THE BIO-FICTIONAL: TRANSLATING FRIDA KAHLO IN RAQUEL TIBOL’S FRIDA KAHLO: AN OPEN LIFE AND ANDREA KETTENMANN’s FRIDA KAHLO, 1907-1954: PAIN AND PASSION

In this paper, I compare the biographical process to the translation process, whereby the historical subject is translated and transformed into the biographical subject; I argue that despite the biographer’s intentions to remain truthful to the historical subject, this subject cannot be fully portrayed via biography. Similar to the translator’s task, the biographer also undergoes a process of interpretation, transfer and reorganization of information as s/he translates the historical figure into a biographical subject, whereby the historical figure is transformed and reinvented by the biographer. I contend that in Raquel Tibol’s Frida Kahlo: An Open Life and Andrea Kettenmann’s Frida Kahlo, 1907-1954: Pain and Passion, the biographical authors construct a fictionalized subject for they resort to interpretative and fictional methods to imaginatively recreate the historical subject. Moreover, like translators who transfer meaning from one text to another, the biographers also transfer the historical Kahlo into biography while molding her into certain identity frameworks. For example, while Tibol portrays her as an exemplary woman, Kettenmann depicts her as an exemplary artist. In addition, the biographers also omit certain aspects of her life and oversimplify her identity, further restructuring her life and identity to fit certain identity frameworks. Thus, I argue that the historical subject cannot be fully equated to the biographical subject insofar that the biographical subject is transformed and reinvented as the biographers imaginatively recreate her life and mold her identity on the basis of certain biographical focuses.

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