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« Traduire en anglais les Contes de la Fontaine »

mardi, 1 juillet 2008

Traduire en anglais les Contes de la Fontaine

- Y. Le Pestipon : Randy Runyon est-ce une vieille idée pour toi de traduire les Contes de La Fontaine ?

-Randy Runyon : It’s not a very old idea; I think I began to think of doing it only about 4 years ago.

- Y. L. P : Pourquoi traduire précisément les Contes de La Fontaine, et pas ceux de Boccace, ou ceux de Perrault ?

- R R : I have a longstanding interest in La Fontaine; I published a book on him a few years ago (In La Fontaine’s Labyrinth: A Thread though the Fables: Rookwood / Honoré Champion, 2000); I am intrigued by the other side of La Fontaine, the dark side, represented by the Contes. The Fables have been many times translated into English, and well, but the Contes have never been translated in their entirety (and not, I think, all that well). My translation includes six that have never appeared in English: “Imitation d’un livre intitulé « Les Arrêts d’amours »”, “Les Amours de Mars et de Vénus”, “Ballade”, “Le Différend de Beaux Yeux et de Belle Bouche”, “Clymène”, and “Janot et Catin”. I know of two translations that are complete except for those six; however, they both include one or more contes falsely attributed to La Fontaine. One of them, whose translator is anonymous (perhaps because of the Contes’ scandalous nature), appears to date from the early 20th century; perhaps the 19th or before. Its language sounds archaic to modern ears: “spark”, for example, for “man” (or “bloke” or “guy”). The other one appeared ten years ago in England, and its language is modern, but though it has rhyme it lacks meter. My translation has both meter and rhyme; like La Fontaine, I include poems all in the same meter as well as poems with lines in different meters (though two lines that rhyme will almost always have the same meter). I didn’t try to slavishly imitate La Fontaine’s rhyme schemes and meters (which are complicated and subtle in the Fables), but stayed within the English-language comic tradition of rhyming couplets (e.g., Alexander Pope). In that way, every second line is almost a punch line to a joke. At times I adopted, again for comic effect, the seven-beat line of Rudyard Kipling; I made one tale a parody of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” down to the detail of incorporating his eight-beat line.

I am not interested in contes per se, but in what La Fontaine did with the genre. So it never occurred to me to translate Perrault or Boccaccio. Besides, they’re in prose, not poetry. And my Italian is not as good as my French. The Decameron, by the way, is very well served by G. H. McWilliam’s translation.

- YLP : Quelles difficultés particulières rencontres-tu dans cette traduction ?

- R R : Whenever I ran up against a difficulty in understanding the text, I would ask you, Yves, and you always cleared it up for me!

The translation would have been impossibly difficult to do if I had constrained myself to make every one of my lines correspond to a line of the original. I would often take a line and a half to say what La Fontaine said in one, though not to the extent that my whole translation is half again as long. I wanted above all for the modern reader to understand the original, and to that end in several places I actually wrote an explanation into the poem, sometimes in parentheses, of something that would be lost on modern readers. For example, Americans today would not know that when someone about to be hanged makes a “harangue”, that is part of an old tradition of both granting a man facing death the chance to say his last words as well as that of a criminal being required to make public confession and express regret for his crime. I didn’t say quite all of that in the poem of course, but enough. Another example is what it meant for certain nuns to be “toujours . . . à la grille”. Modern readers would not have known that that refers to nuns who spend too much time conversing with visitors to the convent. I didn’t want to produce an academic text but a readerly one, so I ruled out using footnotes--although I do provide 30,000 words of commentary later in the book.

Y L P : Pourquoi traduire en vers ?

R. R : Because it’s in verse to begin with. Also, it’s a lot more fun to translate into verse than into prose. I don’t think I’d be much interested in translating prose. I wanted to create something close to the same experience for English-speaking readers that French readers have (or had in La Fontaine’s own time) when they read the Contes.

- Y L P : Pourquoi trouves-tu nécessaire d'illustrer cette édition ?

- R R : I wanted to make the book more attractive to the non-scholarly reader. Once I began looking for illustrations I was pleasantly surprised to find some dandy ones that are not generally known. The beautiful illustrations by Charles Eisen and Jean-Honoré Fragonard are well known and available on the internet, but I found ones I’ve never seen anywhere else. I came across over sixty by Jean Duplessis-Bertaux (1747-1820?), which are amusing and accurate for the most part (more accurate, say, than Eisen sometimes was); I also discovered the 1838 edition of the Contes published by Ernest Bourdin with witty illustrations by Janet-Lange, Roqueplan, and other 19th-century artists that remind me of Daumier, Doré, and Grandville.

- YLP : Quel public américain peut être, selon toi, intéressé par cette traduction ?

- RR : I am hoping to appeal to the general reader and to public libraries, as well of course as to the academic market. I made my translation as scrupulously accurate as I could, and thought long and hard about each passage to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding the original, but I’m hoping this book will have a more “reader-friendly” appearance than your ordinary scholarly edition. There are a lot of people out there who love La Fontaine for his fables; I hope they’ll be intrigued, perhaps scandalized a bit, by this other La Fontaine. In addition, the average reader interested in funny and sexy stories ought to take it down from the bookstore shelf, thumb through it, and decide it might be worth buying.

But there is a real academic component as well--the substantial commentary at the end about how all the contes fit together, as you, Yves, have shown that the Fables do. In addition, of course, to its being the only complete translation of the Contes ever made.

Contes à paraître chez McFarland and Company, de Jefferson, North Carolina, sans doute en 2009

Yves Le Pestipon | Voir l'article : Traduire en anglais les Contes de la Fontaine 21:09 dans La Fontaine

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