Rarely must it have been as complex to translate the complete works of an author as was the case with the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, the author of multiple books and essays who introduced completely novel ideas to the world. Perhaps the most recognized translation is that of James Strachey, British, also a psychoanalyst, who chronologically organized and translated Freud’s works written between 1891 and 1939 (48 years!) from German into English. The financier behind this project was Marie Bonaparte, Napoleon’s grandniece, an ex-patient and admirer of Freud’s, who in turn translated some of the Austrian neurologist’s works into French. This translation took Strachey more than 20 years, for which he was assisted by Alix, his wife, and Anna Freud, Sigmund’s daughter and the bearer of his legacy. What lent incomparable worth to Strachey’s work were the introductions that he added to each text, framing them within Freud’s extensive bibliography.
Perhaps more interesting to discuss are the translations into Spanish. To this day, there are two Spanish editions of the Complete Works of Freud. The first was translated by the Spaniard Luis López Ballesteros y de Torres, who translated 17 volumes between 1922 and 1934, and was expressly congratulated by Freud, who claimed to have learned Spanish by reading Don Quijote. However, Ballesteros was not a psychoanalyst, and his translation was criticized for its lack of scientific rigor by those in the field of psychoanalysis. This was one of the reasons why many years later, in Buenos Aires, the Latin American capital of psychoanalysis, the idea was raised that Freud’s complete works needed to be translated once again.
This second venture started in 1970. The Amorrortu publishing company planned on a direct translation of Freud’s works from German, to which would be added the introductions that Strachey had written. The person charged with tackling this translation was José Luis Etcheverry, who, in addition to being a translator (he had mastered five languages), had studied philosophy and economics. Etcheverry was also not a psychoanalyst, but he was advised by three psychologists who helped him rethink the Freudian concepts from scratch, as was the intention of the publishing house. The 24 volumes of this collection were edited between 1978 and 1982, and they stirred quite a debate among the experts: which translation was better, that by Ballesteros or that by Etcheverry? In general, the new edition of the Complete Works was well received due to that it updated Freudian concepts that in Ballesteros’s translation had become somewhat obsolete, though, needless to say, there were also more conservative voices that derided the new work as unnecessary and incorrect. Through to this day, the debate remains open.