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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Agrégation. Mock exam: suggested translation

Study carefully: I have made a couple of changes since the class. Notein particular the "would" form in an early verb.


  Mock exam Thème agrégation 12.2015. Suggested translation

Mr. Tristani had ordered the drinks in the large dining room  of the deserted panoramic restaurant, and must have been expecting  to spend lunch flirting[1] with some young woman who wanted to know about the manufacturing of honey, but Marie was not in the habit of indulging in idle chit-chat during her working lunches.[2] As soon as the head waiter[3] had come to take their order, she set about explaining to him in a determined voice the main outline of her project. Mr Tristani, whose eagerness had quickly cooled off, listened to her gravely, nodding. His wrist was in plaster,[4] and from time to time he would clumsily separate out a piece of the sole with his good hand ; then put his fish knife[5] down on the tablecloth , pick up his fork and swallow a mouthful looking pained, and even worried, since, if he had correctly understood, the idea involved coating   a top model with honey.

Marie’s many questions received little in the way of answers from Mr Tristani , who contended himself with avoiding the issue with a vague wave of his hand and a resigned expression on his face. Picking his fish knife up again, he set about separating lengthwise his fillet of sole, looking out wistfully from time to time at the administrative district of Shinjuku which stretched out[6] in the mist behind the bay window.[7]

He remained stubbornly perplexed, and gave evasive or irrelevant answers[8] to the precise technical[9] questions that Marie had prepared for him (she had[10] her diary open on the tablecloth next to her and ticked off the questions on her list as she went along). She[11] never received any useful information: anyone would have thought[12] he knew nothing about bees, or that beekeeping was just his cover story.

From Nue, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, 2015




[1] Once you’ve noticed that the adjective « galant » is very difficult indeed to translate with an adjective, then you should automatically start looking for a noun or a verb. To search for a noun you have to ask yourself « If he’s looking for a « déjeuner galant » what does he want to be ? Or what does he want to have ? To look for a verb you have to ask yourself « What does he want to do, » and the verb « flirt » corresponds quite precisely to what he is said to be wanting to do, implied in the expression « déjeuner galant ».
[2] A « work lunch » is anything you eat in the workplace in the middle of the day ; a « working lunch » is when you eat and have a meeting to discuss professional matters at the same time. This is different again to expressions such as «  a works outing » « the works Christmas dinner ».
[3] « Maitre d’ » is American, but acceptable.
[4] Revise injury vocabulary : His wrist was in plaster, he was using crutches, his arm was in a sling, he was wearing a neck brace. And illness vocabulary : he’s on a drip…
[5] Revise your knife vocabulary : fish knife, bread knife, carving knife, penknife, switchblade, dagger, cleaver
[6] This is a stative verb, so there can be no BE +ING, and no frequentative « would ».
[7] Now is a good time to check your window vocabulary : do you know what these are : A bay window, a bow window, a French window, a dormer window, a picture window, a stained glass window, window shopping, a launch window, a window ledge ?
[8] Someone came up with « answered anything but what he was asked », which I thought was good.
[9] It is not correct to write « precise and technical questions ».
[10] Some students are having a hard time believing you really do genuinely need to add main verbs when they are missing in the French).
[11] Many students tried « never receiving … » but the problem with this is that the implied subject is the last subject of a main verb : that is, Mr Tristani, and *not* Marie.
[12] Same point again : main verb required.

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