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Sunday, November 03, 2019

Suggested translation - passage from Aubry

The passage we were working from can be found on this blog in the entry for September 4th. This translation will only stay online for a couple of weeks.

Extract from “Personne” by Gwenaëlle Aubry, 2009

"As you know, I was born to a human father and mother. Neither they nor my sisters, then, have four legs, the head of a beast[1] or red eyes. Nor do my children. As for me, I also have a human appearance, if perhaps a little dark. I like grass but I do not graze on it, and I live in a one-bedroom flat[2] looking out on the trees, in Montmartre, at the foot of the Sacré Coeur. It is here that I am becoming conscious once more of how my life has turned out. Some things in it certainly escaped[3] me entirely, since I was not looking for them."
The[4] lines I have set out here are the first lines of a piece[5] called ‘The blues of the black sheep’. It counts almost two hundred pages written out in careful handwriting, with corrections and annotations from beginning to end. On the blue folder containing these pages, my father has written ‘to be novelized’.[6] He intended this to be read by other people – my sister and me,[7] to begin with.[8] He spent the last months of his life writing it, in the small flat we had set up[9] for him. He had a white, well-lit,[10] room on the ground floor of a modern building, which one arrived at through a passageway with a right angled bend,[11] at the other end of which was a kitchen, a bathroom and a wardrobe, and the back of which was entirely taken up with a bay window[12] looking out onto[13] [14]a tree-lined avenue. In this space, as in some hotel rooms, there was something impersonal and comforting.[15] As soon as we saw it, we knew that he would like being there, that fear would not reach him there. We filled it with   furniture and ornaments salvaged[16] from the auction[17] at Drouot’s. There was  a large bookcase holding his law books and boxes full of his papers, a couch and a desk, some worn carpets and an Empire console table. Then there were my grandfather’s paintings, a black-and-white photograph   showing the manor house in Britanny at Saint méloir des ondes. All these were relics of a dynasty of high up people[18] which would rebuild around the old man the scenery of a respectable, cushioned,[19] [20] life, lived at a leisurely pace. The psychiatrists allowed him to leave the clinic he had been interned in for a year. He would be able to begin living again. It was in this very room that he died, nine months later.


 Un console Empire


 Une Malouinière




[1] The context reminds us that it is not a matter of having « a silly head ».
[2] Note that « a bedsit » is normally a bedroom in a house which sports shared bathroom and kitchen facilities outside the bedsit. These are far less common in Paris than in London, and, in addition, a « studio » in Montmartre would probably be expensive and not have shared facilities. As we see below, this is not a « one-room flat ».
[3] Somebody tried « slipped my memory », but this is not the meaning here. « Eluded » is good – a literary word.
[4]  A structure with « These » is possible ; « those » is not correct.
[5] « Text » is not appropriate.
[6] Someone found « to be fictionalized », which is very good. « To romanticize » is something quite different, connected with love.
[7] « My sister and I » would be a grammatical error of a particular type , an example of hyper-correction. In this style, I think it is best avoided. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypercorrection
[8] « For a start » is rather informal.
[9] Or « we had furnished ». « We had done up » is not bad, but may be too informal. « We had fixed up » is fine.
[10] This is far and away the best translation here.
[11] Someone tried «  an L shaped hallway » which is very good.
[12] « Patio door » sounded a little modern, but is probably correct. Note that you can walk out of a patio door, and not of a bay window.
[13] Note this is spelt as one word.
[14] A structure with « with a view on » is also good.
[15] Someone tried « characterless and soothing », which I thought was good.
[16] Or « saved », or « left over ».
[17] As all millionaires know, Drouot is an auction house for very expensive items. https://www.drouot.com/lot/publicShow/8796198
[18] Or « dignitaries » or « public figures ».
[19] I liked « hushed ».
[20] Or « slow-moving ».

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