by Jack Kessler, firstname.lastname@example.org
July 15, 2015 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on July 15, 2015.
Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: email@example.com
Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe. Please email suggestions for improvements to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
[The following annonce and excerpts tr. by JK, from the BnF web page shown below -- ]
> BnF, Estampes et Photographie / Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Department of Prints and Photographs
> Encouraged by Francis I, the translation into French of Greek and Latin classics, also works in vernacular languages, flourished remarkably during the 1540's, together with the installation of French as the official language of government administration and of the system of justice via the ordonnance de Villers-Cotterêts of 1539.
> The "translators / translateurs" saluted "the great enthusiasm of the King to hear and see all good authors do translations into the French language". Francis I assigned the translation of the Metamorphoses of Ovid to Clément Marot, commanded the translation of Homer from the poet Hugues Salel, and it was on his orders that Jacques Amyot began his translation of Plutarch.
> The method of correctly translating from one language to another, by Étienne Dolet, appeared in 1540 --
[JK: The original of this work, by its famous early-printing author & martyr -- he was burned in the Place Maubert at Paris, an event long-commemorated by a well-known statue there -- see,
-- now may be read easily in the original, online --
La manière de bien traduire d'une langue en aultre : d'advantage de la punctuation de la langue françoyse, plus des accents d'ycelle... ?, le tout faict par Estienne Dolet ; Lyon : E. Dolet, 1540. 39 p.
Disponible en ligne sur Gallica :
-- always far more fun to see a thing in the-original, strange spellings & punctuation & all... ]
> If Francis I is not correctly described as a "literary" monarch -- he knew little Latin and no Greek -- he was himself a poet, and a lover of poetry, and he developed his love of literature through conversation. The dining-table of the King, "a true school" as Brantôme said, was a place for discussions with the learned and the literary: the interest of Francis I in translation arose from this culture of conversation. In the 16th century, the translator became one of the protagonists of the intellectual and artistic movement known as the Renaissance which would transform French culture from its foundations.
> The Bibliography presented here, assembled on the occasion of the exposition François Ier ; pouvoir et image, presented at the Bibliothèque nationale de France from March 24 to June 21, 2015, offers a selection of documents, printed and digital, available principally in the bibliothèque du Haut-de-Jardin and in the bibliothèque de recherche, Rez-de-Jardin level, in open access or in storage. Of greatest interest is the first half of the 16th century and the period of the reign of Francis I, the bibliography selects numerous French editions of the Renaissance available on Gallica, the digital of the BnF accessible free-of-charge on the Internet.
> A few examples: you may download the entire bibliography via the link at the bottom, here --
> This work is not so much a history of translations or a list of texts translated as it is, notably in its chapter "Traduire au XVI siècle", but more a history of ideas about translation and the manner of translating which has changed over the centuries.
> This study, at once both erudite and agreeable to read, discusses the cultural revolution which engulfed the France of François I, and particularly the leader of that revolution, Guillaume Budé.
> The article "Traduction" in this reference dictionary provides a clear understanding of the history of 16th century translation and its protagonists.
> This work of synthesis presents, in pedagogical fashion, the various aspects of humanism in the France of the 16th century. It demonstrates that at the heart of all issues one finds the increasing importance accorded to language, in cultural & religious & political spheres.
To download the complete bibliography:
Traduire en « langue françoyse » : humanisme et traduction au XVIe siècle
format pdf -- 468k -- published April 2, 2015 -- 26 pages
-- and see-also, for the well-done & nicely-illustrated BnF presentation of the above,
Translation is an art, not a science... That valuable lesson is best learned via jokes and anecdotes -- they are the way most of us learn the sad truth, often after years of relying-upon and learning-from "accurate" translations so-called.
For instance one legend about machine-translation recounts that the English expression, "The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak", was fed into the new automated system, churned into German, then spat back out in English as, "The liquor was good but the meat was bad"! :-)
None of us has not experienced this sort of thing, particularly when we have traveled... from fausses amies in French, to two-nations-separated-by-a-common-language in American vs. British English, particularly all those wrong-spellings and that very-strange "whilst", to the stylistic differences between American and German linguistic practice which so delighted Mark Twain --
"An average sentence, in a German newspaper, is a sublime and impressive curiosity; it occupies a quarter of a column; it contains all the ten parts of speech -- not in regular order, but mixed; it is built mainly of compound words constructed by the writer on the spot, and not to be found in any dictionary -- six or seven words compacted into one, without joint or seam -- that is, without hyphens; it treats of fourteen or fifteen different subjects, each inclosed in a parenthesis of its own, with here and there extra parentheses which reinclose three or four of the minor parentheses, making pens within pens... "
-- as quoted from Twain's essay, "The Awful German Language" [A Tramp Abroad, Appendix D, 1880], by the excellent-stylist-himself Stephan Leibfried, in his Transformations of the Welfare State, 2010, p. vii, who apologizes to readers and to Twain for "intractable Teutonisms"... Twain's own somewhat-huffy conclusion being --
"I think that to learn to read and understand a German newspaper is a thing which must always remain an impossibility to a foreigner."
Some poets have suggested that translation in fact is impossible -- that a translation is an entirely-independent creation, bearing little or only-misleading resemblance to its original -- Biblical scholars, Old and Middle English experts, anyone who ever has delved into the "originals" of Shakespeare's texts, oftentimes have wondered how different and sometimes-entirely our modern editions may be from what was originally-intended. But then cultural practices have changed, as well, also all other frames of reference: "love", in 16th c. London must have been very different from the phenomenon described today, at least as different as that tiny city then was from the giant urbanized-region which has engulfed it since.
So, what to do?... How best to understand -- as the French Renaissance writers tried -- language and cultures un-studied and in some ways even unknown at all for a preceding thousand years or more. And the gnawing question of whether our current understandings are hopelessly flawed...
A great translator taught me a technique, for this purpose, as he taught it to many others spanning several generations: Arthur Waley, urbane Bloomsbury resident, who took it upon himself to open Western Civilization to the considerable glories of ancient Chinese literature -- his translations still echo, although many others exist now -- his were among the earliest however which reached curious non-Chinese readers, when we first were despairing of the complexities of the alphabets and the sheer foreign-ness of those ideas and that general culture.
A wonderful book, about Waley and his efforts, bears a wonderful title taken from one of his own translations: Madly Singing in the Mountains, ed. Ivan Morris, 1981 -- Waley's translated title of a poem by 9th c. Po Chü-i / Bai Juyi -- that however is an expression straight out of not China but Bloomsbury -- one can imagine a rainy day in London-town and Waley out with his umbrella, or a stalwart march across the Lake District by an Edwardian Englishman on-holiday, but only with great difficulty a 9th c. Chinese government official and gentleman-poet -- so one wonders how "accurate" the translation is... Waley never saw China... all appear to agree now that his "accurate" knowledge of the place and its literature and its language was far less than many others have possessed...
But it doesn't matter: Waley himself was an artist, and his English words are wonderful, in the poem,
"I lean my body on the banks of white stone:
I pull down with my hands a green cassia branch.
My mad singing startles the valleys and hills;
The apes and birds all come to peep."
-- if this is not a 9th c. gentleman-poet in China, out on a walk, then at least it describes a 20th c. gentleman-translator, somewhat-eccentric, walking the Lake District mountains and enjoying the solitude -- and at least the two gentlemen would have found much to share in-common in the resemblance, perhaps.
That last may be the point of "translation", then -- the effort of one person to understand another -- the art and the magic may be at both ends, of the process, not the technical correctness but the effort at understanding being the thing that truly counts.
FYI France (sm)(tm) e-journal ISSN 1071-5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic | journal published since 1992 as a small-scale, | personal experiment, in the creation of large- | scale "information overload", by Jack Kessler. / \ Any material written by me which appears in ----- FYI France may be copied and used by anyone for // \\ any good purpose, so long as, a) they give me --------- credit and show my email address, and, b) it // \\ isn't going to make them money: if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYI France archives are in various places on the Internet, i.e. at http://listserv.uh.edu/archives/pacs-l.html (PACS-L), or http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/Collections/FYIFrance/, or https://list.indiana.edu/sympa/arc/exlibris-l/ (EXLIBRIS-L), or http://www.fyifrance.com. Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison-pen letters all gratefully received at email@example.com . Copyright 1992- , by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved except as indicated above.
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