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Sample 2 : Mythologies/Roland Barthes

Important : Dans tous mes échantillons de traduction, j'ai d'abord copié une traduction déjà parue afin de comparer et contraster les multiples choix de traduction disponibles à un traducteur pour le même texte. J’ai mis le nom du traducteur ( à moins qu'il/elle n'apparaisse pas dans le texte original) à la tète de leur traduction. A droite vous trouverez ma propre traduction avec, en tête, « Myself ». Si vous lisez les échantillons afin de faire une estimation, veuillez, s'il vous plaît, vous assurer que vous regardiez bien ma propre traduction pour l’estimation , et non pas celle de l'autre traducteur, citée pour comparaison. Il se peut que vous préfériez le travail de l'autre traducteur – au quel cas je ne voudrais pas qu'en me donnant votre commande vous fassiez erreur.

























Texts are in Times Roman font as they would be in print. (My comments are also in Times Roman for the sake of continuity).

Important note: In all my sample translations, I have first copied an existing translation by another translator in order to compare and contrast the different choices a translator can make for the same text. I have put the translator's name (when known) at the top of their translation. You will find this translation in the middle section. In the right hand section is my own translation which is headed « Myself ». If you are looking at the samples with a view to evaluating my work, please make sure you are looking at my translation for the evaluation not that of the translation I have given for comparison. You may prefer the other translator's work – in which case I would not want you to make a mistake when commissioning work from myself.

En dessous de me ma propre traduction, vous trouverez sous « notes and comparisons » un décorticage, phrase par phrase des deux différentes traductions. Je vous rappele : la version originale, française, se trouve à gauche (fond jaune), la traduction « pour comparer » est au milieu (fond bleu) et ma propre traduction se trouve a droite (fond gris). Avant de faire un jugement, je vous demande de bien vouloir prendre en compte ces trois choses : 1. Est-ce que ma traduction adhère fidèlement aux pensées exprimées par l'auteur français ? 2. Est-ce que ma traduction se lit comme une traduction ou plutôt comme un ouvrage nouveau, écrit par un auteur anglais de souche ? 3. Est-ce qu'il y a une lecture rapide et facile de la signification ? Les significations sont-elles un peu floues ? Ou au contraire : précises et bien définies?

Underneath my own translation you will find an in depth, sentence by sentence analysis of the translation with notes on how the two different translations differ. To remind you: The French original is on the left, the comparison translation is in the middle and my own translation with notes is on the right. You can leave comments under my notes. In evaluating my own translation I would like you to judge me on three things: 1. Is my translation faithful to the meaning and style of the original? 2. Does my translation read like a translation or does it read like an original work by a native English speaker?How quickly and easily does the meaning register? Are there meanings which are a bit wooly? Or are all the meanings absolutely clear?

Achetez Mythologies de Roman Barthes: http://www.amazon.fr/Mythologies-Roland-Barthes/dp/2020005859/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374214977&sr=8-1&keywords=mythologies

Buy Mythologies by Roman Barthes: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mythologies-Vintage-Classics-Roland-Barthes/dp/0099529750/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374215106&sr=8-1&keywords=mythologies

Les Romains au cinéma
par Roland Barthes

Dans le Jules César de Mankiewicz, tous les personnages ont une frange de cheveux sur le front. Les uns l'ont frisée, d'autres filiforme, d'autres huppée, d'autres huilée, tous l'ont bien peignée, et les chauves ne sont pas admis, bien que l'Histoire roumaine en ait fourni un bon nombre. Ceux qui ont peu de cheveux n'ont pas été quitte à si bon compte, et le coiffeur, artisan principal du film, as su toujours leur soutirer une dernière mèche, qui a rejoint elle aussi le bord du front, de ces fronts romains, dont l’exiguïté a de tout temps signalé un melange spécifique de droit, de vertu et de conquête.

Romans at the movies
Tranlated by Dr. Annette Lavers

In Mankeiwics's Julias Caesar, all the characters are wearing fringes. Some them curly, some straggle, some tufted, some oily, all of them well combed, and the bald are not admitted, although there are plenty to be found in Roman history. Those who have little hair have not been let off for all that, and the hairdresser, - the king-pin of the film – has still managed to produce one last lock which duly reaches the top of the forehead, one of those Roman foreheads, whose smallness has at all times indicated a specific mixture of self-righteousness, virtue and conquest.

Romans at the movies
Translated by Myself (Chris Parkinson)

In Julius Cesar by Mankiewicz, the characters all have fringes. Some of them have curly fringes, some have floppy fringes, some have tufted fringes, some have oiled fringes and all of them are carefully combed, with no admittance to the bald, even though the bald were well represented throughout Roman history. Those with thinning hair have not got off so lightly and the most important craftsman in the production of the film, the hairdresser, has managed to tease a fringe out of one last comb over to cover the forehead of these Romans – lack of a visible forehead always having been the sign of a particular mixture of right, virtue and conquest.

Qu'est-ce donc qui est attaché à ces franges obstinées ? Tout simplement l'affiche de la Romanité. On voit donc opérer ici à découvert le ressort capital du spectacle, qui est le signe. La meche frontale inonde d’évidence, nul ne peut douter d’être à Rome, autrefois. Et cette certitude est continue : les acteurs parlent, agissent, se torturent, débattent des questions « universelles » sans rien perdre, grâce à ce petit drapeau étendu sure le front, de leur vraisemblance historique : leur généralité peut même s'enfler en toute sécurité, traverser l’Océan et les siècles, rejoindre la binette yankee des figurants d'Hollywood, peu importe, tout le monde est rassuré, installé dans la tranquille certitude d'un univers sans duplicité, où les Romains sont romains par le plus lisible des signes, le cheveu sur le front.

What then is associated with these insistent fringes ? Quite simply the label of Roman-ness. We therefore see here the mainspring of the Spectacle – the sign – operating in the open. The frontal lock overwhelms one with evidence, no one can doubt that he is in ancient Rome. And this certainty is permanent : the actors speak, act, torment themselves, debate « questions of universal import » without losing, thanks to this little flag displayed on their foreheads, any of their historical plausibility. Their general representativeness can even expand in complete safety, cross the ocean and the centuries, and merge into the Yankee mugs of Hollywood extras : no matter, everyone is reassured, installed in the quiet certainty of a universe without duplicity, where Romans are Romans thanks to the most legible of signs : hair on the forehead.

So what is attached to these insistent fringes ? An official notice of Roman-ness, that's what. Here then, we see the essential mechanism of show business - the sign, in action. The lock covered brow is overwhelming evidence – no-one could doubt that we are in Rome, in the past. And this conviction does not falter. The actors speak, move about, are tortured, debate timeless philosophical questions, all without ever losing their historical verisimilitude thanks to that little flag spread over their forehead. The general purpose nature ot the symbol can even expand quite safely and cross oceans and centuries, back to the typical yankee mug of a Hollywood extra, or whatever, and still we know that we are quite safe – comfortably ensconced in the quiet certainty that we are in a world where there is no double dealing, a straightforward world where Romans can be identified as Romans by that most obvious of signs, hair combed over the forehead.

Un Français, aux yeux de qui les visages américains gardent encore quelque chose d'exotique, juge comique le mélange de ces morphologies de gangsters-sherifs, et de la petite frange romaine: c'est plutôt un excellent gag de music-hall. C'est que, pour nous, le signe fonctionne avec excès, il se discrédite en laissant apparaître sa finalité. Mais cette même frange amenée sur le seul front naturellement latin du film, celui de Marlon Brando, nous en impose sans nous faire rire, et il n'est pas exclu qu'une part du success européen de cet acteur soit due à l’intégration parfaite de la capillarité romaine dans la morphologie du personnage.

A Frenchman, to whose eyes American faces still have something exotic, finds comical the combination of these gangster-sheriff features with the little Roman fringe : it rather looks like an excellent music-hall gag. This is because for the French the sign in the case overshoots the target and discredits itself by letting its aimappear clearly. But this very fringe, when combed on the only naturally Latin forehead in the film, that of Marlon Brando, impresses us and does not make us laugh.

A Frenchman still finds these American faces somewhat exotic, this blend of gangster-sheriff features and little Roman fringe comical, a great music-hall gag. Its just that for us the sign works just a little too well and loses credibility because we can see what the game is. However, this same fringe combed onto the only naturally latin forehead of the film, that of Marlon Brando, impresses us without making us laugh, and it could well be that part of this actor's success in Europe is due to the perfect integration of Roman hairstyle and the character's features.

Notes and comparisons :

Roland Barthes
Dans le Jules César de Mankiewicz, tous les personnages ont une frange de cheveux sur le front. Les uns l'ont frisée, d'autres filiforme, d'autres huppée, d'autres huilée, tous l'ont bien peignée, et les chauves ne sont pas admis, bien que l'Histoire roumaine en ait fourni un bon nombre.

Dr. Annette Lavers
In Mankeiwics's Julias Caesar, all the characters are wearing fringes. Some them curly, some straggle, some tufted, some oily, all of them well combed, and the bald are not admitted, although there are plenty to be found in Roman history.

Myself
In Julius Cesar by Mankiewicz, the characters all have fringes. Some of them have curly, fringes, some have floppy fringes, some have tufted fringes, some have oiled fringes and all of them are carefully combed, with no admittance to the bald, even though the bald were well represented throughout Roman history.

*“...ont une frange de cheveux sur le front...”. Dr. Lavers has gone for “...wearing fringes...”, I have gone for “...have fringes....” Would you say: “she's wearing a fringe” or “she's got a fringe”? I think the second.

* “...d'autres huilée...” A tricky one this. I don't think Barthes is talking about greasy hair here. In French that would be “cheveux gras” or as he is using adjectives for fringes, “frange grasse”. The film and the book by Barthes are from the 50's when most American men used brylcreem. The brylcreemed hairstyle was taken up by young French men and the French version of brylcreem was “Pento” (manufactured in the UK!) The generic term in French for hair cream was “la gomina” or “la crème capillaire”. Brylcreemed hair was called “cheveux gominés” and the French still use that term for more modern gelled hair styles as well as for the 50's hairstyles. So does Barthes mean greasy hair or brylcreemed hair? I think he is just describing what he sees on the screen, ie. young American actors, many of whom at that time would have a brylcreemed quiff and and/or “duck's ass” (Think Tony Curtiss, James Dean etc). When the actors came to the studio for the day's shooting the film hairdresser would have to comb their hair forwards and make a fringe but the actors would still have brylcreem on their hair so it would look oily. Barthes would know perfecty well that the actor's hair had an oily appearance because of “la gomina” that was still on it. So why has he not used “gominée”? Barthes is applying Levi-Strauss's structuralist, anthropological methods of observation (in turn inspired by the ideas of the professor of linguistics, Saussure ) to modern culture. He is ironically using the same careful methods of observation that LS would use for a primitive tribe in order to dissect the “signs” of modern culture using the same kind of distance or “recul” that an anthropologist would have in regard to a primitive tribe's myths and culture. Dr. Lavers has gone for “oily”. “Oily hair” in English is a synonym of “greasy hair” which, if you remember, I don't think Barthes is talking about here. “Cheveux huilés” is not a synonym for “cheveux gras” - in French, it simply means “oiled hair” as in: a hair preparation in the form of an oil has been applied (almond oil, or coco nut oil or similar). So Barthes is using as neutral a word as possible. He is not saying the hair is greasy and he is not saying it is brylcreemed. He is just saying that it looks “oiled”. So that it what I've used. There is a sneaky comic effect here of Barthes affecting not to know what this brylcreem residue on the actors' hair is. Phew! We translators earn our money you know.

* “.... et les chauves ne sont pas admis...” Barthes has deliberately used this typical usage from French signs for comic effect. He could have said, “ ..les chauves sont absents..” = “..there are no bald people....” but his “pas admis” conjures up an image of a sign outside the production lot saying “No admittance to the bald.” Does “the bald” work as an English plural for “les chauves” rather than having to use the colloquial and rather derogatory “baldies”? Yes it does. Could you say, “the good, the bad and the bald”. Yes you could.

Roland Barthes:
“ Ceux qui on peu de cheveux n'ont pas été quitte à si bon compte, et le coiffeur, artisan principal du film, as su toujours leur soutirer une dernière mèche, qui a rejoint elle aussi le bord du front, de ces fronts romains, dont l’exiguïté a de tout temps signalé un melange spécifique de droit, de vertu et de conquête.”

Dr. Lavers
Those who have little hair have not been let off for all that, and the hairdresser, - the king-pin of the film – has still managed to produce one last lock which duly reaches the top of the forehead, one of those Roman foreheads, whose smallness has at all times indicated a specific mixture of self-righteousness, virtue and conquest.

Myself
Those with thinning hair have not got off so lightly and the most important craftsman in the production of the film, the hairdresser, has managed to tease a fringe out of one last comb over to cover the forehead of these Romans – lack of a visible forehead always having been the sign of a particular mixture of right, virtue and conquest.

* “peu de cheveux” Dr. Lavers has used “little hair” which is a literal translation that works perfectly well although I think the usual English idiom is usually “very little” rather than “little” and I think “very little hair” would have worked better. I think the correct idiomatic translation for “peu de cheveux” is “thinning hair”.

* “...... le coiffeur, artisan principal....” Dr. Lavers has used “king-pin” for this. King-pin has the idea of the hairdresser being of paramount importance to the film but “artisan” translates straighforwardly into craftsman (although artisan has become a posh word for craftsman in English). I see no reason not to use craftsmen therefore. To keep the comic effect of the original I think we need to keep the idea of the hairdresser being just another craftsman in film production, on a par with set designers, make up artists, photographers, sound men etc., and in this particular case, the most important craftsman.

*.....a su toujours leur soutirer une dernière mèche, qui a rejoint elle aussi le bord du front …..” I have simply ignored the structure and words of this sentence and just translated the meaning into what I think Roland Barthes would have written if he was a native English speaker, writing in English. In English we have “comb over” which I think is absolutely indispensable for this description as is the word “tease”.

* “.... le bord du front....” “bord” is border or edge. Does Barthes mean the top border of the forehead where the hairline starts? Dr. Lavers thinks so, because she says this last lock of hair “...duly reaches the top of the forehead....”. But that would not constitue a fringe so I do not think that this is what Barthes means here. By “..bord..” or edge I think he means to the edge of the eyebrows. If we try to stay with the “.. border...” idea in English therefore I think we would need to say something like “...to just above the eyebrows....”. I have used “...tease...” and “... comb over...” and “...cover the forehead..” which perfectly conveys the image. Using a too literal translation just does not work very well here in my opinion.

*“...dont l’exiguïté...” “....exiguïté...” means “scant” , “in short supply”, literally “scantiness of forehead.” Barthes is saying that the “fringe” is a “sign” of Roman-ness. Now he is taking it a bit further and saying the lack of a visible forehead (because the forehead has been covered up by a fringe) has always been a sign of right, virtue or conquest. Dr. Lavers has translated this lack of a forehead by “ ….whose smallness has at all times....etc”. This sounds odd. Is the film portraying Romans as having small foreheads according to Barthes ? No. He is not talking about small foreheads. He is talking about a lack of a visible forehead.

* « ..de droit.. » Dr. Lavers has translated by « self-righteousness ». Although the Romans were no doubt full of self-righteousness, I don't think Barthes means that here. « Droit » can mean «right » or « the law » in French and I think thats what Barthes means. The Romans were famous for their system of law and indeed the latin countries have to a large extent inherited this system. So the Romans would conquer you and rule you to establish a system of law and order. This was from their point of view for your benefit (the justification also for European colonialisation in the 19th century of course). So they thought they had « right on their side ».

Roland Barthes
Qu'est-ce donc qui est attaché à ces franges obstinées ? Tout simplement l'affiche de la Romanité.

Dr. Lavers
What then is associated with these insistent fringes ? Quite simply the label of Roman-ness.

Myself
So what is attached to these insistent fringes ? An official notice of Roman-ness, that's what.

*“..est attaché ...” Dr. Lavers has used “associated”. But I think Barthes means actually stuck to as well as associated. He is conjuring up an image of a little poster or notice stuck to these pseudo Roman foreheads. “...une affiche...” is a poster or advert or official notice stuck to a wall. I have used “official notice” to give the idea of authentification.

Roland Barthes
“On voit donc opérer ici à découvert le ressort capital du spectacle, qui est le signe.”

Dr. Lavers
We therefore see here the mainspring of the Spectacle – the sign – operating in the open.

Myself
Here then, we see the essential mechanism of showbusiness - the sign, in action.

* “le ressort”. Spring. But it has several other definitions such as activity, energy, spirit, domaine (sphere of competence). Most, if not all of them fit this context.

*“... du spectacle...” Le spectacle is quite simply “show business” in French. It does have other meanings which shade into “show business”. Spectacle in English does have similar meanings to its French cousin but for a general term to describe, theatre, cinema, shows etc. , is “spectacle” in common usage in English? I don't think it is - whereas the French cousin is very commonly used in French. I don't think it is a mistranslation here but I think it is a poor translation because the usage is not the same in both languages.

Roland Barthes
La meche frontale inonde d’évidence, nul ne peut douter d’être à Rome, autrefois.

Dr. Lavers
The frontal lock overwhelms one with evidence, no one can doubt that he is in ancient Rome.

Myself
The lock covered brow is overwhelming evidence – no-one could doubt that we are in Rome, in the past.

* “ La meche frontale....” Barthes is using what sounds like a technical term as a synonym for “frange” as a comic effect (and also avoiding repeating “fringe” by using a synonym). “le front” is forehead, “frontal lock” does not give the same idea of covering the forehead as the French. Am I being picky here? I suppose we realise what it means given the context. I have tried to get the same effect as the French with “lock covered brow”.

* “.. inonde d’évidence...” Literally: “floods with proof” This is a stock formula for French lawyers, slightly less so than “...overwhelming evidence....” for Anglo-Saxon lawyers (or advertising copywriters talking about cast iron proof of the benefits of a product). “Overwhelming evidence” is such a stock legal phrase in English that I feel it has to be the correct translation here. I did a google search for the term in inverted commas. Google gives over one and a half million search results for this precise term.

* “.....nul ne peut douter...” The French is in the present. I have used the present conditional “...no one could doubt...” simply because I believe that is what we would say in English. I am trusting my ear to tell me when I should be translating the meaning and not the words.

* “ ..à Rome, autrefois...” Barthes is saying “..Rome, in the past...” here. He is not saying “ancient Rome”. If he was, he would use “Rome antique”. Why has he not used “ancient Rome”? Remember, he is analysing the film with his Levi-Straussian structural anthropologist hat on (albeit with tongue firmly in cheek). The term “ancient Rome” comes to us with all kinds of cultural baggage attached and he is purporting to watch the film with “distance” and detachment, so has used a neutral term. Remember, we saw this before with “oiled hair” rather than “brylcreemed hair”.

Roland Barthes
Et cette certitude est continue : les acteurs parlent, agissent, se torturent, débattent des questions « universelles » sans rien perdre, grâce a ce petit drapeau étendu sure le front, de leur vraisemblance historique : leur généralité peut même s'enfler en toute sécurité, traverser l’Océan et les siècles, rejoindre la binette yankee des figurants d'Hollywood, peu importe, tout le monde est rassuré, installé dans la tranquille certitude d'un univers sans duplicité, ou les Romains sont romains par le plus lisible des signes, le cheveu sur le front.

Dr. Lavers
And this certainty is permanent : the actors speak, act, torment themselves, debate « questions of universal import » without losing, thanks to this little flag displayed on their foreheads, any of their historical plausibility. Their general representativeness can even expand in complete safety, cross the ocean and the centuries, and merge into the Yankee mugs of Hollywood extras : no matter, everyone is reassured, installed in the quiet certainty of a universe without duplicity, where Romans are Romans thanks to the most legible of signs : hair on the forehead.

Myself
And this conviction does not falter. The actors speak, move about, are tortured, debate timeless philosophical questions, all without ever losing their historical verisimilitude thanks to that little flag spread over their forehead. The general purpose nature ot the symbol can even expand quite safely and cross oceans and centuries, back to the typical yankee mug of a Hollywood extra, or whatever, and still we know that we are quite safe – comfortably ensconced in the quiet certainty that we are in a world where there is no double dealing, a straightforward world where Romans can be identified as Romans by that most obvious of signs, hair combed over the forehead.

Once again showing how in French, in the hands of a master you can have “une phrase fleuve”. One long , flowing sentence full of colons that is impossible to do in one go like this in English. It is possible to do in French because of “les accords” and “les declinaisons” , the masculine/feminine/ singular/plural agreements of words/adjectives and the precision of the declension pattern of verbs in French which let you keep track of which adjectives are referring to which nouns and which verb is referring to precisely which person/s or thing/s and in which tense - and these are just the main grammatical refinements which French has and English does not. All thanks to a constant and zealous policing of the language by the French state down through the centuries. Dr. Lavers has had to break it up into two sentences (she has used some of Barthes' colons), I have used four sentences because I think that a colon should be used in English where only a colon will do. It should not take the place of a comma or full stop.

* “....est continue:...”  We could have translated this by “...is continuous...” Dr. Lavers has gone for “permanent” which I think is a mistranslation. Barthes could have used “permanent” in French if that is what he meant. “...est continue...” gives the idea of continuing motion (which will come to an end). Permanent does not. I think an English speaking author would have said “...does not falter” here so that is what I have used.

* “…..les acteurs parlent, agissent, se torturent....” Does “agissent” mean act? Yes it does, but it means “to have an effect”, not the verb for what actors do. By “agissent”, Barthes means that the actors “do things”. Again, I think this is a “distancing” effect. I have translated this by “..moving about...” which I think preserves the sneaky comic effect.

“..Se torturent..” This is a “toofa”! Two for the price of one. It has two meanings: “the actors torture each other / they torture themselves (with doubt etc.)”. Barthes has done this quite deliberately. Once again, its a sneaky comic effect which I have endeavoured to replicate with “they are tortured” which has the same two meanings in English. (Is Dr. Lavers a bit po-faced?) The efffect is to say, “Look I'm just reeling off a list here, there was some torturing going on - by whom - to whom does not really matter – I 'm really not bothered about what is going on in the film, I'm not convinced by it anyway, I'm just interested in how they use “the fringe” to try to persuade us we really are in ancient Rome.”

*“débattent des questions « universelles » You could really just translate this by “debate universal questions” (Which neither of us has done.)

* “ ... leur généralité...” This could be a trap for unwary translators. First of all of course you need to avoid using “generality” to translate “ généralité” which both of us have managed to do. Here it means “general purpose nature of the representation ” . I have used “general purpose nature of the symbol” and Dr. Lavers has used “ general representativeness”. “leur” = “Their” refers to two things: (a) the flag (in other words the fringe) on the (b) forehead. The sense is that these two things are combined into one thing. I think that Barthes is already on thin ice using this construction in French and I think it is just too confusing to carry it into English as Dr. Lavers has done here. The reader loses the plot. What is the “their” refering to? We had “leur vraisemblance historique” just before. Is it referring to that? No, it can't be because if it was it would be “Its” rather than “their”. To save the reader from having to do this kind of double take, I have just combined the two things into one and added an extra word to represent “the flag (fringe) on the forehead”, ie. I have used “the symbol”. This also has the advantage of being part of my translation of “ généralité” so I have got two for the price of one. However, I have had to use six words for Barthes one: “ généralité” ! Dr. Lavers has used two words. I am unrepentant though because a) I think I have translated the meaning exactly and b) I think I have used clear, idiomatic English which I think sounds freshly minted by an English author, rather than a translation – which is what I am always striving for. Dr. Lavers has used the plural “foreheads” where Barthes has used the singular “front” and this make things even more confusing in her translation. Try reading it carefully. Can you work out what the “their” refers to?

* “.....tout le monde est rassuré,...” Dr. Lavers has translated by “...everyone is reassured...” I have translated by “.... we know that we are quite safe...” Is is because I have some kind of neurotic phobia about literal translations? I don't thinks so, it just sounds more English to me.

“...peu importe...” literally, “of little consequence”. At first sight, it should be very straightforward to translate this. But there are two possible meanings and Barthes is probably using both. (He is being a smartarse!) One refers backwards to the previous phrase, one refers forwards to the next phrase. It could mean that he could have given another example of the fringe=Roman-ness representation apart from the mug of the yankee extra, ie. its of “little consequence” exactly which example he gives. I have used “...or whatever, ..” for this meaning. And/or it can mean that in spite of the unlikely combination of Roman fringe on the unRoman features of a Hollywood extra, we are still convinced, ie. it “does not matter” how unlikely the combination. (We aren't really convinced of course – Barthes is using sarcasm). I have used “...still we...” for this meaning. Dr. Lavers has just stuck to a fairly literal translation “:..no matter...” Does this work in the same way as the original French? I don't think it does. I don't think either meaning is rendered properly because although “no matter” is a good translation for “...peu importe...” in theory, the structure just seems alien. It does not sound quite English. So we are left asking: “What does not matter?”

* “....installé...” Dr. Barthes has used “installed”. When I read “ installé” in the context of the rest of Barthes' sentence I get a picture in my mind of someone sitting in a comfortable armchair and of course we are actually sitting in an armchair in the movie house (or Barthes was) and I think this is the notion Barthes is seeking to convey. For me there is only one word that will do for that image to translate “ installé” and it is “ensconced” and you would not use “ensconced” in English without the prefix “comfortably” now would you? OK, the metaphor is only implied or even half-implied, so we wouldn't want to go too far and say “...comfortably sitting in the quiet certainty that..”, - which is grammatically incorrect for one thing. But we could translate it literally, ignore the metaphor, take it literally and say “...comfortably sitting there in the quiet certainty that...” at a push.

* “....un univers sans duplicité....” You could use “monde” (world) instead of “univers” here in French. Barthes has used “univers”. So lets see if this gives any extra meaning that “monde” might not have. The universe is a lot bigger of course. So if there is life on other planets, in Barthes' formulation here, there would be no duplicity on those planets. We might even include heaven and hell in “universe”. So “universe” might give an exaggerated idea of our gullibility in accepting that we must be in ancient Rome because the actors have fringes as compared to just “world”. However, “univers” is used in French in most instances where we would use “world” (monde). For example: “son univers a lui” for “his own little world”. In English, would you say: “in a world without double dealing”, or “in a universe without double dealing”? I rest my case.

* “... duplicité...” I could have translated by “..duplicity..” as Dr. Lavers has done. I have used “double dealing” simply because I will always use an Anglo-Saxon word rather than a Latinate word where the meaning is the same. I could also have used “deceit”.

Roland Barthes
Un Français, aux yeux de qui les visages américains gardent encore quelque chose d'exotique, juge comique le mélange de ces morphologies de gangsters-sherifs, et de la petite frange romaine: c'est plutôt un excellent gag de music-hall.

Dr. Lavers
A Frenchman, to whose eyes American faces still have something exotic, finds comical the combination of these gangster-sheriff features with the little Roman fringe : it rather looks like an excellent music-hall gag.

Myself
A Frenchman still finds these American faces somewhat exotic, this blend of gangster-sheriff features and little Roman fringe comical, a great music-hall gag.

OK. I have lost the “....eyes...” (“.. les yeux..”) of a Frenchman but bear with me here. First of all do “to a Frenchman” and “to a Frenchman's eyes” mean the same? Yes they do. Is “To a Frenchman's eyes” the sort of thing you might say? Yes it is but I submit that you would be more likely to say “To a Frenchman” whereas “aux yeux d'un Francais” is more likely to be used in French than its literal transation “To a Frenchman's eyes” so I think I have licence to ditch “the eyes”. Having done that, we can strip the construction right down in English and make a much simpler, more concise sentence by using one verb: “finds” for two 2 verbs of Barthes' sentence: “gardent” literally “keep” and “juge”, “judges” or “finds”. We can strip the sentence down further by ditching “ plutôt” = “something of” because it is implied in our stripped down structure. So now we have the three elements of the sentence, separated by commas and almost like 3 bullet points all referring back to “finds”. I have used 25 words to Barthes' 37. Dr. Lavers has used 34. Am I setting myself up as a better writer than Barthes? Absolutely not! If you did a literal translation of my sentence back into French it would sound terrible - it would not work. Do we have to slavishly keep Barthes' structure and translate it into a latinized, pretentious sounding mongrel version just out of reverence for Barthes. I submit that we do not. Quickly read my version and then quickly read Dr. Lavers' version. Whose version is more immediately intelligible? From “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell: “...Never use a long word where a short one will do...” “...If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.....”

Roland Barthes
C'est que, pour nous, le signe fonctionne avec excès, il se discrédite en laissant apparaître sa finalité.

Dr. Lavers
This is because for the French the sign in this case overshoots the target and discredits itself by letting its aim appear clearly.

Myself
Its just that for us the sign works just a little too well and loses credibility because we can see what the game is.

* I like Dr. Lavers' “overshoots the target” for “fonctionne avec excès”. “Nous” of course from Barthes' point of view is “us the French” and Dr. Lavers has spelt this out to avoid confusion. I think my “for us” is OK. We know he is French and talking from the Frenchman's point of view. “...en laissant apparaître sa finalité. ...” I have translated this very loosely with “we can see what the game is” which is a bit colloquial. Still, I think it translates the meaning well and is what an English author would write.

To contact me about a translation, email: frenchintoenglish5@gmail.com (I don't take phone calls because they break my concentration when working.) Emails are often answered within half an hour.

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