Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Translation options

I'm working on my translation of "Sortileges", and came across a little passage that left me with a choice of translations. The scene is a traditional feast day in a remote French village, time not specified, but I suspect it's the early 19th century. In addition to music, dancing and eating, there are some carnival-style attractions, including a "target shooting" event. Now, this is a bit gross, but remember, these are earthy peasants: the event consists of two chickens tethered to the ground, while contestants hurl stones to try to hit them! A skilled marksman can hit a chicken and kill it with one blow, while the less gifted...well, an onlooker refers to it as "un vrai massacre des innocents!" Of course this isn't just sheer cruelty - the winner gets to keep the dead chicken, and naturally would find it a valuable prize, as it would go into the pot for a nice supper. And the winner would be interested in getting a nice clean kill, instead of a mangled heap of feathers!

There's a barker drumming up business, and he chants "Deux pierres, deux coups, deux sous/Visez le coq et le coq est à vous!" and I tried to get as close a translation as possible. I came up with two possibilities:

Two stones, two shots, two sous;
Hit the bird and it belongs to you!


and

Two sous, two shots, two stones;
Hit the bird and take it home!


Which is the best one?

Technically, the first is the most accurate: it follows the exact word order and is a nearly literal translation. As it also rhymes, it would work fine for a subtitle.

The second one, though, has something the first one lacks; it has the real sound of a barker. "Hit the bird and take it home!" sounds like something a carnival barker would say. You can almost hear it in your head - it sounds like something you might have actually heard. Not a barbaric contest like this, but maybe a wishing well: "Hook the fish and take it home!" "Hit the prize and take it home!" Translation tries to give more than just the bare meaning of words; it tries to reproduce the same effect in the reader or hearer that the original passage produced in its original audience. And the original audience - in the movie and in the theatre - heard a carnival barker trying to draw and excite a crowd. That's why I think the second effort is the better one, event though it adds in some words that aren't in the original.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

HA HA HA HA...I just love you Wanda.

10:44 pm  
Anonymous Bill in Ottawa said...

Perhaps this would work:

Two stones, two shots, two sous
Hit the bird and take it with you

2:26 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

That would also work! I'll see which one fits best into the subtitle format - there's a limit to how many spaces per line one can use. All three of these would convey the meaning of the words.

4:02 pm  
Blogger Tina said...

What a fun job to have. You are so fortunate to have the talent for languages!

FWIW, I am always listening for the deep grammar of words, so I like the one that sounds like the Barker. :-)

Happy Easter!

Tina

8:38 pm  
Blogger kashif14763 said...

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9:52 pm  

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