Thanks for that.
Think I’ll subscribe to this thread, so I can C&P that in at will.
Or simply just bookmark it.
Here’s an older translation I’d consider a bit better (for not being so ploddingly literal, which does appear to be the definition of “close translation”, a truly terrible idea IMO):
Still: “I’d ask myself what o’clock it could be”? Srsly?
I learned just now from Wikipedia that I’m apparently a strong believer in the principal of “dynamic equivalence” in translation:
Formal equivalence approach tends to emphasize fidelity to the lexical details and grammatical structure of the original language, whereas dynamic equivalence tends to employ a more natural rendering but with less literal accuracy.
I don’t understand why people would be interested in reading “close translation” or “formal equivalence translation”. That just seems like some kind of weird OCD thing. It actively works against the pleasure of reading literature, if you ask me.
This thread truly is the gift that keeps on giving.
“I’m a better translator than the Booker Prize-winning writer the French themselves honoured for their translations. Twice.” is definitely a keeper.
And no, it is:
For many years, it was my habit to retire early. At times, no sooner had the candle gone out than my eyelids closed so quickly I did not even register having fallen asleep
which is plodding, and
For a long time, I went to bed early. Sometimes, my candle scarcely out, my eyes would close so quickly that I did not have time to say to myself: “I’m falling asleep.”
that sounds fresh and exciting. “Habit”? “Retire”? OK, Grandpa. And why drag “eyelids” into it when “eyes” works just fine? Why say “hadn’t” but not “didn’t”?
And hers retains the inner monologue, whereas yours is just descriptive. With a plodding “register having fallen asleep”. And “my candle” is much more evocative than “the candle”, IMO.
Why subsitute “reincarnation” for her “metempsychosis” when you lose all the modern meaning of the use of the word in Continental philosophy that Proust was no doubt intending to evoke? He deliberately used la métempsycose and not la réincarnation, but you probably never even stopped to think why. Just didn’t want to use a word you didn’t understand.
And I only have first-year French, but even I know “a long time” is a much better translation of longtemps than “for many years” here, it retains the non-specificity, which reflects the mood.
Your writing reads like that of a longwinded autodidact. Funny, that…
How about a word practically no one understands? (And according to my trusty Larousse dictionary, << métempsycose>> is defined as <<Reincarnation de l’ame apres la mort dans un corps humain, dans celui d’un animal ou dans un vegetal>>, which means it is reincarnation of the soul after death into a human body, into that of an animal, or into a plant.)
I maintain that my translation is much more readable, and that should be the goal–unless you are some kind of scholar who prefers a version with a bazillion footnotes, I suppose.
Missed the edit window.
And yes: Booker Prize or no, I’m definitely a better translator than she is!
I already noted, before you posted, that I would take that back and substitute “turn in”. Davis worked on her translation for several years; as I noted upthread, I go back over my prose to tweak it a couple times, allowing days in between for a fresh perspective.
However, I’d also note that Proust wrote in the 19th century. I’m not sure we should be modernizing the prose too much. Maybe it should sound somewhere between a good 19th century writer (in English) and someone contemporary.
although I’ll admit, “It’s a good idea to dumb down Proust” is a bold stance.
Now, remind the class how long you’ve been translating, how many works you’ve translated, and what awards you’ve received for your work.
Funny how in the space of a few minutes, you accused me of being a “longwinded autodidact” and “dumbing down Proust”. You don’t see any contradiction there?
But since you’re picking out sentences to compare, how about the last one in the paragraph? Here’s my rendition:
I wondered what time it was; I could hear the train whistle which, however far away, resounded like forest birdsong across the distance, making plain the vastness of the deserted countryside through which a traveler hurries to the next station; the dirt road he is taking will be etched in his memory by the intensity of feeling he owes to the new places he visited, to the novel activities he engaged in, to the recent conversations and the sweet sorrow of parting under unfamiliar lamplight that still haunt him in the silence of the night, to the anticipated joy of his return home. [Upon reflection, maybe those last few words should be “to the anticipation of a joyful/joyous homecoming”.]
Now, Ms. Booker Prize/Genius Grant:
I would ask myself what time it might be; I could hear the whistling of the trains which, remote or nearby, like the singing of a bird in a forest, plotting the distances, described to me the extent of the deserted countryside where the traveler hastens toward the nearest station; and the little road he is following will be engraved on his memory by the excitement he owes to new places, to unaccustomed activities, to the recent conversation and the farewells under the unfamiliar lamp that follow him still through the silence of the night, to the imminent sweetness of his return.
Her prose is so lumpy! (“I would ask myself what time it might be”, gimme a break.) Mine is sweet, smooth jazz by comparison. She is obviously working from a paranoid defensive crouch, morbidly afraid of taking any “liberties” with the source text. Do I know for a fact Proust meant us to imagine a “dirt road”? No, but who says “little road” in English? The idea is that this is off the beaten path, a country road (but to say “country road” is too redundant in context).
There’s nothing about “sweet sorrow” in Proust, but this is a Shakespearean allusion English-language readers will be familiar with.
WTF: “described to me the extent of the deserted countryside where the traveler hastens”?? Just, no. Yeesh. (I will acknowledge that “nearest station” might be better than “next station”, but ironically it is she who deviates more from the literal here, as the French original is prochaine, “next”.)
And “plotting the distances”? C’mon. She makes that whole bit so incredibly unwieldy! I doubt most English-speaking readers would even get the gist of it on its own. Not that my version does so perfectly either–that’s getting fairly close to untranslatable, and probably does require a long footnote if you want to really get into it–but it at least flows more smoothly and makes sense on its own, even if it’s not precisely what Proust was trying to convey.
Then at the very end, she just says “his return”. This is a word-for-word literal translation, but I don’t think it’s so clear in English that it means a return home, which is clearer in French. And idiomatically, I don’t believe an English speaker would write simply “return” there.
Professionally, less than a year; two novels; no awards (as of yet–I’m not ruling out the possibility).
By credentialist standards, I’m a nobody. Stipulated. But what I’m doing is better than all of these highly credentialed, awardwinning fancypants. That’s the bottom line.
ETA: Even little things, like “the traveler”. Yes, Proust uses the French word that literally translates to “the”. But in English, it just sounds better to say “a traveler”.
You know, you could save yourselves a lot of desperate twisting around by just saying “Okay, fine: I admit your translation does read better (even if I’m unsure whether you should take so many liberties). But you’re still an asshole, and you have some cockamamie political ideas.” Would that really be so hard? You’d have a lot more credibility. (Of course, now that I’ve suggested it, it’s the last thing you can ever bring yourselves to do!)
Aah, because Americanisms always make French classics better…
No, I don’t.
You can be longwinded and still dumb things down. That’s the point of you being an autodidact – you know the dictionary meanings of words, but not the philosophical implications behind word choices. Because autodidacts are always limited in their depth of knowledge, I find. Like the way you obviously have no clue of why la métempsycose carries the metaphysical and philosophical weight that la réincarnation does not.
As for this second snippet - no, hers is not lumpy, but since you couldn’t defend losing the inner monologue at the start, I don’t expect you to understand why “I asked myself” is superior to “I wondered”.
And again, you have no sense of context - “little road” paints a word picture, and “dirt road” is not equivalent in a time and place where most of the country roads were dirt, little and large. There’s therefore greater specificity and hence evocation in “little road”. And there’s a difference in sense between “taking” a road and “following” one that just whooshed right by you, apparently…
And “imminent sweetness” is sensual in a way “anticipated joy” is not. Hers echoes the actual sense that Proust evoked with à la douceur prochaine, rather than waste the use of “sweetness” in trying to prove how clever one might be with clunky Shakespeare allusions (which game she plays more subtly with “my candle” than you could ever hope to, I might add).
The rest is the same - no, there’s nothing wrong with her English, it all made perfect sense and flowed better than yours.
You’re an asshole, and you have some cockamamie political ideas.
I don’t want to have any credibility with you.
I’m sure it’s been pointed out to you before that these attempts at creating gotchas are
a) screamingly obvious
I think we all know, whether we’re going to admit it or not, that if we showed both paragraphs to 100 people who are reasonably well read in English but unfamiliar with Proust, the vast majority would prefer my prose. Maybe the Proust experts would not, but that’s not the audience I’m translating for. I’m trying to take French source material and make an English-language novel people will find to be a brisk, enjoyable read and not “sound translated”. There’s no way you can tell me people will read Ms. Booker Prize and think that prose was composed in English.
So, internationally, your counterpart is the guy that writes instruction sheets in, horribly, broken English.
That doesn’t even make sense as an insult. There might be some peril of that if I translated from English to French, mind you. Someone tried to hire me to do that, and I turned them down because I believe translation should always go into one’s native language. I don’t need to have perfect French fluency; I need decent fluency, combined with my Dictionaire Larousse and strong writing ability in English.
Does this help?
Donc, au niveau international, votre homologue est le gars qui écrit des fiches d’instructions dans un anglais horriblement cassé.