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Samuel Putnam (October 10, 1892 – January 15, 1950) was an American translator and scholar of Romance languages. He is also noteworthy as the author of Paris Was Our Mistress, a memoir on writers and artists associated with the American ex-patriate community in Paris in the 1920s and early 1930s. As Sir Hotspur Dunderpate he translated the erotic text "La Cazzeria" by Antonio Vignali.
Putnam's most famous work is his 1949 English translation of Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote. It is the first version of the work in what would today be considered contemporary English; although there is still use of archaic language, it is more restricted than in earlier English versions of the work.
The language is formal when spoken by educated characters, but seldom old-fashioned, while the peasant characters speak in colloquial modern English. Putnam worked on the translation for twelve years before he published it. He also published a companion volume, The Portable Cervantes, which included an abridged version of his translation, in addition to English versions of two of the Novelas ejemplares of Cervantes.
Daniel Eisenberg, comparing translations of Don Quixote, states that Putnam's translation is the most "sensitive", and by far the best documented.
Putnam's complete translation, originally published by Viking Press, was reprinted in the Modern Library, and has seldom been out of print since its publication more than sixty years ago. Putnam was also a noted translator of Rabelais. He was known for his leftist leanings (he was a columnist for the Daily Worker).
Putnam was the father of noted American philosopher Hilary Putnam. Hilary Putnam made his first published appearance in his father's Don Quixote translation, in a footnote explaining a joke from the text in terms of logic.
Putnam died in 1950 at the age of 57 in his home in New Jersey.
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