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Sunday, November 21, 2021

Thème/M2 agregation advanced translation: suggested translation, passage from Prévert

    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 

For[1] me,[2] Neuilly[3] meant[4] the fair,[5] and when the fair left, the main avenue was[6] a real[7] desert, except when the market traders[8] with their wooden poles[9] set up[10] their tents like the circus people did.[11]

 But there were other fairs, at the Porte Maillot.[12] One day they did[13] "Morocco in Paris", a village where there were bright-eyed[14] natives,[15] potters and jewellery stands, snake charmers, a mother camel[16] with her little ones,[17] and black[18] children who dived[19] into a pool to fetch coins.

 Another day there was a dwarf village with dwarf[20] houses, a dwarf  school and a little[21] dwarf church. Or there was the “loop the loop” attraction: people got[22] in a carriage which raced[23] downwards really quickly, turned upside down[24] in the loop, then slowed down[25] and stopped to let the screaming passengers off.

 And then there was Printania, a  big music hall[26] in the open air. People[27] ate cherries in brandy and when the night was clear the roof opened up and the stars could watch the show with us. In the show, there were clowns dressed as[28] pâtissiers,[29] juggling their wares, and lady singers all alone on stage, the audience drinking and singing along with them.

 And there were men[30] singers. One of them was just so funny.[31] Yet he was all dressed in a sad black, and his face always had a tearful expression.[32] He would pluck out the big flower he wore in his buttonhole and throw it to the floor, where it would stick, upright,[33] and sway forwards and backwards, trembling.[34]

 “I've got depression”[35], he would sing, “it's so funny hee hee hee[36]”. And everyone would fall about laughing, even my father. Even though he did[37] suffer from depression.

       “It’s in fashion”,[38] he would say, “but I could do without it, this sadness that settles into your head and pops in and out, as if it were at home.”

        And long before they set up[39] Printania, where the sprawling ruins of Luna Park[40] can be seen today, there was a big tethered balloon that rose into the sky, filled with passengers. One day, the rope snapped and the balloon was carried off by the wind. All over Neuilly, the people all looked skywards at the same time; so did the dogs.[41]

 *Check out the British national corpus search for “stilts”.




[1] Remember we don’t normally use « according to » with the first person. In any case, the expression « according to » is too formal and argumentative

[2] What do you know about Jacques Prévert ? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Pr%C3%A9vert

[3] Someday suggested helping the anglophone reader by writing something like « the Parisian suburb of Neuilly ». This is good.

[4] Any sentence with « synonymous » is the wrong register : Greek words are mostly for formal use.

[5] As we see a little later, we are not talking,strictly speaking, about « funfairs » which is a little too specific. (Even so, the expression « fun fair » was first used in the 1920s). If you use funfair for the first sentence, but just « fair » for the others, that is fine.

[6] « Felt like » is rather an over-translation.

[7] Not « a true desert ». « True » gives an impression of scientific precision, which is not appropriate here. « A true tornado is formed when three key elements collide …».

[8] « Market people » or « the market people » is good. « People from the market » is not sufficient, since that might mean simply people who had recently been to the market.

[9] I do not think they are stilts : see the extract from the British National Corpus

[10] There is no reason at all for a BE +ING here.

[11] For the history of the Fête de Neuilly, voir ici : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%AAte_%C3%A0_Neu-Neu

[12] A couple of students wondered if they should translate to « Maillot Gate ». This is not impossible, but I think it is better to leave this in French. It is not too hard for most English readers.

[13] It was only once, so you may not use a structure with « would ».

[14]  « Bright-eyed » is the « expression consacrée ». It appears in the often ironic expression to describe someone who is full of child-like enthusiasm : « bright-eyed and bushy tailed » (the implication of the expression is that they are like a squirrel). « Shiny-eyed » is possible, but far rarer. Note you do need the hyphen with these compound adjectives. Long-haired, red-faced, kind-hearted, old-fashioned, deeply-rooted, narrow-minded, broad-minded, high-spirited, strong-willed, quick-witted, well-behaved, middle-aged… 

[15] In this context, « natives » is a racist term, but it is the correct translation, as it was a racist event.

[16] “Camel”is used both for “chameau” and for “dromédaire” except by specialists.

[17] Technically called « calves », but most people don’t know this « her young » is excellent.

[18] After the 1970s, and especially in non fiction, the word “black » is capitalized when referring to people of Afrcan heritage, or others targeted by racism because of their origins. But this is before.

[19] My grammar book gives both « dived » and « dove » as acceptable. This is the only point in the paragraph when a structure with “would” is possible.

[20] I was a little surprised initially by « dwarfish », but I think it is fine. « Dwarf houses » are houses for dwarfs. « Dwarfish houses » are very small houses (whether for dwarfs or not). « Dwarves’ houses » sinc eyou must repeat the genitive three times, is a little clumsy.

[21] « Little » is much better than « small » here – can you remember why ?

[22] It is not a good idea to use « would » because that leads to much repetition.

[23] A sentence with « sped » would be good. « Raced » is very good.

[24] This is a good time to revise upside down, inside out, back to front, and sideways on.

[25] « Reduced speed » is too formal in register.

[26] There is an argument for keeping the French expression, « Café-concert ». Someone tried « open-air live entertainment bar », but that is far too modern an expresion.

[27] You may not translate with « we », since the narrator was no doubt too young for brandy.

[28] If you use a structure with a noun, it should be « outfit » not « uniform », since uniforms are, well, uniform – that is , all identical (although the word is used in a commercial context).

[29]  « Pastry Cooks »

[30] You do need to specify as you have just spoken of the lady singers.

[31] « As funny as they come » I liked. Someone tried « as funny as hell », but for a 1920s passage this is too rude.

[32] I liked « which always seemed on the verge of tears ».

[33] I think this word is the most important point to the trick.

[34] Not « Shivering » which is amost always due to the cold.

[35] In my dictionary, the English word « neurasthenia » is marked as « (Med.) » That is to say it is used only in the medical profession. Remember in particular the general rule that French is much closer to Greek and Latin words than is English. So the Oto-rhino-laryngologue is an « Ear nose and throat doctor » ; French people have a torticoli, and English people have a « stiff neck » etc.

[36]  «Hee hee hee » is the traditional way to spell discreet laughter. « Ha ha ha » is less discreet laughter. Because the original is onomatopoeic, « hi hi hi » is not possible in English.

[37] A structure without the emphatic « do » here is very much an inferior translation. The only othe rgood option is « he actually suffered from depression ».

[38] « The latest trend » - why not ? but NOT « the last trend ». there is an exercise on this here http://speakspeak.com/english-grammar-exercises/intermediate/last-the-last-the-latest . Someone tried « on trend », but I suspect this is 21st century marketing jargon.

[39] As often, it is an excellent ide ato add a verb here.

[40] « Luna Park’s ruins » is very clumsy indeed – follow the rules of when to use the Saxon genitive.

[41] Notice that you cannot simply say « including dogs », since dogs are not people.

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