22 février 2014


Le début de la traduction en anglais de L’homme qui était une espère en voie de disparition (éditions de l’Olivier). Le texte n’est pas mis en forme, les dialogues en particulier. Merci à l’équipe de traducteurs et traductrices avec qui ce projet a été mené à Norwich il y a deux ans : Ruth Clarke, Moira Eagling, Marion Fairweather, Joe Fallowell, Roland Glasser, Selin Kocagoz, Jennifer Machlachlan, Andrea Pakieser, Chris Rose and Tom Russell. Et bien sûr merci à l’équipe du British Centre for Literary Traduction. Plus d’infos ici.

Translator’s note: This is only part of the material that we worked on over the course of the week, but it’s representative of the way we approached the text (and of how much fun we had). We owe apologies to our charming and endlessly tolerant author, Martin Page, because we have reduced chunks of his finely polished text to raw dialogue. There was a reason for this: the group was extremely able, quickly and unanimously “hearing” the slightly arch, poised narrative voice, and reproducing it well in English, as I hope the narrator’s passages in our extract demonstrate. I encouraged them to push the boundaries that this imposed on their translation, and to hear other voices by domesticating the text as exaggeratedly English (version two) or exaggeratedly American (version three). By doing this, the groups identified and brought out the rivalry and character differences between the Museum Director and the Biologist. These differences are very small in the original text, and a less attentive reading might have left this extra seam of humour unexcavated.

The man on the brink of extinction

When he was told he was an endangered species, Tristan was somewhat surprised.  Nothing in his life so far would have led him to suspect such a thing.  He was thirty years old and worked at the Opéra Garnier in Paris, making sketches of the staging and details of the set.  His one-bedroom apartment looked out onto the Parc Montsouris.   He had a trumpet lesson once a week, and every Sunday morning, as soon as the pool opened, he would swim twenty lengths.  Love had been known to come his way, but it was a while since a woman had shared his bed.  Some evenings he wished this was not the case, but most of the time he was philosophical, telling himself he would eventually fall in love again.  He rather liked the idea of starting a family, not that he had ever done anything about it.  No rush.
One Monday morning in spring (it had been a long hard winter, and leaves were just starting to appear), as he was making breakfast (an apron over his suit), there was a knock at the door.  The water was percolating through the brimming coffee filter.   Tristan looked up.   Who on earth could it be at this time?  He went and opened the door.  Two men were standing there.  The shorter one was wearing a white coat, like a doctor or a butcher.  The other wore a tweed jacket.  There was something very serious about them, but also a sense of anticipation.
BIOLOGIST:    “May we come in?”
NARRATOR:     …asked the man in the white coat.
Tristan assumed they were from the residents’ committee, or maybe one of his neighbours hoping he would look after their cat for the holidays.
The two men advanced.  They glanced around the apartment, staying oddly close to one another, as if afraid of disturbing anything.
BIOLOGIST:    “I work at the university.”
NARRATOR:    Tristan thought he knew why they had come.  A few months earlier, he had submitted an application to teach a course, “drawing birds in flight”.  Surely that was why these gentlemen were here.  They had come to him.  That was a good sign.
TRISTAN:    “Pleased to meet you”
NARRATOR:    …said Tristan, reaching out to shake hands with his unexpected visitors.  The two men took a step back and exchanged embarrassed glances.  They refused his outstretched hand.
BIOLOGIST:    “I run the biology laboratory,”
DIRECTOR:    “I’m the director of the natural history museum”
TRISTAN:    “Is there a problem?”
BIOLOGIST:    “No, not at all.  Your doctor ran some blood tests a month ago.”
TRISTAN:    “I was tired, I was worried I might be anaemic.  But everything is fine”.
BIOLOGIST:    “Actually, the laboratory detected a slight anomaly in your phenotype.”
TRISTAN:    “A genetic anomaly?”
BIOLOGIST:    “An anomaly for homo sapiens, yes, but not an anomaly in the strictest sense.”
TRISTAN:    “I don’t understand.  Do I have a genetic disease?”
BIOLOGIST:    “No not at all.  Let me explain.  After discovering this irregularity, the laboratory notified the ministry of health who passed your blood sample on to us.”
DIRECTOR:    “It’s standard procedure.”
BIOLOGIST:    “After a great deal of cross-checking we’ve found the explanation for this anomaly.  You are not a homo sapiens.”
TRISTAN:     “I beg your pardon?”
BIOLOGIST:    “You belong to a different sub-species.”
TRISTAN:    “Do you mean to say I’m not human?”
BIOLOGIST:    “You are human, but a close relative of present-day man.  You belong to the group homo sapiens insularis, a sub-species which lived on the islands between England and France.  We thought it had completely died out.”
DIRECTOR:    “The last known specimen dates back to the mid-nineteenth century.  We have one of his arms in a jar at the museum.”
DIRECTOR:    “As you have no living relatives…
NARRATOR:    (Tristan’s parents had died shortly after his birth and he had no aunts or uncles)
DIRECTOR:    “…you are almost certainly the last individual of this sub-species of hominid.”
TRISTAN:    “Are you telling me I’m some kind of ape?”
DIRECTOR:    “No, you are a sub-species of human, which itself is a species of ape.”
TRISTAN:    “But I’m normal. I’m not physically different from anyone else.”
BIOLOGIST:    “The difference is minimal.  You have a slightly broader forehead and your ears are a little more pointed.”
TRISTAN:    “Does this mean I won’t be able to have children?”
BIOLOGIST:    “No, it will have no bearing on your capacity to reproduce.  Although your children will have lost any links with your sub-species, because this genetic profile is passed down through the mother.  Your children will be like any other homo sapiens.”
DIRECTOR:    “Which means that you are an endangered species.”
TRISTAN:    “But I’m just like everyone else.”
NARRATOR:    (in fact, this was one of the reasons his ex-girlfriend had given for breaking up with him)
BIOLOGIST:    “You may well think so.  We are seldom aware of what we really are.  And this is the sort of data that we can only ascertain through scientific analysis.  We need to study you.”

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