The Lifeline of Chromos: Translation and Felipe Alfau

Regina Galasso


When Felipe Alfau’s novel Chromos was published in 1990, approximately fifty years after its creation, it was nominated for the National Book Award in the US and critics repeatedly commented on the novel’s unique language. For most critics, Alfau’s language was special because of the New York-based, Spanish-born author’s decision to write in English. Alfau’s profession as a bank translator has often been dismissed as having any relation with his literature save its disconnection from his creative writing. In this article, I argue that translation techniques are responsible for the extraordinary language of Chromos, and further, that the novel’s existence relies on the narrator’s role as a translator. Translation in Chromos is an integral and essential part of literary creation-- especially for an author working in a multilingual and multinational setting--to the extent that the novel, in its original version, impersonates a translation.

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ISSN 1920-0323