"The last image was too immediate for any eye to register. It may have been a human figure, dreaming of an early evening in each great capital luminous enough to tell him he will never die, coming outside to wish on the first star. But it was not a star, it was falling, a bright angel of death. And in the darkening and awful expanse of screen something has kept on, a film we have not learned to see… It is now a close-up of the face, a face we all know…"(457 signes espaces inclus)
"La dernière image avait été trop brève pour qu'on en conserve le souvenir. Peut-être était-ce une silhouette humain, rêvant d'une soirée dans chaque grande capitale assez brillante pour dire qu'il ne mourrait jamais, à l'heure où l'on fait un voeu en voyant la première étoile. Mais ce n'étrait pas une étoile, cela tombait comme un ange de mort étincelant. Et sur l'écran effrayant devenu obscur quelque chose a continué, un film que nous n'avons pas appris à voir... C'est maintenant un visage en gros plan, un visage que tous nous connaissons."pp 663, "Rainbow", Plon 1975, trad. Michel Doury (548 signes, espaces inclus)
“Hacía demasiado poco tiempo que había aparecido la última imagen para que ningún ojo pudiese registrarla. Pudo haber sido una figura humana que soñara con un temprano anochecer en todas las grandes capitales lo bastante luminosas como para decirle que jamás moriría, una figura humana saliendo a expresar un deseo ante la primera estrella vespertina. Pero no era ninguna estrella, era un brillante ángel que caía, un ángel de la muerte. Y, en la penumbrosa y terrible extensión de la pantalla, algo ha continuado, una película que no hemos aprendido a ver… Ahora se ve un primer plano de la cara, una cara que todos conocemos…”p.1147, “El arco iris de la gravedad”, Tusquets 2002, trad. Antoni Pigrau (628 signes, espaces inclus)
On comprend donc l’ampleur du défi que s’est lancé traducteur pour le petit dernier de l'homme à tête en papier kraft, mais je me dis également que ça aurait pu être pire s’il avait eu le malheur de venir d’Espagne.
Please forgive me for writing this in English, but these thoughts stretch way past my limited French. Language is not just a medium to communicate an idea. If it were only that, then I would agree with you -- the more concise and precise the language the more effective one could judge it to be. But we are talking about literature, which does so much more than merely communicate. Each language has its own sound, like a musical instrument. I read "The Stranger" in English when I was 13. Then I read "L'etranger" when I was 15. It was like reading two different books. For me, the art of translation is the art of making the book come alive in a language that was not the author's when he wrote it. Yet it is an art that requires the translator to still remain faithful to the original. I haven't done this yet, but I am tempted to read books by authors like, Murakami, whom I cannot read in the original, and re-read them in translations other than English. I expect that the experience would be something more like discovery. (Again, please forgive me for not writing in French.) Felicitations -- votre blog e toujours si interesant!
English, French or Spanish, all comments are more than welcome so don't worry. My post was actually pointless and not really an attempt to say anything about language or translation. A little bit of good clean fun, I would say. The fact is that Claro, currently working on the translation of "Against the day", made a point numerous people have made before - Martin Amis for example - : a book written in English and translated into French inflates of about 30 percent. I happen to have bought a couple of days ago "Gravity's rainbow" in Spanish and I of course also have it in both French and English so I decided to check this out. On the basis of the excerpt chosen, it's true but even "worse" in Spanish. Given that, save a couple of strange repitition, nothing has been added and very little could be substracted, I was not really saying that translators are not doing their job but merely that given the particularities and the "musciality" of each language, you set yourself up to a very, very difficult task if you try to create a French version that sounds good in French but also respects the number of words of the original.
By the way, I read Sebald in English and in French and indeed it's a strange experience: there are of course a lot of similarities yet some telling differences. A bit like two very close brothers.