo va esa carrera? Parece que no exactamente como esperabas, ¿no?”). Additionally, the TT keeps the form of address used in the ST (“sir”) to mark respect, even if it sounds alien in Spanish (“señor”). The failure to establish the relationship between the two characters would not be so damaging for the novel if, further down, Dr. Barry did not rage at Maurice’s attitude towards his mother. By deliberately using colloquial forms of English, Dr. Barry is also making the statement that he is in a position to scold Maurice for his behaviour. And when that happens, the gap between the condescending tone, used earlier on, and the lecture does not seem so wide. In the ST we read: “How dare you bully your mother, Maurice. You ought to be horsewhipped. You young puppy!” Dr. Barry keeps his informal tone but reprimands Maurice in a humorous way that gradually becomes more threatening: “You are disgrace to chivalry” (80). On the other hand, the TT abruptly changes from almost peer to father-to-son-like talk: “Cómo te atreves a burlarte de tu madre, Maurice. Merecerías que te azotaran” (76), and goes on to show no respect for the protagonist as he proclaims: “Mequetrefe (…) Eres una vergüenza para la gente decente.”

As can be seen in the above examples, discourse markers are also used as a device to create this conversational tone. Informal English is characterized by very specific discourse markers, as opposed to formal varieties of the language (Schiffrin 1987; Leech and Svartvik 1994: 177-180; Fuller 2003: 23-45; Carter and McCarthy 2006: 174-175) and differences with other languages have also been underlined (Hervey, Higgins et al. 1995: 76-79). Consequently, these elements pose serious difficulties, since the same word(s) can have different semantic implications depending on the context (Swan 1995: 151-160; Parrott 2000: 301-317). In the TT, discourse markers tend to be used inappropriately. For example, in “you see, your father was at his school too” (22), the character is attempting to tone down a forceful statement. In the TT, the translators have opted for the literal “¿ves?” rather than “¿sabes?” (21), as we might expect. As a result, the effect of the original is lost. In chapter 9, when Durham finally declares his love for Maurice, the protagonist’s rebuke comes as: “Durham! A rotten notion really…” (56). The discourse marker “really” has an evaluative function. That expression of surprise is translated literally in the TT (“¡Durham! Qué estúpida idea, realmente,” 56) while Spanish would prefer a different expression.

Apart from discourse markers and ellipsis, Forster also uses other markers of informality to achieve a conversational tone. In their meetings, Cambridge students’ informal English is full of phrasal verbs, contractions and phonological losses, as in “’Spect Mr. Risley isn’t. I’ve put him off with my low talk” (32). The TT becomes much more formal as these features are lost and the translators have also elevated the tone of the exchange by using noun phrases like “grosera observación”: “Sospecho que el Señor Risley no las tiene. Que le he quitado el apetito con mi grosera observación” (31). Furthermore, no attempt is made at compensating this shift in the subsequent talk, which remains rather neutral to formal.

Another instance of loss of pragmatic equivalence between ST and TT can be traced in the first meeting between Maurice and Durham, also marked by an informal tone in the original, with contractions, phrasal verbs and clippings. Durham addresses Maurice in the casual way that will establish their future relationship: “‘Wait a sec, and I’ll come too. I’m sorting out the Pathetic Symphony’” (37). The tone is kept throughout the whole chapter and most of their relationship. It will only become more formal in the second half of the novel as the nature of their friendship changes. Other features of informal English used in this scene, and profusely in the novel, are instances of situational ellipsis (“‘Got your March,’ ‘Didn’t know you were in the aesthetic push’”) or the use of informal negation (“‘Hall, I never knew you were a fool,’” 45).

Forster also uses some strong language in this novel, a rather implausible feature in the narrative of his time and unparalleled in his other five novels. He probably felt freer to use lower varieties of English as Maurice was not meant to be published. Thus, from the informal category we move a step down to colloquial English (Newmark 1988/1995: 14). In some of their discussions on the issue of religion the tone of the language between the two friends rises. In the central scene in chapter 7, Durham wants to stress that Maurice does not really care about religion, that it is just false pretence. The discussion reaches a point when Maurice finally admits it:

  1. ‘You care nothing about the Trinity, anyway.’

    ‘Oh, damn the Trinity.’

    He burst with laughter. ‘Exactly, exactly. We will now pass on to my next point.’

    ‘I don’t see the use, and I’ve a rotten head any way – I mean a headache. Nothing is gained by all this…’


Maurice acknowledges that there is no point in arguing once he has realized he is bound to be defeated by his interlocutor. He uses the blasphemous “damn” to refer to the Holy Trinity to signify surrender. We are at the turn of the 20th century in a Puritan country and in an even more Puritan environment. Durham salutes his friend’s defeat by saying “exactly, exactly.” However, none of these implications are present in the TT, which becomes rather bland:

  1. -De cualquier modo, a ti no te preocupa en absoluto la Trinidad.

    - Bueno, deja en paz la Trinidad.

    Rompió a reír.

    - Exactamente, exactamente. Ahora podemos pasar al punto siguiente.

    - No veo la utilidad, y tengo la cabeza podrida de todos modos… quiero decir tengo jaqueca. Nada vamos a ganar con… todo esto.


Apart from the problem with “damn,” the word “rotten” deserves some attention as it contributes to depict Maurice as being “muddled.” The TT offers a literal and ridiculous translation (“podrida”), which will be a recurrent choice whenever Forster uses the term in the novel. It is worth mentioning the moment when Maurice justifies his leaving Cambridge: “I shall go straight into the business now, like father did, without taking one of their rotten degrees. I see no harm in that” (77), which becomes “Entraré a trabajar en los negocios, inmediatamente, como hizo papá, sin ninguno de sus podridos diplomas. No veo que haya nada malo en ello” (73). The TT translates “rotten degrees” literally as “podridos diplomas” (73), an unusual (and rather comical) collocation in Spanish, where “malditos” would sound less humorous and more forceful, to keep in tone with the scene. It might be stronger than “rotten,” but it could have served as a compensation strategy for the loss of strength in other scenes.

A similar problem arises in chapter 13, when Maurice and Clive head for freedom in a natural environment and escape the Cambridge setting. Durham exclaims: “Oh, damnation!” (72) when he trips over the steps. The Spanish version tends to transfer interjections of this type literally, even if they verge on the ridiculous, as does the choice in this case: “Oh, maldición” (68), where a more resounding “¡Maldita sea!” would have fitted the context without trespassing the limits imposed by the narrator.

But in Maurice Forster can even afford to cross the border between the acceptable and the unacceptable and enter the taboo category (Newmark 1988/1995: 14) by using strong sexual language, as he knew that the text was to remain unpublished in his lifetime. When Durham begins to show signs of change in his attitude towards homosexual love, Maurice becomes fierce:

  1. ‘The Greeks assumed little enough, yet too much perhaps. There may be not forgetfulness beyond the grave. This wretched equipment may continue. In other words, beyond the grave there may be Hell.’

    ‘Oh, balls.’


The Spanish text becomes rather coy thanks to the use of “diablos,” which does not only convey the strength of the ST but also sounds silly:

  1. Los griegos supieron pocas cosas, pero de todos modos quizás fueran demasiadas. No debe haber olvido después de la tumba. Este arruinado equipo debe continuar. En otras palabras, más allá de la tumba debe existir el infierno.

    - Oh, diablos.


Although this type of expletive is not frequent in the ST, colloquial exclamations are quite common. However, the TT does not always manage to provide the Spanish readership with the semantic connotations of the original, e.g., further down on the same page, Durham rebukes his friend by saying “Maurice! What did you do that for, you fool?” The function of the final vocative is distorted in the Spanish version, “Maurice, ¿por qué has hecho eso? ¿eres idiota?,” since the final question becomes too assertive.

To conclude this subsection let us consider two extracts which can provide a global view of the transfer of the ST into Spanish. In the first one, the narrator depicts Maurice as a young boy and the reader becomes aware of his tormented soul even if no direct reference to his homosexual inclinations is made. The exchange reflects a boy-mother relationship at the beginning of the 20th century, quite different from what the modern reader would have experienced and would expect:

  1. The little boy was in tears.

    ‘My pet, what is it?’

    ‘I don’t know… I don’t know’

    ‘Why, Maurice…’

    He shook his head. She was grieved at her failure to make him happy, and began to cry too. The girls ran out, exclaiming, ‘Mother, what’s wrong with Maurice?’

    ‘Oh, don’t,’ he wailed. ‘Kitty, get out…’


The scene has a sentimental flavour but it certainly helps the author to portray the anguish that Maurice felt as a boy. Mrs. Hall’s words reflect her incapability to offer her son some consolation and Maurice’s own words contribute to show distress. In Spanish, the exchange becomes incongruous, the tone verges on the impertinent and Mrs. Hall’s words cause more derision than sympathy as she strives to give her son some comfort. As regards Maurice’s words, his use of a very unlikely “lárgate” accentuate the implausibility of the scene:

  1. El muchacho estaba llorando.

    - Cariño, ¿qué es eso?

    - No sé… No sé…

    - Pero por qué, Maurice…

    Él meneó la cabeza… Ella lamentó su fracaso, el no haber podido hacerle feliz, y comenzó a llorar también. Salieron las muchachas, diciendo:

    - Mamá, ¿qué le ocurre a Maurice?

    - Oh, nada -gimió él-. Kitty, lárgate…


In the second example, Mrs. Hall is informed by Mrs. Durham that Clive is engaged, to everyone’s surprise, including Maurice and his sister Ada. Other characters are also present and Forster offers the reader a remarkable scene about Georgian bourgeois life with a touch of very fine irony, including ingredients such as personal feelings, politics and social status. It is undoubtedly Forster at his best:

  1. ‘Oh, Mr. Durham’s engaged to be married,’ cried Mrs. Hall, who was reading a letter. ‘How friendly of his mother to tell me. Penge, a county estate,’ she explained to Miss Tonks.

    ‘That won’t impress Violet, mother. She’s a socialist.’

    ‘Am I Kitty? Good news.’

    ‘You mean bad news, Miss Tonks,’ said Aunt Ida.

    ‘Mother, who toom?’

    ‘You will say “Who toom” as a joke too often.’

    ‘Oh, mother, get on, who is she?’ Asked Ada, having stifled a regret.

    ‘Lady Anne Woods. You can read the letter for yourselves. He met her in Greece. Lady Anne Woods. Daughter of Sir H. Woods.’


Much is lost in the TT. The first point to be mentioned is Mrs. Hall’s snobbish attempt to show her guests her connections with the nobility. She mentions the name of Penge, and specifies that she is referring to their county state. The TT offers an opaque word instead, “una posesión,” much more generic in reference and with no particular connotations. Ada is dismissive of her mother’s snobbery by remarking that one of the guests is a socialist. The TT becomes rather sloppy as the translation reproduces the structure of the sentences almost literally:

  1. - Eso no impresionará a Violet, madre. Ella es socialista.

    - ¿De veras lo soy, Kitty? Una buena noticia.

    - Querrá usted decir una mala noticia, señorita Tonks – repuso tía Ida.


Ada’s words keep an unnecessary subject in Spanish (“ella”) and retain Violet’s reply, including the use of the ironical “good news” as an unnatural “buena noticia.” But the most remarkable aspect about the TT is the omission of the jocular game on “who toom.” It is true that it poses an important challenge, but it is also worth mentioning that the pun does not only provide us with an ironical comment on the issue of marriage, but, most importantly, it reflects Ada’s own feelings with respect to Clive and in connection with Maurice’s jealousy. The TT just continues “Bueno, madre; sigue…” The game on the words “who toom” is omitted altogether.

1.3. Other cases of semantic deviation

There are many other instances where the lexical choices are debatable. Some have been mentioned above, but in this subsection we aim to provide a brief taxonomy of these choices based on the resulting effect in the TT.

1.3.1. Softening

Firstly, we have come across sentences where the original has been partially altered. Thus, although the meaning of the ST remains it has been somehow toned down. This occurs in cases such as “He forgot he had developed into men” (16) where “developed into men” is understated in the Spanish version as “olvidaba que se habían hecho casi hombres” (14), that is “almost developed into men.”

1.3.2. Exaggeration

In other cases, the opposite is true, that is the TT exaggerates the original. For example the sentence “There were cries of disappointment” (16) becomes “gritos de protesta” (15) in Spanish, making it sound more of a rebellion than Forster suggests. A similar process takes place in the same scene when the teachers are trying to calm the pupils down and the narrator writes: “The other masters, seeing that it was no good, called the pack off” (16). In the TT we read “Los otros profesores, viendo que aquello no conducía a nada bueno, apartaron a la jauría” (15), where “pack” becomes a much more aggressive “jauría.” The combination of the two choices in the same scene produces the image of a group of very aggressive children whom the teachers are trying to appease rather unsuccessfully, a very unlikely image for private school children in England at the turn of the 20th century. Another obvious case of exaggeration in the same chapter is “A great mistake” (17), which becomes “una gran mentira” (15) in the TT.

In chapter 26, as Maurice blames his sister Ada for breaking off his relationship with Clive, Ada makes a strong claim: “I don’t mind that – you’ve always been so unkind to us, always” (120), which the TT renders as “Siempre has sido tan malo con nosotras. Siempre” (116). Maurice leaves Ada and the narrator tells us that “He saw that beneath their obsequious face, his sisters disliked him.” The TT also offers a more powerful version with deeper negative connotations: “Se dio cuenta de que detrás de su actitud servicial, sus hermanas le detestaban.” Once again the combination of two non-equivalent choices changes the implications of the whole scene by creating a barrier of hatred between Maurice and his sisters. This choice remains in chapter 28 as Maurice attempts an apology but soon realizes “that she still disliked him” (125). The TT states “vio que aún le detestaba” (122).

1.3.3. Ambiguity

There are also examples of ambiguity, where the original meaning loses clarity. This can be seen in “[…] but he knew that wishing is useless when boy meets man” (17), which becomes “el deseo es inútil para un muchacho cuando está con un hombre” (16) in the TT, too dubious to be acceptable.

1.3.4. Non-equivalence

In other examples the lexical choices in the TT do not correspond to the original text in Forster’s novel. In some cases the meaning is not altered in a significant way. For example, in “Tomatoes, radishes, broccoli, onions…” (21), the second vegetable is changed for some reason in the TT: “Tomates, zanahorias, brécoles, cebollas” (20). Further down we come across a similar example: “purples potatoes, white potatoes” are reduced to “patatas” in the TT, whereas “turnip tops” becomes “grelos.” It is true that, as Baker (1992: 26) points out, “Not every instance of non-equivalence you encounter is going to be significant,” and these changes produce minor alterations if we compare them with the examples in the previous subsections. Some can be justified like the lack of differentiation of the type of potatoes, although others sound unreasonable, such the use of the regional marked word “grelos,” a term associated with speakers in the North-West of Spain.

However, there are also cases where the change is complete. In the first chapter, when Mr. Ducie is questioning Maurice about his interview with the principal of the school, the boy is asked “Anything else?” (17), which is rather neutral in tone. The Spanish version “¿Nada más?” (16) alters the meaning and the implication is extreme surprise on the part of the teacher. But perhaps the most unexpected and complete deviation from the original text appears in chapter 24 where we read:

  1. It came during the illness – possibly through illness. During the first attack, when he was severed from ordinary life and feverish, it seized an opportunity that it would have taken some time or other. He noticed how charming his nurse was and enjoyed obeying her.

  2. Se produjo durante la enfermedad –posiblemente a través de la enfermedad–. Durante el primer ataque, cuando quedó separado de la vida ordinaria y bajo la fiebre, aquel impulso aprovechó la oportunidad que habría tenido tarde o temprano. Él advirtió lo encantadora que era su enfermedad y disfrutaba obedeciéndola.


And where the TT offers an inexplicable “enfermedad” to translate the word “nurse,” leaving the reader at a complete loss.

1.3.5. False friends

Although false cognates and idiomatic expressions provide the reader with clear examples of mutation from the original, they require specific subsections, since Spanish and English share hundreds of them and the careful translator must be particularly attentive (they have often been noted as a source of trouble, Newmark 1982: 170; Baker 1992: 25-26; Fawcett 1981: 43). Some are calques used in Spanish although unaccepted by the Spanish Royal Academy of the Language (see discussions by Harris 1991: 263-277; Lorenzo 1992: 67-79; Valdeón 1995b: 186-190), such as “comfortable” in “a comfortable villa” (21) in the ST, which becomes “una confortable villa” (19) while Spanish already has “cómoda.” But most of them are accepted in both languages with different meanings, resulting in very awkward turns of phrase. For example, in the ST we read “land of facilities,” which is turned into “una zona de facilidades” (20) in the TT. Later on, the Christmas period is presented as a moment of distress for Durham as he is faced with family and religious obligations which he despises. This is verbalized as “misery and Hell” (45) translated as “miseria e infierno” (44). The use of “miseria” can lead to ambiguity because it tends to be linked to situations of extreme poverty or even meanness. Fortunately the context might help the reader clarify the situation. The same recurs on page 125 as Maurice is presented as “miserable and misunderstood” whereas the TT describes him as “miserable e incomprendido” (121). In this case the use of “miserable” carries very negative connotations.

Chapter 8, although brief, offers us two more examples of cognates used erroneously in the Spanish version. As the chapter opens, Maurice is back home from Cambridge and his talk of Durham leaves his family unimpressed. He feels disappointed and the narrator expresses the feeling as “Home emasculated everything” (51) rendered as “El hogar lo castraba todo” (49). “Emasculate” also means “castrate” in English and the writer has used the word to make it sound forceful. Still, in English it is also used to mean “weaken extremely,” a meaning not included in the Spanish RAE Dictionary (1992). The same applies to the closing lines of the chapter when the narrator prepares the reader for Maurice’s future as “the niche that England had prepared for him” (53). The word “niche” remains as “nicho” (53) in Spanish, even though the English term predicts a comfortable (even if undesired) position in life where the Spanish one carries negative connotations connected with death.

We conclude this section with other examples worth mentioning. In chapter 27 the narrator introduces Maurice’s grandfather as “the ordinary businessman” (122) and in Spanish we read “el ordinario hombre de negocios” (118), portraying him with the negative connotations that “ordinario” has in the TT (meaning “vulgar”). Later Maurice is seized “with disgust” (125) as he reflects on the meaning of his life and the TT reads “le invadió el disgusto” (121). The feeling of strong dislike towards his present life becomes a feeling of unhappiness already obvious, thus diluting the emotional force it conveys in the ST as Maurice is looking at a pistol.

1.3.6. Idiomatic expressions

The translation of idiomatic expressions always poses problems (Newmark 1982: 84-96; Newmark 1988/1995: 106-113; Baker 1992: 63-78; García López 2000: 176). We shall mention two types in this text. Firstly, the TT often resorts to opaque literal translations in cases such as “Green eye! Green eye!” (16) in which the schoolboys in Maurice’s year are referring to jealousy. This becomes an incomprehensible “¡Ojo verde! ¡Ojo verde!” (15) in Spanish, or when the narrator writes “This was like him” (61) to describe Durham’s personality, the TT again becomes very obscure as we read “Era como él” (59). On the other hand, other examples of literal renderings are easily understood but sound unnatural in Spanish, such as descriptions of characters of the type “the image of his father” (51), which becomes “la viva imagen de su padre” (51) in the TT rather than opt for the more natural expression “el vivo retrato.”

2. Cultural level

As we have seen, Maurice is partly set in the academic world, and deals with the birth, the development and the effects of male relationships in that specific environment, schools first, Cambridge later. The problems connected with the translation of institutions have already been mentioned by Newmark (1982: 73-75; 1995: 98-102) and Hervey, Higgins et al. (1995: 20-24) amongst others, who argue that the choice must be for utterances which have the same or a similar function as in the ST.

Our TT offers good examples of the difficulty to present the aspects that define the world of British academia in Spanish. In the opening chapter we are told that “Once a term the whole school went for a walk” (15), although that becomes “Había un día del curso, en que todo el […]” (13). In fact, the reference to the division of the academic year is altered throughout the TT and “term” will be translated as “curso” (for instance, on pages 43 in the ST and 41 in the TT, or at the beginning of chapter 9). This confusion also applies to teaching and administrative positions. Forster writes that “Mr. Ducie, the senior, acted as a stimulant” (15), whereas the TT says “El señor Ducie, el décano, actuaba como un estimulante” (14). In Spanish, Mr. Ducie is placed at the top of the academic and administrative positions.

Even more noteworthy is the confusion between public and state schools. This distinction is so specific to English that a literal translation “public-público” will imply not only a semantic change, but, more significantly, it will alter the portrayal of the character as an upper-middle-class offspring that the writer aims to present. In fact, in the ST we read “Hall, one of the older boys, who was leaving them to go to a public school” (15), but in Spanish the reader will come across “Hall, uno de los muchachos mayores, que les dejaba para ingresar en un colegio público” (14). The effect is the opposite and, in fact, contradicts what we are to read later.

The reference to public schools is also lost in the argument between Chapman and Risley, when the former complains that the latter cannot have gone to a public school because his manners are so poor (35). The Spanish translation merely refers to the fact that “aquel tipo no debía de haber ido a un colegio” (34). The omission of the reference to private education cancels out the characterization of Chapman as a snobbish character as well as the contradiction with respect to his manners. The Spanish educational system also boasts private (usually nun-run) schools with similar connotations to English public (that is private) schools. The translators here seemed to have become rather confused, as the equation good manners and public schools (understood as state schools, as in Spanish “públicas”) did not seem to work in the context of the novel. Their option was to omit “public” altogether and, consequently, avoid what seemed to be a contradiction on the part of the author. The resulting contradiction is even greater since the TT implies that, in spite of not attending any school at all, public or private, he has managed to obtain a place at Cambridge University.

References to the education system also present problems when attempting to render “college” into Spanish, as in the first meeting between Maurice and Durham in chapter 6, where the word remains untranslated. Again we are dealing with a cognate with different semantic implications in the two languages. Besides, the division of Oxbridge into colleges is unique to the English university system and presents difficulties when attempting to render it into Spanish. The option has been to leave it untranslated. The expression “colegio mayor,” which is used in Spanish in university contexts, would not have worked either since it refers exclusively to “halls of residence.” We might argue that the choice to leave this term in English is not so obstrusive, although the unfamiliar reader would have difficulties to locate the right meaning in a dictionary.

Chapter 14 offers another good example of wrong cultural transference in the TT. This chapter marks the expulsion of Maurice Hall from Cambridge because of his rather irresponsible behaviour in the previous chapter, when he drove away from the college to run into “the greenwood” (in King’s own terms, 1982: 77) with Clive. It is the first indication of his defiance of other aspects of private and public life. However, Durham is exonerated “in view of his Tripos” (75). This word is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as the “honours examination for the B.A. degree at Cambridge University.” The TT translates that as “su tesis” (71), which is an academic term in Spanish too, but it makes generic reference to a Ph.D. thesis.

Certain nouns reflecting English customs are not aptly rendered into Spanish. An example of this is the word “tea,” which may also refer to a meal, as on page 41. However, the Spanish version does not carry that connotation when translated simply as “,” even if the narrator specifically speaks of “his cousins and meat teas” (81) in order to establish a clear contrast between Maurice’s relatives and the more sophisticated atmosphere of Durham’s country mansion. Still, the TT translates it literally, “con sus primos y sus tés” (77), having the opposite effect for the Spanish reader, for whom “tés” has the connotation of a British sophisticated custom (usually referred to as “el té de las cinco” to imply British snobbery).

More significantly for the development of the relationship between the two protagonists is the traditional custom of saying grace before meals and, in particular, in the scene in the college refectory in chapter 7. The theological discussions which are drawing Maurice closer to his friend Durham reach a time when the latter wants to underline his unorthodoxy. Durham is already tired of the religious innuendo preceding the meals. The writer chooses this traditional custom in Cambridge life to show defiance on the part of Clive. The narrator describes the scene and penetrates into Durham’s soul: “Durham, being a scholar, had to read grace and there was cynicism in his accent. During the meal they looked at each other […]” (46-47). Once the meal is finished another religious discussion will ensue. The setting of the scene is fundamental to understand Durham’s state of mind and the subsequent discussion. However, the setting is lost in Spanish as we read: “Durham, al ser un intelectual, tenía que darle lecciones y había cinismo en su tono” (45). In the TT, the preface to the discussion is lost, as the reference to saying grace is erased and the translators introduce an awkward and patronizing reference to teaching Maurice some lessons.

3. Literary level

García Yebra (1983: 127) discusses some of the difficulties of literary translation, in particular into Spanish, and points out that the first step in the translation process is precisely understanding the literary work the translators are faced with. However, he also stresses that, although it is a very difficult task, “es empresa siempre imperfecta, siempre limitada, de éxito relativo, pero siempre valiosa, si alcanza altura bastante” (García Yebra 1994: 20). The difficulties in Forster’s narrative arise from a number of recurrent features. In Maurice, we have noticed two in particular. On the one hand, one of Forster’s favourite themes is present throughout the book, that of the muddled characters. This usually involves a state of confusion that may affect his protagonists to different degrees. In Maurice, the two main characters are deeply affected by the muddle, as their mutual feelings challenge social conventions. The other important feature is his use of an anticipatory technique which allows readers to predict the evolution of the characters as well as future conflicts, as hints are dropped in previous chapters. Let us begin by pointing out an example of this technique and we shall see another one in the next section.

In chapter 6, Maurice meets Durham for the first time in Risley’s rooms. The topic of the conversation is Risley, a character presented as effeminate and fascinating. Durham’s view, however, is not particularly positive: “a little of him goes a long way” (38), to which Maurice replies: “Still you don’t mind borrowing his things,” signalling a first conflict between them. In Spanish, however, the tone of the exchange varies considerably. Durham does not make a critical remark: “de todos modos hay algo en él que vale” (36), and, consequently, Maurice himself is more restrained. He simply adds: “Y a tí no te importa pedirle prestadas sus cosas,” a comment that does not correspond with Durham’s reply: “Crees que no debería hacerlo.” The lack of coherence in this exchange fails to convey a scene where the two protagonists antagonize each other for the first time, an indication of future conflict in the development of their relationship, a clue very much in keeping with Forster’s narrative style.

As regards the theme of muddle, the narrator first uses it in chapter 3, as Maurice becomes a pupil of Sunnington. Forster strives to portray a boy without life, a boy who would not attract any attention. His description also tries to show Maurice’s inner feelings by making use of terms such as “bewildered” or “insight.” These is also a clear indication or hint of his notion of muddle, to be used at a later stage. However, in the Spanish version we witness a new deviation when the word “insight” in “offering answers of miraculous insight and beauty” (25) is turned into the more sexual “respuestas de milagrosa penetración y belleza” (23).

The concept of muddle will gradually gain presence as the novel progresses. In chapter 7, after a heated discussion on religion, the narrator concludes: “Hall was a muddle-headed fellow, and Durham did not try to make sense of this…” (49). However, the narrator in Spanish eliminates this reference altogether and becomes very dismissive of the protagonist by remarking: “Hall era un estúpido y Durham no intentó explicarle más…” (48). The only justification for this strong choice in the TT seems to materialize further down, as Maurice abandons Durham’s room in a confused state and says “I always knew I was stupid, it’s no news.” But whereas Maurice’s words are an instance of self-pity, the narrator in the ST does not pass judgement on his character, as the one in the TT does. The Spanish version undermines the characterization of the narrator, which stresses the confusion of the protagonist, but also contributes to portray Durham as a patronizing cretin, as already mentioned before.

However, in the ST Durham is a key element in Maurice’s process of self-discovery. As the school term advances, the protagonist will eventually eliminate all links with the Church following previous religious debates with his friends. That is how the narrator values Durham’s contribution to this process: “Durham was puzzled by the rapidity. They were both puzzled, and Maurice, although he had lost and yielded his opinions, had a queer feeling that he was really winning and carrying on a campaign that he had begun last term” (49). The words, the two protagonists and the theological debates of the term are closely connected here. Yet, the Spanish text concludes “[…] una campaña que había comenzado hacía largo tiempo” (49), erroneously linking this gradual change to Maurice’s inner feelings in the initial chapters.

The same theme of the muddled character is used by the narrator at the opening of the second part of the book when retrieving Durham’s childhood. We are told that “Clive had suffered little from bewilderment as a boy. His sincere mind, with its keen sense of right and wrong, had brought him the belief that he was damned instead” (67). However, the Spanish presents it from a very different perspective: “Clive, de muchacho, vio pronto el problema con bastante claridad. Su sincera naturaleza, su agudo sentido del bien y del mal, le habían llevado a creer que pesaba sobre él una maldición” (63). And, although the text does offer the reader the characterization of Durham as a self-conscious young boy (as in the case of Maurice), it, once again, undermines the Forsterian notion of bewilderment and confusion that defines Maurice. This is the point the narrator wants to make and this point is lost in the Spanish text.

4. Study of chapter 25

As indicated above, chapter 25 establishes a turning point in the novel, as the protagonist becomes aware of Durham’s rejection of a future life with him and he is faced with a new reality in which he will be forced to make choices as regards his sexual orientation. The new Durham that emerges from the stay in Greece becomes obvious as the narrator introduces a further step in his evolution towards the acceptance of his social duties and, in consequence, of a heterosexual relationship. This parallels a new attitude towards his friend, now more distant and somehow unreal:

  1. Clive did not wire, nor start at once. Though desirous to be kind and training himself to think reasonably of Maurice, he refused to obey orders as of old. He returned to England at his leisure. He did wire from Folkstone to Maurice’s office, and expected to be met at Charing Cross, and when he was not he took a train on to the suburbs, in order to explain as quickly as possible. His attitude was sympathetic and calm.

  2. Clive no telegrafió, ni se puso en camino inmediatamente. Aunque deseaba ser amable, e intentaba pensar en Maurice razonablemente, se negó a obedecer órdenes como antes. Volvió a Inglaterra cuando le apeteció hacerlo. Telegrafió desde Folkestone a la oficina de Maurice, y esperaba encontrarle en Charing Cross; cuando no le vio allí tomó el tren hacia los suburbios, con el fin de hablar con él lo más rápidamente posible. Su actitud era amistosa y tranquila.


Although his reasoning is presented by the narrator, the words are carefully chosen. The informal tone that had characterized his conversations with Maurice has disappeared; now he is “desirous to be kind,” he wants to “think reasonably of Maurice.” The register is formal: “as of old,” “at his leisure.” This change in the linguistic variety used by Durham is diluted in the TT, which renders the ST literally but misses out on the formal tone, “como antes,” “cuando le apeteció,” rather than, for example “como antaño,” “cuando le pareció oportuno.” Moreover, some of the problems that we encountered in previous sections are also present here. For example, the use of the pro-form “did” in “He did wire,” to establish a contrast between the two places and emphasize the moment when he finally contacts Maurice, is not present in Spanish where this could have been easily achieved (“Sí que telegrafió”). Besides, some lexical choices are not quite satisfactory, in particular the false friends “sympathetic” and “suburbs.” The latter is worth commenting on since the connotations of the term in Spanish (“suburbios”) tend to be rather negative, being associated with the less advantaged areas of a town or city.

Then, the narrator chooses a season that sets the tone for the whole chapter, autumn, and the descriptive paragraphs anticipate the course of events. As seen in the previous chapter, this is characteristic of Forster’s style, and this mood has an equivalent in the closing paragraphs when the narrator recaptures the same atmosphere, also anticipating a “dawn” for Clive Durham. And yet, however important they are in the original, these paragraphs lose strength in the TT and, therefore, their anticipatory nature. Let us consider the following lengthy example:

  1. It was an October evening; the falling leaves, the mist, the hoot of an owl, filled him with pleasant melancholy. Greece had been clear but dead. He liked the atmosphere of the North, whose gospel is not truth, but compromise. He and his friend would arrange something that should include women. Sadder and older, but without a crisis, they would slip into a relation, as evening into night. He liked the night also. It had graciousness and repose. It was not absolutely dark. Just as he was about to lose his way up from the station, he saw another street lamp, and then past that another. There were chains in every direction, one of which he followed to his goal.

    Kitty heard his voice, and came from the drawing-room to welcome him. He had always cared for Kitty least of the family – she was not a true woman, as he called it now – and she brought the news that Maurice was away for the night on business.


Forster uses the melancholic tone he favours for this type of situations. In this case, it is even more justified as Durham’s mind has now reached the decision to split definitely from Maurice. The atmosphere created in the original aims to reflect this state of the soul. The leaves falling off the trees stand for a relationship crumbling to pieces, as do the other elements present. There is movement, although it seems to lead to calm, to a sad finale. The text continues portraying Durham’s plans, including women in a general sense, as part of this finale. Let us now examine the TT:

  1. Era un atardecer de octubre; las hojas caídas, la neblina, el canto de un búho, le llenaron de placentera melancolía. Grecia había sido luminosa, pero muerta. Le gustaba la atmósfera del norte, cuyo mensaje no es verdad, sino compromiso. Él y su amigo acordarían algo que incluiría a las mujeres. Más tristes y más viejos, pero sin crisis, se deslizarían en una relación, como el ocaso de la noche. Le gustó también la noche. Poseía gracia y calma. No era una oscuridad absoluta. Justo cuanto empezaba a perderse en el camino de la estación, vio otro farol, y después otro. Había eslabones en todas direcciones, y él los seguía hacia su objetivo.

    Kitty oyó su voz, y salió de la sala para recibirle. Kitty era la persona de la familia de la que siempre se había ocupado menos –no era una auténtica mujer, como advirtió entonces–, y ella traía la noticia de que Maurice se había quedado en la ciudad por cuestión de trabajo.


In the TT the slight movement that the readers can visualize with the present participle “falling” disappears as the translators have used the past participle “caídas.” Amidst this atmosphere, Durham reflects on the need to start a new relationship with his friend that should include “women.” The generic reference is particularly noticeable here as it is embedded within his social responsibilities. The TT turns this into “las mujeres” with a determinate article, introducing anaphoric reference but also making the text incomprensible (what women is Durham referring to?). The narrator then continues with the same gloomy tone as he compares the gradual evolution towards a heteresexual relationship as “evening into night,” that is they should be moving towards the end of the Cambridge love affair, not without a touch of melancholy. The TT, however, offers a very different comparison: “el ocaso de la noche,” where this evolution implies the end of a dark period, obviously pointing to the Cambridge days. The narrator then states “He liked the night also,” which is another indication of Durham’s acceptance of the new turn in his life, whereas the Spanish text claims “Le gustó la noche también,” thus implying that he had enjoyed that dark period of his life, and, consequently, rendering the rest of the paragraph difficult to understand except in a literal sense. The end of that paragraph rounds off this metaphoric presentation of his past and future lives. Through the words “one of which he followed” the narrator states that Durham has taken a final decision. This is lost in the TT as we read a plural form, “los seguía.” Forster’s technique of anticipating the course of events vanishes from the text again.

The next paragraph, which is used as a presentation of his new attitude to women, is scarcely successful in Spanish. The narrator states that he had never really liked Kitty, and ironically remarks that this was due to the fact that he now knew what a woman should be like. The narrator chooses to characterize Durham as frivolous, affected. His new role as a domineering male makes him reject Kitty on a rather weak and unfair basis. The reader can assume that, in fact, Kitty might remind him of Maurice, which would make him feel confused about his feelings towards women. Conversely, the TT states that he had never paid much attention to Maurice’s sister because he now realized that she was not a real woman, although what that means is unclear from the context.

However, most of the chapter takes the form of dialogue, with Clive Durham as one of the interlocutors, either with Maurice or with the rest of the family. In general this is more aptly conveyed in the TT, although a number of errors appear. For example, there is a cultural problem in the rendering of the word “pie.” When he arrives, Mrs Hall complains that she had not been warned about his arrival and “there will be nothing but the pie” (109). The TT turns “pie” into “tarta” (110); the mistake might not be particularly relevant in this case, but it is another clear sign of cultural misunderstanding of the source culture. As the dialogue progresses and, in particular, as the two friends discuss the change operated in Clive’s nature, the dialogue loses some of the points or sounds awkward. Let us consider a few examples:

  1. ‘Now you’re fit again, tell me.’


    ‘You say that you care for women only, not men?’

    ‘I care for men in the real sense, Maurice, and always shall.’

    ‘All that presently. […] I knew something had gone wrong and thought of several things, but not this. One oughtn’t to keep secrets, or they get worse. One ought to talk, talk, talk – provided one has someone to talk to, as you and I have…’


    - Ahora estás bueno otra vez, dime


    - ¿Dices que te interesas sólo por las mujeres, no por los hombres?

    - Me interesan los hombres, en el verdadero sentido, Maurice, y siempre será así.

    - Ahora todo eso […] Yo me di cuenta de que algo iba mal y pensé en varias cosas, pero no en esto. Uno no debe mantener cosas en secreto, si no es mucho peor. Uno tiene que hablar, hablar, hablar… Si es que uno tiene algo que decir, como tú y yo tenemos.


In these extracts, we find examples of ambiguous lexical and grammatical choices (“ahora estás bueno otra vez”), obscure renderings (“ahora todo eso”) or cases of blatant misreadings, notably the last two sentences where the TT has shifted the emphasis that Maurice puts on their personal relationship. The problem recurs further down as Maurice promises his friend some help if he accepts his homosexual inclinations. Clive replies: “It’s not the least good. I’ve changed” (113), a sentence that he will keep repeating throughout the chapter. The Spanish version, on the contrary, reads “No es la única posibilidad” (111), making Clive’s position much weaker as he justifies his change as a matter of sexual choice, much more difficult for Maurice to understand in the TT.

This also has implications for one of Forster’s literary features, his use of the concept of muddle. In fact, Clive is characterized here as being muddled, in the same way as Maurice had been and will be in the future. The narrator underlines it with the words “Maurice could understand muddle, not change” (113), because his protagonist had already experienced spells of self-denial in previous chapters. Consequently, the TT does confuse a key concept in Forster’s narrative by mistranslating some of the protagonists’ reactions and feelings.

The row that ensues in the remaining pages of the chapter will definitely shape the concept of muddle in which both Maurice and Clive are now immersed. Clive will defend his position as a new man by pointing out to the women that have made him change. He also underlines the need to base his life not on passion, presented as too fragile a feeling in the ST as it is compared to sand, but on a bed rock (rendered as “un lecho de rosas” in the TT, 113, for no obvious reasons). There are three relevant points in the quarrel. Firstly, Clive openly rejects his past relationship with his friend. He does this by mentioning some of the women that had helped him mature. Clive adroitly mentions Ada, Maurice’s sister, as an example, and, not surprisingly, Maurice’s reaction is jealousy. He will ask: “How much did you see of her when you were here before?” (114), that is, he is concerned with the physical aspects of what he sees as an unlikely love relationship between his friend and his own sister. The TT offers the readership a different type of enquiry: “¿Qué veías en ella cuando estábais aquí antes?” (113), altering both the time reference and the quality of the relationship, shifting it from physical encounters to deeper feelings, and thus contradicting Maurice’s own claims that Clive’s change is not real.

The second point refers to Clive’s alleged change itself. He had claimed that his relationship with men would now be real (“I care for men in the real sense”), as seen above. The TT presents this key adjective as “verdadero,” which will turn out a rather unsuccessful choice as the chapter progresses. Clive will insist on this term as he now expresses that he respects and admires Maurice because “it’s character, not passion, that is the real bond” (114). Consequently, he does not regard his previous experience as false but as an illusion. This time the translators have understood and the TT speaks of “el lazo auténtico” (113).

And thirdly, the narrator bases the whole change on a generic use of a rather ethereal concept of Women. For this reason, Clive has mentioned Ada not as an individual but as an example, a recurrent feature that will draw him to the end of the chapter. Thus, we read: “Since Ada was in the passage Clive went out to her: to Woman was his first duty” (115). The TT once again opts for a literal version of the generic English noun: “su primer deber era con la Mujer” (114), maintaining the capital letter and the morphological form of the English text, making it sound ambiguous and unnatural. And as the chapter in the ST closes, we know that, in fact, it is not Ada that Clive is interested in, as the TT seems to suggest.

5. Final discussion

The difficulties that a literary translation encompasses have often been stressed by scholars as TTs are not only concerned with languages and cultures (Newmark 1988/1995: 170-171; García López 2000: 145-147; Tack 2000: 216). There are other sore points to be considered such as the function(s) of the TT (Rabadán 1994: 133-137), the influence that literary translation may exert on other cultures and literatures (García Yebra 1983: 91; Woodsworth 1995: 68), the controversy surrounding the very term translation (Bassnett and Lefevere 1998: 25-40) or even the constraints imposed on the translators by the choices and style of the creator (Delisle 1984: 29-31; Hervey, Higgins et al. 1995: 64; García López 2000: 215). As Landheer (1995: 104), we believe in the importance of striking a textual balance of all these aspects.

As regards the texts studied here, the literary controversy in the source language preceded the publication of the translated version. The literary qualities of the work had also been disputed with respect to other novels by the same author, even if some critics attempted to offer an intertextual approach to show connections in the themes and the style. We believe that this problem increases the complexity of the text for the translator, and additional constraints, alien to the nature of the job itself, can affect negatively the final result. In a case like Maurice, a good translation is an asset not only for the readers of the TT but it is essential for foreign critics and studies on comparative literature.

The TT studied here offers shortcomings on the three levels examined. Firstly, we have found frequent instances of wrong lexical choices, both false friends with very different connotations in the two languages and other literal translations that led to confusion, if not total obscurity. Grammatically speaking, there were also frequent instances of what has been called false grammatical friends, structures rendered literally into the TL even though their semantics varied substantially. Also at a discursive level there were problems concerning the narrator’s role and the presentation of direct speech. In this respect the main problem we encountered was the lack of register variation in the TT whereas the ST clearly uses varieties of English to establish social relationships among the characters. As a matter of fact, the informal tone is one of Forster’s great achievements in Maurice and is kept in most conversational exchanges between the two protagonists. Although we acknowledge the difficulties that this poses in the TT language, it is also true that the translators should have attempted some type of compensation for the loss of the features of the ST. In this sense, we do not agree with Valero Garcés (1999) when she writes in connection with a similar loss in the English version of Camilo José Cela’s La Colmena:

El traductor puede también decidir utilizar técnicas compensatorias o recurrir a un lenguaje estándar que resta efectividad al texto, como ocurre en ocasiones con la traducción de La Colmena, pero que tiene como contrapartida el hacer que la traducción funcione en la LT durante más tiempo.

Valero Garcés 1999: 185

The loss in the case we have analyzed might result in a lack of effectiveness in the dialogues but the TT does not seem to have been produced to last longer. Therefore, we favour a TT that also serves the interests of the ST rather than the interest of publishing companies.

On the cultural level, the translators had difficulties transfering English educational institutions into Spanish, thus generating some confusion for readers as regards concepts such as public schools and escuelas públicas, but also positions within those institutions as well. This also affected the rendering of some British customs (drinking and eating habits, food) and the perception foreign readers might have of the source culture, as the representation of England’s ethnic peculiarities and traditions are not conveyed faithfully.

On the literary level, two key features of Forster’s narrative lose presence and, consequently, force in the TT. Technically, Forster was very fond of using hints to anticipate future developments in the plot. This technique is also present in Maurice, and, although some are far too obvious to pass unnoticed even for the layperson, others require a deeper insight into the author’s works. They are very subtle ways of advancing the dilemmas his characters will be faced with. The first are also present in the TT, whereas the latter have been unconsciously eliminated. Forster also had recourse to the theme of muddle to characterize his protagonists. This implies that they are positioned at a crossroads that will (partially) disappear as the novel progresses. Continuous reference to being muddled, to be in a muddle, to understand muddle but not change, and so on, are made in the ST. In this case Forster rarely uses synonyms of the type confused, mixed-up or messed-up. His characters are muddled. The TT offers a number of synonyms which dilute Forster’s use of the word and its derivatives.

Finally, we have studied the chapter we judged to be the turning point in the novel, chapter 25. The aim was to see how all these levels were present in a given chapter, and, in particular, in one that needed special care for a clear understanding of the evolution of the characters and, more precisely, of Maurice Hall. The analysis showed that all the shortcomings we found throughout the novel were also present in this chapter.

Consequently, and pertaining to the three points we wanted to ascertain at the beginning, the TT does not manage to establish clear connections with Forster’s other novels and his themes and techniques. His own linguistic choices are not clearly reflected in the Spanish version. An adequate translation would allow both the reader and the critic to appreciate the essential values of the novel, whereas this version does not facilitate the understanding of the plot, the evolution of the characters. This leads us to the circumstances in which translations of this type are produced. This version was published shortly after the publication of the original manuscript. The interest of the publishing house, Planeta, one of Spain’s biggest companies, could certainly have been to benefit from the pseudo-literary controversy surrounding the novel. However, Forster was not a particularly popular writer in Spain in the 1970s (or in Britain for that matter, since many of his works had been out of print for some time) and renewed attention would only come in the 1980s and 1990s with the five film adaptations of his works. Therefore, the translation must have been commissioned hastily and to anticipate a possible demand in the market. When the film version was released a few years later, the TT was re-used without further consideration. By saying this, we are not downplaying the responsibility of the translators to produce a reasonable version. Some of the points we have commented on are clearly linked to a lack of competence in some aspects (notably cultural as regards source institutions and customs, but also literary as regards the novelist’s previously published work). However, the publisher’s responsibility should clearly be asserted in these cases.

For these reasons, we believe that the TT we have analyzed shares some of the features of what Milton has called factory translation, namely team translation, loss of sacredness and recycling. The TT was produced by a team and, on the other hand, the same translation was re-used when the film was released with no alterations whatsoever, that is, it was recycled. The third feature is the loss of sacredness of the literary text. The text was not considered relevant enough to commission a translation that would not only transfer the plot but also honour the literary reputation of the author and value his work. Milton uses the term to refer to a type of translations that are intended to sell well to a working-class readership in Brazil. The TT examined in this paper shows that factory translation is not unique to developing countries such as Brazil or to small publishing companies. Huge multinationals in the West can also offer good examples of poor factory translations. But whereas Milton stresses the importance of these texts to spread literature in more depressed markets, it is our view that, in more developed countries, translations of literary works by highly respected writers should set certain standards. These could contribute to avail foreign readers of good versions of works that, as in this case, cause too much controversy over a non-literary issue (Forster’s own homosexuality), to the extent of promoting a revision of his previous five novels and providing new (and rather artificial) psychoanalytical interpretations of them all. Unfortunately, the Spanish readers have very little in the TT to contest these views.