Fairfield University professor emeritus publishes 14th book in 14 years: Juan Valera's classic "Juanita la Larga"

Fairfield University professor emeritus publishes 14th book in 14 years: Juan Valera's classic "Juanita la Larga"

Image: Juanita Juan Valera's timeless novel "Juanita la Larga," a 19 th -century tale of a young girl's marriage to a prominent widower, has been translated into English for the first time by Robert M. Fedorchek, Ph.D., professor emeritus of modern languages and literatures at Fairfield University.

The story takes place in the little hamlet of Villalegre in Andalusia, a region of southern Spain. The beautiful, charming, vivacious Juanita captivates the heart of Don Paco, who is more than three decades her senior and a few steps above her social class. The pair soon attracts the censure of Don Paco's married daughter and the town's gossips, and Juanita must employ all her determination to make the match a success. Dr. Fedorchek's translation will be published in April by the Catholic University of America Press.

Dr. Fedorchek has translated 14 works from Spanish into English, including novels, short stories, fairy tales, and a play. All but one are key pieces of Spanish literature from major writers of the 19 th century. His latest features an introduction by Noël Valis, a highly respected critic and professor of Spanish literature at Yale University.

"It is rare to find in the last works of old age the spirit of youthful glee, of sly merriment," Professor Valis writes in her introduction. "Yet this is precisely the case with one of Juan Valera's last novels, Juanita la Larga (1896), now graced with this lovely new translation. Its bucolic setting, gay Andalusian costumbrismo, and happy resolution of two favorite motifs of Valera, those of illegitimacy and the May-December romance, prompted José Montesinos to label the novel 'the last classic idyll of Spanish literature.'"

The cover of the book features a photo by Antonio Ruz Ruiz of the Santuario (Shrine) de la Virgen de la Sierra, in Valera's hometown of Cabra, Spain.

Dr. Fedorchek's is the first English translation of Valera's "Juanita," and the only other language it has been translated into is French. The nearly impossible transfer of numerous words and descriptions of the local cuisine and the account of Holy Week floats may account for the dearth of translations, according to Dr. Fedorchek. "It was fiendishly difficult to deal with some of the passages," said Dr. Fedorchek, who, in a number of instances, left the Spanish terminology and included an explanatory footnote. "It's a vocabulary that simply doesn't exist in English."

Such abundance of detailed reference to the locale is characteristic of Valera's work, which takes readers into the life of the little Spanish village.

"A passionate story set in Villalegre, Valera's spirited, witty social portrait (akin to 'Sense and Sensibility') depicts the conflicts and amusements of people - ambitious, aristocratic, wise, comic, or pious - in the richness of country life," said reviewer Agnes Moncy of Temple University. "Robert Fedorchek's sparkling prose, with helpful notes, keeps it all flowing. The beleaguered heroine is not crushed by patriarchy. Virtue trumps vice in this delicious tale told fluently in English."

Dr. Fedorchek's other Spanish translations are: Armando Palacio Valdés' "Alone and Other Stories" (1993); Emilia Pardo Bazán's "The White Horse and Other Stories"(1993); Jacinto Octavio Picón's "Moral Divorce and Other Stories" (1995); Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer's "Legends and Letters" (1995); Pedro Antonio de Alarcón's "The Nail and Other Stories" (1997); Fernán Caballero's "Juan Holgado and Death," Antonio de Trueba's "Tragaldabas," and Pedro Antonio de Alarcón's "Death's Friend" in "Death and the Doctor" (1997); Pedro Antonio de Alarcón's "The Nun and Other Stories" (1999); Leopoldo Alas' "Ten Tales" (2000); Jacinto Octavio Picón's "Sweet and Delectable" (2000); "Stories of Enchantment from Nineteenth-Century Spain" (2002); Juan Valera's "Doña Luz" (2002); Concha Castroviejo's "The Garden with Seven Gates' (2004); and Ángel (the Duke of Rivas) Saavedra's "Don Álvaro, or the Force of Fate" (2005).

"From the dedicatory note to the closing stanza, Fedorchek's translation of 'Juanita la Larga' captures the light, sinuous line of the original Spanish," said reviewer Harriet S. Turner of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "In a masterly series of sleights of hand - transpositions, pauses, and ellipses - Fedorchek informs his translation with the wit, delicacy, and playfulness of Valera's novel."

Dr. Fedorchek's English translation of "Juanita la Larga," will be available through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, as well as from the Catholic University of America Press in Washington, D.C., this April. It retails for $24.95.

"Dr. Fedorchek continues his extraordinary series of books that have received well-deserved praise for their graceful, idiomatic translations," said Orin Grossman, Ph.D., academic vice president at Fairfield University. "He has made important Spanish novels and stories available to a wide English-speaking public. I am in awe of both the sheer quantity of his work and the very high quality. Fairfield University is extremely proud of Dr. Fedorchek and his remarkable accomplishment."

Posted On: 03-17-2006 10:03 AM

Volume: 38 Number: 177