So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Any discussion related to Victor's Hugo's Les Misérables, in any language.
humanracer
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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby humanracer » Thu Jul 25, 2013 8:32 pm

I would have had much rather had footnotes than an Afteword but I will probably skim through it in Waterstones when it is released. Besides I think F/M is a great translation so worth picking up even if the Afterword might be a bit obnoxious.

I have just finished the first part of the novel (Fantine) and I have to say the last few books in particular were among the most dramatic writing I have read in English (even better than Dickens and Shakespeare). The journey to Arras, the trial and the confrontation with Javert had me on the edge of my seat. I read the last few chapters again, this time with Rose and it seemed rather flat in comparision to F/M. Obviously it is a repeat reading so it won't have the same tension as when I first read it. However there is something a bit odd about the language that I cannot put my finger on. Once I got to the bit that described Javert as a "slimy spook", I just burst out laughing. I also don't like that Javert calls Fantine a "slut" in Rose while he calls her a "whore" in F/M. It just makes Javert look common. Her translation actually might be more accurate than the F/M (I am not familar with the French original so have no idea) but the language just fails to grip me at all. I have to say though it is the best presented of all the translations. The cover is lovely, the introduction has a timeline and the footnotes are helpful and appreciated.

If the new translation from Donougher is released later this year then the market will actually be full of translations. The original post by dehavilland is therefore even more useful.

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deHavilland
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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby deHavilland » Thu Jul 25, 2013 8:51 pm

humanracer wrote:I also don't like that Javert calls Fantine a "slut" in Rose while he calls her a "whore" in F/M. It just makes Javert look common. Her translation actually might be more accurate than the F/M (I am not familar with the French original so have no idea) but the language just fails to grip me at all.


I thiiiink you mean where Javert intercepts Valjean at the hospital and Fantine starts screeching when they start fighting? In Hapgood, it's...

"My child!" she cried, "to go and fetch my child! She is not here, then! Answer me, sister; where is Cosette? I want my child! Monsieur Madeleine! Monsieur le Maire!"

Javert stamped his foot.

"And now there's the other one! Will you hold your tongue, you hussy? It's a pretty sort of a place where convicts are magistrates, and where women of the town are cared for like countesses! Ah! But we are going to change all that; it is high time!"


In the original French of that last paragraph we get (where Hapgood says hussy) "Te tairas-tu, drôlesse!" and for Hapgood's women of the town: "les filles publiques."

Une drôlesse is 'a woman of little esteem,' but not specifically a whore. So hussy is a pretty good translation with a little more color to it than just whore but less pejorative than slut. Les filles publiques, pretty straightforward. (Prostitutes.)
"Quand vous aurez besoin de Bahorel, capitaine, Bahorel est là! Je sais faire trébucher tous les chevaux du garde-corps avec une ficelle... Rien qu'une petite ficelle. Enfin, pensez à Bahorel du Café Musain!"

humanracer
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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby humanracer » Thu Jul 25, 2013 8:58 pm

Thanks. Can you do me a favour please? What does the French call Javert when he grabs Valjean by the collar? Rose calls him "slimy spook" but I have never heard that phrase before and googling it doesn't tell me much. F/M just calls Javert a "spy" which I guess sounds just as odd.

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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby deHavilland » Thu Jul 25, 2013 9:06 pm

F/M's "She saw the spy Javert seize the mayor by the collar" in the original French is "Elle vit le mouchard Javert saisir au collet monsieur le maire."

Mouchard is a little bit harder to pinpoint, it doesn't mean spy like James Bond spy or even Javert-at-the-barricades spy, but it does mean an informer. (Of the "I'm a criminal but I'll tell you about my boss so please don't hurt me" variety.) And it derives from the French "mouche" as in a fly as in fly-on-the-wall. Ooh, etymology.

Anyway, it can also be translated into any of the English words we have for "informer;" sneak, rat, fink.

... prooobably not "slimy spook." Good try, Rose. E for effort.
"Quand vous aurez besoin de Bahorel, capitaine, Bahorel est là! Je sais faire trébucher tous les chevaux du garde-corps avec une ficelle... Rien qu'une petite ficelle. Enfin, pensez à Bahorel du Café Musain!"

humanracer
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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby humanracer » Thu Jul 25, 2013 9:08 pm

Thank you very much

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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby MmeBahorel » Thu Jul 25, 2013 11:27 pm

Wait, the newer Signet NDDPs have an afterword by Graham Robb? Mine's an old one with the André Maurois afterword.

Not saying I need a new copy. No, not saying that at all.
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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby deHavilland » Thu Jul 25, 2013 11:51 pm

Graham Robb says you need a new copy, though. :twisted:
"Quand vous aurez besoin de Bahorel, capitaine, Bahorel est là! Je sais faire trébucher tous les chevaux du garde-corps avec une ficelle... Rien qu'une petite ficelle. Enfin, pensez à Bahorel du Café Musain!"

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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby MmeBahorel » Fri Jul 26, 2013 12:10 am

Exactly. I'm not saying it. It wasn't my idea. The very notion has been absolutely forced on me.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby between4walls » Sun Jul 28, 2013 11:17 pm

deHavilland wrote:- Fun Facts about Wilbour: He was devoted to the study of Egyptology and accidentally purchased a very valuable bit of papyrus. Its value wasn’t discovered until after his death when it was found


Wilbour got into Egyptology while living abroad in Paris, having left America for good after the fall of Boss Tweed, the highly successful and highly corrupt NYC politician who was famously attacked by the cartoonist Thomas Nast and finally convicted of stealing millions of dollars from the city. Wilbour was involved in the Tweed Ring, holding several city jobs simultaneously. He was also president of a stationary and printing company that Tweed was involved in, which supplied the city government and significantly overcharged it. Wilbour was also editor of a Tweed-link newspaper which received highly favorable advertising contracts from the city. When the ring was exposed, Wilbour, who was widely known to be involved, felt it was a good time to leave the country. He moved to Paris (just a few years after Hugo had got back from exile; I wonder if they ever met) and made many trips to Egypt, beginning his new career as an Egyptologist.

So that is the somewhat surprising tale of the first translator of Les Misérables.

You can read more here:
Brown University, to which his daughter made a bequest for an Egyptology chair in his name.
The Millionaire and the Mummies
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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby Joly » Wed Aug 07, 2013 11:33 am

I read the Hapgood translation because it was free, but have also researched all the other available translations online, and would eventually like to read all of them. I'm quite bothered by Rose though, especially the 'greasy spoon' and the feeling that she is a homophobe for not leaving the text as it was, especially as none of them were definitely referring to homosexuality anyway. I wonder if she would have changed War and Peace, when the soldiers all felt such a strong love for their leader burning in their breasts that they would die for him.

War and Peace is a little easier to navigate the translations - there are 12 of them, including a remarkable newer one with a lot of annotations by Pevear/Volokhonsky. They translate French as well, I would love to see them do a translation of Les Misérables. Christine Donougher's translation comes out in November, I'm going to have a bash at that one.

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deHavilland
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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby deHavilland » Fri Aug 09, 2013 12:50 am

I saw this floating around on Tumblr and thought to myself, no, certainly not, even Rose wouldn't be so ridiculous as to use that particular phrase in a translation of Les Mis.

But alas.

Image

In which Julie Rose translates "j'ai fait une bêtise" into "oh dear, I've made a boo-boo."

Sorry for not being more sorry about the poor quality photo taken on my blackberry.
"Quand vous aurez besoin de Bahorel, capitaine, Bahorel est là! Je sais faire trébucher tous les chevaux du garde-corps avec une ficelle... Rien qu'une petite ficelle. Enfin, pensez à Bahorel du Café Musain!"

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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby WhoIam » Fri Aug 09, 2013 12:56 am

*facepalm*

What part of the Brick is that? I feel like it's either Grantaire's or G------'s work, but I don't recall.
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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby deHavilland » Fri Aug 09, 2013 1:00 am

From Jean Valjean:

Joly, seeing a cat prowling about a water-spout, extracted philosophy therefrom.

"What is a cat?" he exclaimed. "It is a correction. God, having made the mouse, said: ‘Hold there, I have made a blunder.’ And he made the cat. The cat is the erratum of the mouse. The mouse, plus the cat, is the revised and corrected proof of creation."


"Bêtise" is "mistake" in a familiar sense. So translating it as "boo-boo" isn't wrong per se. Hugo didn't use "faute" or "erreur," but even so, Rose, really? Makes God sound like a five year-old.
Last edited by deHavilland on Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Quand vous aurez besoin de Bahorel, capitaine, Bahorel est là! Je sais faire trébucher tous les chevaux du garde-corps avec une ficelle... Rien qu'une petite ficelle. Enfin, pensez à Bahorel du Café Musain!"

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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby Morgan » Fri Aug 09, 2013 1:53 am

And then "erratum" in the next sentence? Talk about wild swings of register.
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Re: So, Let’s Talk About Translations

Postby MmeBahorel » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:23 am

"Hold on: I screwed that up!" would be less jarring than "I made a boo-boo" if she's going to do "modern" slang and syntax.

How did this get published? Seriously, it feels like half of what she did, I end up staring at wondering who thought it was a good idea.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard


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