Noli Me Tangere: A Commentary on Two Translations

  • Dana Ang Lopez


Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not, 1887) is a popular nationalist Filipino text that indirectly led to the Filipino’s united sense of national identity. It was written for Filipinos, but interestingly enough, it was originally written in Spanish rather than the local dialect. By writing in Spanish, Rizal has a specific purpose: to propose assimilation with the Spanish rather than independence. As I am unable to read or write in Spanish, this paper will instead examine two well-known English translations: The Social Cancer (1926) by Charles Derbyshire and The Lost Eden (1968) by Leon Ma. Guerrero. Derbyshire wrote in a time where the Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines just recently ended, while Guerrero wrote during the time where the American presence have already established themselves as a modern colonial power in the country. The influence of the colonial powers – the Spanish and the Americans – has greatly influenced the translator’s translations. Derbyshire’s translation promotes the Spanish colonial power by keeping the foreign domesticated words within his translation; while Guerrero, in resisting this, promotes another colonial power: the Americans. This paper will examine how colonialism greatly influences the way the translations are written through the two English translations of the Noli Me Tangere. Furthermore, I will also examine the abuse in Derbyshire’s source-oriented translation, and the same will be done for Guerrero’s target-oriented translation and how this has affected each of the translations and the text in general.