Tag Archives: translation

Lass : la fameuse jeune fille écossaise

Si vous avez la chance d’être bilingue et que vous avez lu en V.O. quelques romances historiques se déroulant en Scotia, vous avez certainement remarqué cette étrange épithète : lass (ou lassie), qui se retrouve dans la bouche de tous les Scots dès qu’ils sont en présence d’une femme. S’il s’agit simplement d’un terme écossais des plus communs pour désigner une jeune fille ou une jeune femme, sa fréquence et surtout son emploi sont parfois déroutants pour les lecteurs de traduction en langue française. Il semblerait donc que quelques explications soient nécessaires.

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Source : Flickr, Tatters, Old Scotland, CC : https://flic.kr/p/MLX8G4

Une étrange apostrophe

Philippe Safavi, le traducteur d’Outlander de Diana Gabaldon, le dit lui-même : quand on essaye de rendre les particularités du parler écossais en français, notamment en piochant dans nos accents régionaux pour en recréer l’impression, cela peut parfois devenir un peu “plouc”. Incompatible donc avec la romance… Alors que faire ?

Utilisé comme apostrophe, lass peut faire penser au “ma belle” dont nous affublent volontiers les Sudistes ou à “ma petite dame”, mais sans connotation de classe ou d’origine paysanne. Plus familièrement, on pourrait aussi le comparer au “femme !” qu’utilisent parfois certains hommes envers leurs épouses ou tout autre personnage féminin (surtout quand celles-ci les contrarient, n’est-ce pas ?). Certes, c’est sexiste et horripilant, mais pour la petite histoire, quand j’habitais à Glasgow, j’ai été surprise de m’entendre interpeller à longueurs de phrases par des inconnus qui me disaient man. Mate (mon pote) me fait déjà grincer des dents, alors un changement de sexe imposé…

Dernière remarque. Attention, comme l’ont suggéré certaines lectrices dans leurs critiques en ligne, le terme ne possède aucune notion affective (bien au contraire, puisqu’on en infère que les locuteurs n’utilisent ni une formule de politesse, ni le prénom de la personne), et n’est pas non plus un surnom. Il s’agit simplement d’un de ces tics de langue auxquels on ne peut pas couper.

Quelques astuces pour le traducteur de romans écossais

La solution de facilité, et qui aurait également l’avantage d’expliciter cet usage et de mieux faire connaître la culture écossaise, serait d’ajouter une explication. Deux choix : insérer une note de traduction après le premier usage de l’expression “jeune fille”, ou bien conserver le terme lass en italique tout au long du texte, après une explication initiale sur son utilisation si particulière.

Dans une optique cibliste et pour rendre la lecture plus aisée, on peut tenter d’en diminuer la fréquence en rendant le propos plus formel ou, au contraire, plus personnel, en prenant en compte les relations entre les interlocuteurs. Par exemple, si l’un des guerriers du groupe s’adresse à l’héroïne de haute naissance, on pourra le remplacer par “Mademoiselle”. D’un autre côté, si c’est un prêtre âgé qui est touché par la détresse d’une pauvre prisonnière, sa bienveillance sera mise en valeur si l’on traduit lass par “ma jeune dame” ou une formule de ce genre.  Ce ne sont que quelques exemples. Libre à vous d’en trouver d’autres et de m’en faire part ; je serais curieuse de connaître vos petits trucs.

Cela étant, je ne suis pas forcément partisane du changement trop violent ou de la suppression pure et simple, mais les chroniques de lecteurs passionnés et familiers du genre soulignent souvent que l’usage répété de “jeune fille” ou “jeune femme” au sein de la narration est perçu comme lourd, incorrect (encore pire !), ou parfois même niais, alors qu’en langue anglaise et pour les gens qui ont, comme moi, vécu en Écosse, il s’agit d’une des marques de fabrique du dialecte écossais.

 

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Page, ma première héroïne écossaise, se prêtant d’autant plus à l’emploi continu de “lass” qu’elle ne possède pas vraiment de prénom (elle occupe les fonctions de page du château).

En conclusion, il est important d’écouter les remarques des lecteurs du genre qui sont peut-être habitués aux romances ayant subi le traitement Harlequin, destiné à faciliter la lecture d’un texte cible que la traduction a rendu parfaitement lisse, et ce, peut-être, au détriment de la couleur locale. D’un autre côté, il est bon d’informer les lecteurs, car la plongée dans un contexte historique ne passe pas seulement par un respect des costumes ou bien des us de l’époque, mais également par certains tics de langage, aussi déroutants qu’ils puissent paraître.

 

Pour aller plus loin :

Cliquez ici pour lire une fantastique interview du traducteur Philippe Safavi sur Outlander France.

 

 

 

 

 

Making decisions in literary translation: translating dialects

Translating is a lot like solving an enigma or a riddle, or even reading a crime book with a pencil and a pad of paper at hand, trying to guess who did it. Though one might argue that there are no right or wrong answers for an experienced translator, only an enlightened decision, making the right choice of word, or finding the best solution to the original clue, if you want, can be of capital importance to the success of the book.

On the topic of historical novels or dialects

“Aye, pray thee, bonnie lassie, dinna ye ken wot that mon is sayin’?” Errr, probably no more than a translator who has not lived in Scotland, no. And what about those historical novels that take you to the Southern States before the Civil War? Or take one of my translations, featuring a main character that could barely speak English when she moved to America, prompting the novelist to write all her dialogues in a broken mix of English and Spanish that I was, for a moment, at a loss to translate.

There are several choices translators can make to allow their readers to grasp the feeling that, let’s say, a dialect or an archaic language is being spoken, without it being too strenuous on the eyes nor obtrusive.

Though not a favourite amongst translators of fiction, as it slows down the reading process, is the option of inserting a translator’s note at the bottom of the page. It could be used to explain a foreign word that cannot be translated without losing a huge part of its meaning (referring for example to a plant, an animal, or even a custom that is present only in this specific region of the globe, and that the narrator has chosen not to elucidate elsewhere in the text).

Having to deal with a Scottish romance, for example, I would chose to keep exclamations like “Ach”, or “Och” in French, as well as Scottish Gaelic phrases, provided that I juxtapose a French translation of the word. Meeting the words uisge beatha in a narrative, I would probably keep it in italics, followed by “du whiskey” or “de l’eau de vie” (or something in the vein of “that famous Scottish water of life”), depending on the century the action is set in.

As far as Southern or foreign variations of the language that are represented in phonetics to underline the fact that the speaker does not master the language fluently, I have always had problems working on those. I would certainly not have managed to produce a faithful rendering of Gone with the Wind or To Kill a Mocking Bird into French, as I would probably have chosen to have the characters use poor or mangled grammar, and that’s it, and not to make them use what I consider child speech, which would only serve, in my eyes, to belittle them. Don’t ask me, I’m certainly wrong, but it tickles my moral bone, though I am well aware that some communities are proud to have developed their own lingo. You is kind, you is strong.

How to make an enlightened decision?

  • Read other books (or samples) of the same genre that were written directly into your target language or translated into it.
  • Wait… Isn’t that plagiarism? Nope, it is drawing inspiration from what other translators have done to solve the same riddle you are facing, while creating the right mood for their narratives.
  • Work closely with your proofreader, or have a sample of your text (with the permission of the author/publisher) be submitted to a panel of readers in your target language. In the end, all linguistic considerations put aside, these people will be the ones to please; they will be the ones who should forget that the book they have in hand was written in a foreign language in the first place.

I hope you enjoyed these few considerations. These are good examples of the decisions a literary translator has to make on a daily basis. Next time, we will be covering the process of finding the right title and the importance of marketing considerations in that respect.

Feel free to share your experience!

Publication #3: A guide of the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam

It was a pleasure to translate into French and expand this guide written by Liesbeth Heenk and Marko Kassenaar over the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. The book is part of a series of guides released by Amsterdam Publishers over the most popular museums in the Dutch capital. They have been translated in multiple languages and are both popular and informative.

The first of Anne's diaries
The first of Anne’s diaries

I read Anne’s diary when I was a little girl and it had prompted a life-long interest in the stories of those who had to live in captivity to escape persecutions, as well as in the heroism of their helpers.

Far from being a simple “tour” of the building, this guide doubles as a detailed biography of the two families who shared the Annex, but also explains the historical circumstances surrounding the writing and publication of the diary, as well as its cultural impact. Reading it before visiting the house and its annex will allow the visitor to understand the wider implications of the museum. It could also be read by schoolchildren who would like to learn more about Anne and the general history of the second world war.

Paperback available in French on Amazon by clicking here.

Publication #1: Van Gogh will last forever

I am proud to announce the publication by Amsterdam Publishers of my first literary translation: Van Gogh durera toujours, comprising 8 short stories written by Kelly Cole Rappleye; introduction and original concept by Liesbeth Heenk.

Now, these short stories are fiction with a twist: they belong to a book-cycle which aim is to popularise the work and the life of Van Gogh for art-lovers all over the world. No wonder then that I felt as if I was translating much more than simple words and plots, and saw hints of the roman à clef in every quote, behind each motivation.

Those short stories truly were a pleasure to read; the author used all her resources to create eight different voices and narrative modes: from the transcription of a speech to the diary of a madwoman, from a second-person narration to the simplicity of the tale of a little girl; all those characters illustrate, in their struggles, a side of Van Gogh’s life.

Most people identify him as a mad artist who chopped his ear off; I’ve known his work for all my life as I’ve been a life-long art-lover and I come from the south of France, not far from Provence. If Picasso, Cocteau and Matisse are a little bit more popular on the Riviera, Van Gogh has always been a character that I have know about… or so I thought… Translating this book and peering over the letters that are published online (there), I realised that I, after all, knew very little about his personal life, his struggles and his aspirations. Only his madness, his propension for drinking absinthe and his liaison with a prostitute seem to be the elements we still dwell on. Yet this fails to do justice to his immense epistolary qualities, which reveal the depth of his convictions, and the struggles of a man who was nothing short of a visionary.

As I kept discovering a new side to him with every story, I could not wait to be finished translating this book for every French reader who is interested in art to discover that Van Gogh’s legacy will last forever. Van Gogh durera toujours…

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