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Outside Comments and Observations

From a translation-oriented reader, May, 2004

Hello, webmaster!

Inviting comments? I have quite a few but will try to be brief.

a) Congratulations on your website! Not that I learnt a lot in it,
barring a couple of allusions to "news and brief" events that I crassly
ignored. (All the great allusions to literature, the Bible and movies I
had spotted by myself, thank goodness, considering that's my job.) Had
I discovered your website before, certainly that would have spared me
research, although perhaps some of the fun would have been spoiled, I
don't know. In any case, what's interesting (very) is seeing them all
gathered and commented (mostly your comments dovetail mine), not to
mention your links which are fascinating, all of them.  All this by way
of thanking you.

b) Still, there's one of your comments which does NOT dovetail mine,
and that's when you say that for French readers "the series becomes
'The Disastrous Adventures of the Baudelaire Orphans'". Well, it does
not!  It becomes "Les désastreuses aventures etc." and that makes all
the difference. Only in dictionaries and in approximate translation
(i.e. out of context) are "disastrous" and "désastreux" equivalent (and
the same stands for "adventure" and "aventure". Indeed, this title -a
publisher's choice and not a translator's one, which is almost a rule
everywhere in the world for titles- is actually quite in the spirit of
Snicket-Handler's prose. This for three reasons: 1) "désastreux" as an
adjective is used humorously more often than not; just about only
politicians would use it  literally nowadays, otherwise you would
expect it to describe a haircut more than a road accident. 2) This is
even truer when this adjective is placed BEFORE the noun, which, I
remind you, is pretty unusual in French. 3) Associated with
"aventures", it is even more unexpected. "Aventures" in a title seems
to promise playfulness and fun and a guaranteed happy end, so
"désastreuses aventures" comes as a little shock, something with a
sligthly comic pompousness, a tongue-in-cheek humour quite in keeping
with Handler's spirit.
So when you deduce that "the French translation drops the subtlety and
puts 'disaster' into sharp relief", well, aren't you jumping to
conclusions a little bit? a risky activity as you should know.
(Incidentally, in German the series is named "Schauriger Schlamassel",
a title for which your remarks -and my toning things down a bit- apply

(text removed to maintain anonymity)

All for now, that's quite enough (sorry, this was a thimble for a
giraffe after all). Thanks again,
(name withheld because on the Internet everyone can spam you)

PS: "Putanesca sauce" in French is "sauce putanesca", and so it is in
German and Czech and Italian and Latvian and Norwegian and Finnish
-this I know for sure since I founded a Fellowship of Unfortunate
Translators (still young and daily growing) and as you can guess we
have fun.

PPS: About the movie: well, here you and I are closely akin, I'm
afraid. Except I dread this movie twice as much as you probably, if
only because in France ASOUE still has lots of potential readers to
conquer (so far, it's a rage mainly among 6-8 graders -good readers
especially) and a stupid movie might at least partly ruin its chances to
reach a larger audience. I saw the 'clip' (?) and totally agree with
you about Jim Carey literally chewing the scene, and what about Klaus'
glasses? Is he wearing contact lenses? What are they going to do about
those damned glasses getting broken at the mill?