Journal Entry

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Les Belles Infideles

Okay so I have all these writing announcements! And other bloggy things! Which I never seem to actually get around to posting! But now I shall. Starting with this one!

My friend the artist, Ethan Ham, and I have created another collaborative work (third in a series, I guess, after Anthroptic and Tumbarumba). Like Tumbarumba, it's made possible by Turbulence.

The project is called Les Belles Infidèles. Ethan describes it:


Les Belles Infidèles consists of a short story—written specifically for this project by Benjamin Rosenbaum—that has been translated and retranslated by more than 40 translators into 15 languages. The project is an exploration of the story’s compounding mutation as the translators attempt to make it work in different languages and cultures.

The term “les belles infidèles” comes from a 17th century quip by Gilles Ménage in which he compared a set of translations to an acquaintance of his: beautiful but unfaithful. The phrase has come to express the tension between making a translation seem natural in the target language versus keeping it as close as possible to the original text.

Translations were done both in series and in parallel, creating a tree. Each translator only saw the step before them, so that after the first level they were translating translations, then translating translations of translations, without access to the original.

It's fascinating to follow the interaction of translators' choices through the tree, so that, for instance, Sonia Quemener's decision to translate the pun in the title (Wife-eye/Wi-fi) with an equivalent french pun, "Wifi Oui-oui", inspires a German pun in the title Wolfgang Gösweiner's translation of her translation, "Von nun an W-Lan" (Which means "wi-fi from now on"); while other strands preserve her literal meaning, so that Joseph Harfouch's translation into English of Hala Loulou's translation into Arabic of Sonia's translation is entitled "Wi-fi yes yes". There's a translation into ASL -- and one subsequent to that into children's English. One strand has footnotes, which are then translated and carried for, so that Japanese puns are explained in Swahili footnotes.

Anyway, I love that Ethan and I got to do this!

Posted by benrosen at March 23, 2011 08:40 PM | Up to blog
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