The Second Sex


Many commentators have pointed out that the 1953 English translation of The Second Sex by H. M. Parshley, frequently reissued, is poor.[104] The delicate vocabulary of philosophical concepts is frequently mistranslated, and great swaths of the text have been excised.[105] The English publication rights to the book are owned by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc and although the publishers had been made aware of the problems with the English text, they long insisted that there was really no need for a new translation,[104] even though Beauvoir herself explicitly requested one in a 1985 interview: "I would like very much for another translation of The Second Sex to be done, one that is much more faithful; more complete and more faithful."[106]

The publishers gave in to those requests, and commissioned a new translation to Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevalier.[107] The result, published in November 2009,[108] has met with generally positive reviews from literary critics, who credit Borde and Malovany-Chevalier with having diligently restored the sections of the text missing from the Parshley edition, as well as correcting many of its mistakes.[109][110][111][112]

Other reviewers, however, including Toril Moi, one of the most vociferous critics of the original 1953 translation, are critical of the new edition, voicing concerns with its style, syntax and philosophical and syntactic integrity.[113][114][115] The publisher made at least one correction based on Moi's review; the book now ends in the word that Beauvoir chose: "brotherhood" (French: fraternité).[95][113]

Francine du Plessix Gray, who cites some confused English in the new edition and compliments Parshley, in a review for The New York Times wrote, "Should we rejoice that this first unabridged edition of 'The Second Sex' appears in a new translation? I, for one, do not."[114]

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