Sunday, October 10, 2021

Agrégation, advanced translation : Suggested translation: passage by Villard

Note that this translation will only remain on the blog for a couple of weeks.
If you are a visitor to this blog and you want to see the original passage we were translating from, you will find it here  http://www.jcmullen.fr/0921themebooklet.pdf 



Occasionally,[1] Christine and I will[2] stop off at a department store, along with the children, to pick up a few purchases[3] on our way home from a Saturday afternoon walk.[4]


Antoine’s pushchair is difficult to steer[5] in the shopping aisles, and I usually take care of this menial[6] task. Romain and his mother waltz off ahead[7], interested in everything, while I mope along behind, flanked by an ecstatically[8] smiling brat[9]. I do try to concentrate and be[10] interested in the products displayed, but all my efforts are made vain by the stifling heat, the beginnings[11] of dizziness, and a sudden weariness caused by overuse of tranquillizers.[12]


The baby and myself trail along like[13] two old men, in the wake of the extravagance thrown out by my wife and my son. Of course, I could wait outside in the wind, but my opinion is required at times for the purchase of some household utensil.[14] So I stroll along gloomily, sweating underneath my fur-lined jacket, and shooting disgusted glances at the ground-floor stalls inevitably confined to perfumes, bags[15] and minor trinkets.


Last Saturday, little by little, I got so far left behind that I found myself alone with the pushchair on a mezzanine piled up with bathroom accessories. An insane idea then crossed my mind: what if I just disappeared, like that, without thinking it out, and melted away into the crowd, drowning in it, and never coming back to the homely nest which I had previously so much desired ? For I am a feeble, sickly sort, ever searching, like a good dog, to be vaguely stroked and thus feel the least of my days has been lit up.


So I pictured myself abandoning Antoine in front of the Estée Lauder stall, where an absent-minded redhead was running the show, and letting myself float off imperceptibly towards the exit which led out onto the Rue de Rivoli. I rejoiced in advance thinking of the panic-stricken faces of my wife and my eldest child, when they came[16] across the youngest, abandoned like a wisp of straw on the pitiless sea of Saturday harpies.[17]


Marc Villard, J’aurais voulu être un type bien (1995)


[1] I consider « sometimes » to be a little more often than is needed here.

[2] A good opportunity to use a modal, here characteristic « will ». http://www.diacronia.ro/ro/indexing/details/A5713/pdf  One of the ways of looking at this modality is that it is the present of the « would » of habit.

[3] « Go shopping » is an under-translation.

[4] Because students are now aware that long passages in the simple present are considerably rarer in English than in French quite a few translated the whole of the first section using simple past tenses. But avoiding the simple present is only necessary when talking about past actions. That is to say a series of actions which take place as we say in French « dans une période révolue » are often expressed in the simple present in French but in the simple past in English. This passage is different. The actions happen every few weeks, in a period which is not over. So the simple present of habit is the only real option. It is the marker « Last Saturday » which tells us that the actions mentioned so far are habitual, and the ones he is about to talk about are specific to last Saturday and therefore need past tenses.

[5] You do not « drive » pushchairs, since they have no engine.

[6] « Secondary » is fine. « Subaltern » is too intellectual.

[7] Or « frolic on ahead » or « caper about in front ».

[8] Or « blissfully ».

[9] Seeveral students used words which were too slangy.

[10] Avoid « get «  which is often too conversational for translating literature.

[11] There is nothing you can do here with « first », which, in English is much more strictly mired in a numerical series.

[12] The  word « anxiolytics » does exist in English, but it is professional jargon. Everyday English often tries to avoid latinate or Greek vocabulary. Remember the translation for the French « ORL » is « Ear Nose and Throat doctor » !

[13] If you were tempted by « as too old men » revise this point urgently : this is a serious error.

[14] Not « appliance » which is generally for heavy items like washing machines.

[15] I had had the impression that « luggage » was only used for the suitcases filled and ready to travel, and not for the items you buy in the shops. One student checked this for me, and I was wrong : in London, both Selfridge’s and Harrod’s have a « luggage department », so the word « luggage » is actually correct.

[16] « When they would come » is a serious mistake here.

[17] Harpy /ˈhɑːpi/  noun  plural noun: harpies 1.  Greek & Roman Mythology a rapacious monster described as having a woman's head and body and a bird's wings and claws or depicted as a bird of prey with a woman's face. 2. a grasping, unpleasant woman. "clearly, he had us down as a couple of gold-digging harpies"


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