dimanche 16 juin 2013

Incantations proférées dans des langues connues et inconnues (Jack Vance, toujours)

Keen-eyed Stephan from Latent.de (I strongly recommend visiting his photo galleries!) sensibly pointed out (see comments on previous post) a weakness he found in this eulogy I wrote in praise of Jack Vance: "The language in your blog posts is too poetic for Google Translate to be able to produce texts with any sense..." (French: "Ta prose est si intensément poétique qu'en essayant de la transposer en d'autres langues Google Translate, désorienté, se met à battre la campagne…")

Well said, Stephan. That's constructive criticism.
Let's see what the most commonly used translating devices do with abovementioned text:

In the novels of Jack Vance, on crossed extra-terrestrials to the disconcerting Physiology and equivocal Mœurs, Moody fairy, faultfinding ogres of the whimsical Knights and down-to-Earth astronauts, on departing d' a planet ocean for landing in a city-flower, It succumbed to the charm d' a Princess's theatre and a few pages later, at hex d' a magician of junk; as a reward for so much work and ties, it finally earned the right to enjoy a liqueur of witch on a terrace overlooking a carnivorous prairie, enjoying the sunset d' a Sun that will perhaps raise more.

In the novels of Jack Vance, we crossed extraterrestrials in the disconcerting physiology and in the ambiguous customs, gloomy fairies, fussy ogres, whimsical knights and astronauts earth(ground) - in earth(ground), we took off from a planet-ocean to land in a city-flower, we succumbed to the charm of a princess of theater then, some pages farther, to the spell of a magician of cheap junk; In return for so many works and crossbars, we gained(won) finally the right(law) to savor witch's liqueur on a terrace overhanging a carnivorous meadow, by enjoying the bedtime(sunset) of a sun which would get up maybe plus.

Google Translate:
In the novels of Jack Vance, one crossed aliens to the disconcerting physiology and ambiguous morals, sullen fairies, ogres quarrelsome, epileptics knights and astronauts down to earth, we took off from a planet ocean to land in a city flower
we succumbed to the charm of a princess theater then a few pages later, the spell of a magician junk, as a reward for work and ties, we finally won the right to enjoy liquor witch on a terrace overlooking a carnivorous meadow, enjoying the sunset of a sun that perhaps would rise.

Stop. Enough of this mess. Stephan is right: online translators…  well, just like he said.
Reverso works a little better than both others - given that Babelfish and Google Translate are fiercely competing for last place. Babelfish is baffled by such a strange pronoun as "on"; Google Translate, manages to guess it may mean "one", but assumes that princesse de théâtre means "princess theater". But could we blame these poor things for failing at recognizing "traverses" as the seldom-used archaism (meaning ordeal) it is; at guessing that "lunatique" doesn't mean the same as "lunatic", or for being nonplussed by one "magicien de pacotille"?  I'm not sure my prose is poetic, but it is for sure rife with faux-amis

The best I can do is supplying readers that happen not to be proficient in the language of princes, philosophers and lovers – id est, French, you know - with a mine translation of said post  (um,  just the part i wrote. For reading the part that was quoted from Vance's, you just need to open your cherished, much worn-out copy of  Wyst: Alastor 1716; third chapter; I chose this excerpt 'cause I feel it says something about Vance...) translation, here we go:

Adventurers in Jack Vance's novels happened to come across alien creatures displaying unheard-of features and dubious dispositions; sullen fairies; litigious ogres; whimsical knights and down-to-earth astronauts; to take off from ocean-covered planets, or to land by flower-shaped cities; to be lured successively by some sawdust princess's charms, then by some sideshow magician's spells; as their only reward, they gained some spare time for enjoying a sip of witches liquor on a terrace overlooking a carnivorous meadow, while watching the setting of a luminary that, possibly, could rise nevermore; and not much more.
The melancholy at each novel's core was barely spoken out loud: 
it sounded more like a whispered elegy muffled by distant marching-band fanfares.

Fighting bureaucrats graduated from Kafka's school for bureaucrats; solving wacky puzzles through wackier solutions; outwitting nitpicking pixies: all these escapades (told by a master storyteller - as witty as he was volubile - that was not prejudiced against pulp-fiction tricks and melodrama twists) only overshadowed moments of unspoken sorrow.
Vance's characters reconciled warring kingdoms, solved millennia-old puzzles, and after completing these heroics they ended up realizing that they had lost something inestimable, let go some simple yet henceforward unattainable happiness. Thus, while in avenues processioning otherworldly creatures uttered incantations (in languages both known and unknown) in praise of their achievements, they, resting on the abovementioned high terrace, privately succumbed to nostalgia. Nostalgia for moments like this one, spent gazing at a crowd of passersby, in the city of Uncibal (continent Arrabus, planet Wyst, Alastor star cluster)…

Does it make sense now? I hope so... but everybody is welcome with submitting translations of their own!
An even better advice: put a couple novels by Jack Vance in your rucksack this summer. 

1 commentaire:

Stephan a dit…

Oh, I didn't know reverso.

If you translate every post from now on, your blog will become a nice part-time job ...

So it's the language of "princes, philosophers and lovers"? Sounds much better than what Germans call German: "The language of Poets and Thinkers." Not much glamour, not much love over here ;-)