Thursday, November 29, 2018
Suggested translation passage from Ben Jelloun
Suggested translation: Passage from Partir, by Tahar Ben Jelloun[i]
Carmen was not happy.[ii] Her Miguel was losing his mind.[iii] This marriage with the sister of that scrounger,[iv] as she called him, was driving her mad.[v] She was well aware[vi] that her protégé[vii] was being manipulated and exploited, that he was letting himself be pushed around and that he would not stand any criticism. After having asked Maria, an old gypsy seer and spellcaster, for advice, Carmen came back home, fully determined to put an end to this state of affairs. She burnt incense[viii] and placed cloves in specific places[ix] around the house. According to Maria, it would take some time for this[x] staging to work. All she need do was wait and pray.
Miguel hated the smell of cloves, which reminded him too much of the dentist’s. First, he asked Kenza whether it was she who[xi] was using[xii] that perfume, since[xiii] the peasants of the Atlas Mountains[xiv] were mad about it. Kenza was very much taken aback[xv] by this and in her turn started searching for where the smell was coming from. She suspected it was Carmen who had always given her nasty looks, but she kept her suspicions to herself. She might[xvi] have used her position as Miguel’s wife and the mistress[xvii] of the house, but she chose not to. Above all, she needed to calm things down. This house was turning into a theatre, putting on a bad play.
Kenza decided to go live in a room in the Cruz Roja and to try to talk her brother into changing his ways. Although she was still waiting for her residence and work permits, which would enable her at last to be completely at ease in Spain, she knew that the real problem was Azel whom she saw less and less and whom she had no hold over.[xviii] She felt embarrassed to talk to her brother about sex, something Moroccan families did not talk about;[xix] she did know what was going on and yet what words could she use?[xx] Before she could even broach the subject,[xxi] Azel starting denying it; he would get really angry[xxii] and start shouting: “Really? Who do you take me for?”[xxiii]
[i] You can find a summary of the novel here https://la-plume-francophone.com/2007/06/01/tahar-ben-jelloun-partir/
[ii] « Not pleased » is good. If you write « unhappy », you are changing the focus, without reason.
[iii] Interestingly, is more or less permanent, while is temporary and stress-induced. (an online linguistics forum reminded me of this).
[iv] Someone found « leech ». For the grammar, note that the relative clause means it is far simpler (perhaps essential) to use the structure with « of ».
[v] « Mad » is a little better than « crazy ». I liked structures like « made her blood boil ».
[vi] Not « she did see », because it has not been suggested that she did not.
[vii] Or « her favourite », perhaps.
[viii] Note that this cannot be « she made incense burn ». The structure « fit brûler » is analogous to the use of this structure in cooking instructions « Faites frire les oignons » : « fry the onions » ; « Faire chauffer le lait » : « heat the milk ».
[ix] Several students wrote « some specific places », which underlines the partial nature of the exercise far too heavily.
[x] « This » and not « that ». Note that as a general rule, an element which we have just defined is « this ». « The government has established a new consultative committee on higher education fees. This committee will meet for the first time next month ».
[xi] Structures with « the one » are clumsy here.
[xii] Note aspect.
[xiii] As I may have already mentioned, you are not generally allowed to separate two constituted main clauses only by a comma. You must try this very short quiz
[xv] Very puzzled… Expressions such as « dumbfounded » are far too strong here.
[xvi] I think that might is much better than any other option here.
[xvii] « Lady of the house » I think is okay. « Mistress » is better though, because more traditional and less bourgeois. « Master of the House » is also a fine song from the English version of « Les Misérables »
[xviii] Or « over whom she had no influence ». People had difficulties finding the correct preposition, « over ».
[xix] I liked sentences with the expression « not the done thing ».
[xx] Or « How could she put it into words ? »
[xxi] Or « mention the subject ». « Adress the issue » is too formal.
[xxii] « He would get worked up » is good.
[xxiii] Even though there were no quotation marks in the French, you should put them in in the English.