Friday, November 22, 2019
Thème agrégation: suggested translation Brisac
“What’s your favourite animal?” Eugenio asked, as we were walking along in the dark. It was the day before Christmas Eve.
“The koala bear, the squirrel and the otter,” I said. “The koala because of how it clings onto the Eucalyptus tree with its paws, and because it lives near the kangaroos. The squirrel because of the nuts: there is nothing as sweet as giving someone nuts, I always say. And I don’t know why I chose the otter. Because its name sounds ugly and touching, and because of the water.”
I was lying. I was more imagining an animal like an armadillo.
Eugenio had slipped his arm through the little invisible loop formed by my body and my arm. He was looking worried. “Do you think Queen Elizabeth has had a happy life?” he murmured.
I was about to come out with a petty answer: who’s been talking about that mummy with the hat? It’s your father who’s been talking to you about her!
“Fairly happy, I think, but she’s been disappointed by her children,” I answered
It was wantonly mean of me to bring these two words out together: “disappointed” and “children” and Eugenio curled himself up. I felt ashamed.
“We’d better get our skates on” he said. “We’re late, mummy, get your skates on!”
“That expression if horrid and I’m sure Queen Elizabeth would never say it!” I replied.
Queen Elizabeth is our idol, our whipping boy, our sphinx and our scapegoat.
“She hasn’t had a happy life,” I said, finally, “because she didn’t really want one”.
Such dignity made him marvel. One thing led to another in my mind and it reminded me of some other Queen who had snapped the elastic in her underwear and died because of it. She froze to death in the snow because she would not get up from the stone bench she had retreated to to save her dignity. I told Eugenio this story: dying of cold on an icy stone bench is the epitome of dignity, I explained, suddenly proud of how I was educating my son. But Eugenio snickered: “romanticism is blinding you again, mummy, “it’s not that at all, the story. The Queen cried and screamed and they had ten of the strongest men in the kingdom come out. They tore up the stone bench and carried it to the palace…”
 The koala is not a bear, but the expression is common.
 Although not all Eucalyptus exude gum, I think « gum tree » was a good translation here. (wikipedia: Eucalyptus is one of three similar genera that are commonly referred to as "eucalypts", the others being Corymbia and Angophora. Many species, though by no means all, are known as gum trees because they exude copious kino from any break in the bark (e.g., scribbly gum).)
 Someone tried « hatted mummy » - why not ? or indeed « behatted mummy », but we may be getting too literary for this passage.
 I am not sure how old the child is. The following pages show he is not old enough to walk to school on his own, and loves to be taken to Macdonalds. « Mummy » would suggest under eight or nine years old, so I am going to keep it. « Mum » could suggest older, but family traditions vary.