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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Ernaux: suggested translation


Extract from Annie Ernaux[i], Une Femme
Then came[ii] the exodus.[iii] She went off[iv] by road[v] as far as Niort with some neighbours; she slept in barns and drank the "simple[vi] wines they make out there", then she came back home on her own, on a bicycle,[vii] passing through the German roadblocks, and[viii] gave birth at home one month later. She felt no fear at all, but was so dirty when she arrived that Father[ix] did not recognize her.
While the Occupation[x] lasted, the Valley community huddled together around their grocery,[xi] hoping for food supplies. She did her best to feed everyone , especially the bigger families, wanting to be good and of use, and proud of being so. When the bombs came, she would not take refuge[xii] in the communal shelters[xiii] on the hillside[xiv]; she would rather "die in her own home". In the afternoon, between two air-raid warnings, she would take me out in my pram to build up my strength.[xv] It was a time when people made friends easily; she sat on park benches and got to know level-headed[xvi] young women who did their knitting by the sandpits[xvii], while, my father minded[xviii] the empty shop. Then the British[xix] and the Americans entered Lillebonne. The tanks rolled through the Valley; chocolate, and bags of orange sherbert were thrown out[xx] and we picked them up from the dust. Every night the bar was full of soldiers ;[xxi] there were brawls sometimes, but it was party time and we learned to say "shit for you!" in English.[xxii] Later, she would tell the story of the war years as if it was a novel, the grand adventure of her life (she had so loved "Gone with the Wind"). In the midst of shared hardship, the period may have been a sort of break in the struggle to make it, a struggle which no longer had any reason to exist.
In those years, she[xxiii] was beautiful ; her hair was dyed red. She had a big booming[xxiv] voice and shouted often in a fearsome tone of voice. She laughed  a lot, too, a throaty laugh which showed her teeth and gums.   


[i] This is what wikipedia in English has to say about here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Ernaux
[ii] I explained last week about the need to add verbs in this kind of sentence.
[iii] The word « exode » is far far more common in French than « exodus » in English. Nevertheless, I think we should use it here.
[iv] Note the number of  phrasal verbs with « off » frequently signifying « separation », just like verbs with « up » signify completeness, « on » continuity, « out » extension etc.
[v] “Hit the road” sounds too “rock n roll “. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8Tiz6INF7I
[vi] Un « petit vin » is not «  a small wine » since it is not a matter of size.
[vii] « By bicycle » or « on a bicycle ». « Cycled back » is good, too.
[viii] Note that the « pour » in French is lighter than a translation with « to give birth », and that this translation is to be avoided here.
[ix] « My father » is quite acceptable, but « father » with a capital is excellent.
[x] Note the capital letter.
[xi] Someone wrote « their grocery store became the heart of the valley », which is very good indeed. Learning how to change the structure round is crucial.
[xii] I think that “she did not want to » is an under-translation.
[xiii] Or simply « public shelters ».
[xiv] One student used « hillside »’ as an adjective : that was very good.
[xv] A word like « invigorate » would be speaking of much more temporary effects.
[xvi] “Restrained » is good, as is « sensible ».
[xvii] In US English, one can say « sandbox ».
[xviii] A from with  BE +ING here would underline, unnecessarily, the simultaneity.
[xix] Not « the English ». In fact, the published translation of the novel says "the English", which I consider to be scandalous.
[xx] It sounds very strange to say that tanks were throwing things, which is why I have preferred a passive form. A structure introducing the words « crews » is also very good.
[xxi] We saw last week that commas are insufficient punctuation in English here.
[xxii] The words “in English » are essential here.
[xxiii] Initially, I thought that the author meant « women in general in this period », but she doesn’t.
[xxiv] « Like a foghorn », which one student found, is excellent.

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