Translated novel provides insight into Spanish life, customs, beliefs


Dr. Robert M. Fedorchek, professor emeritus of Spanish at Fairfield University, has won high praise for his newly published "The Illusions of Doctor Faustino," a translation of the 19th-century Spanish novel by Juan Valera. When Valera's novel came out in 1875, it was considered among the most important novels of its time and compared to Flaubert's L'Education sentimentale because of the negative influence of Romanticism on the protagonist's character and life.

In the story, Don Faustino López de Mendoza, scion of an illustrious but impoverished family, believes himself destined for great accomplishments in the literary world.  He dreams of triumphing in Madrid's artistic circles and embarks on a discovery of love while anguishing over his impecunious state and engaging in endless self-analysis. The novel hinges on his failed relationships with three women as it depicts the deleterious effects of the Romantic malaise that swept through western Europe in the early part of the nineteenth century.

Dr. Robert Fedorchek's passion for translation began more than 20 years ago when he was doing a comparative study of French, Russian and Spanish writers and found a dearth of Spanish translations.

With translation, he says, practically every word is a decision. "That's because translating is much more than simply replacing a Spanish word with an English one," says Dr. Fedorchek. "It's interpreting, transplanting one culture into another. When you translate, you have to get into the author's head; you have to bring in all of your cultural and linguistic knowledge about the story and time at which the author was writing."

In her endorsement of the book, Joyce Tolliver, professor of Spanish at the University of Illinois, writes, "Valera's novel poses many challenges to any translator, in the form of arcane allusions, technical or specialized vocabulary, cultural references, and linguistic play. Fedorchek has faced those challenges admirably and the result is a vital, fluent rendering of the original." Melvin Arrington of the University of Mississippi adds that The Illusions of Doctor Faustino provides "valuable and fascinating insight into Spanish life, customs and beliefs."

Dr. Fedorchek has a lifetime of achievement in making some of the great works of Spanish literature accessible to English-language readers. He has now translated into English sixteen books and has two more in progress.

The Illusions of Doctor Faustino is published by The Catholic University of America Press in Washington, D. C.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 22, 2008

Vol. 41, No. 168