Menu Close

Voulez-vous lire avec moi, ce soir?

Voulez-vous lire avec moi, ce soir?
(With apology to Patti Labelle and Lady Marmalade.)

Joe LanguagesmI like to think I am a polyglot. Sophisticated. Suave. Don’t lick the bottom of the martini glass.
Alas, I am not even a semi polyglot.

Sure, I know enough French to find my way around a children’s primer.

With my index finger and a slobbering English twist of tongue, I traveled around Denmark for a couple years. “Jeg vil gerne have en af de der,” pointing in the direction of a puff pastry or a sack of tobacco under the plate glass of the display case. Breathing through my lips, “I would like to have one of those.”  I can, however, say “røde grøde med fløde på” like a true Dane. My greatest accomplishment.

I was raised around enough Italian to understand all the earthy swear words. What little Italian I use sounds like Anna Magnani looks. I can successfully translate the dirty parts of “c’e’ la luna mezzo mare” enough to enjoy the wedding scene in the Godfather. Oi, what the mother explains to her daughter! “Oh, Mama, pisce fritte bacala!”

Same with Yiddish. Goy to the world.

So, it is with some joy I discovered many works of early French Science Fiction have been adequately translated into English. Thanks to the likes of Arthur B. Evans, Brain Stableford and others. In theory, I do have trouble with reading translations. I know when I am reading English there is care and nuance that a translator will find hard to express. In practice, the thought I would be required to master, pretty much in idiom, as well as formal construct, another language, settles me right down to a soft boil.

These new translations include revisiting all the works of Jules Verne, who has been downgraded to an unscientific hack writer of children’s SF at the hands of his early English translators. Now, the works of Albert Robida, J.-H. Rosny aîné , Gustave Le Rouge, Paul D’Ivoi are available for a good night’s read. Either in a fresh smelling non-acid inked book or on a digital device, which can emulate the flip of the pages, or with a spritz of Eau d’old Book  duplicate the smell of a tome in your basement, if you are a fan of skeuomorphism. Myself, I prefer to keep a simulacrum of four horses at the front of my Chevy stagecoach.

I recommend Arthur B. Evans’ translation of Jules Verne’s first work “Five Weeks in a Balloon” to you. I have not yet read the many of Brian Stableford’s translations of the author’s mentioned above, but I am looking forward to a Gallic experience.

SF is a world wide inclusive entertainment. I plan to spend a lifetime exploring the wealth.