Admittedly, I wrote THE DAWN with the French sensibility, aspiring to one day translate it into French. It is possible that the French version is the original. At times, I complete a portion of translation and then return to the English text to modify it (improve it); the English version nearly always seems inferior in certain aspects. At other times, however, the flexibility of the English language more fittingly creates the mood and the cogent expression required for the characters. The British-English used in Book 2, Arthur, is yet another dimension to inhabit, and I hope that you will — one day, or night, or many days and nights — inhabit that world, as well as the world of Provence during World War II!
I find that the narration in the French is more powerful, more beautiful and much closer to the original conception in my mind of the imagery and the overall content of the book. There are verbal constructions and phrases that flow quite seamlessly from English into the French translation; other passages and portions of THE DAWN must be re-configured, or re-composed, to fit the French language as well as my conception of the novel.
It is somewhat astounding to me to realize how much more beautifully moving THE DAWN is in the French. L’AUBE causes me to become misty-eyed. THE DAWN brought tears to my eyes during the writing of certain scenes but more often it caused eye fatigue. I would say that the writing of THE DAWN took place more in my mind and heart; the composition of L’AUBE is from my soul.
The process of writing the English version of this novel required me to work constantly for three years. I did not have the time, or I did not take the time, to comprehend the quality of my writing. My thought process was something akin to: “Chapter 88 is finished. On to Chapter 89. And please don’t get in my way.”
I am now able to gauge the merit of my writing and, admittedly, the writing is masterful. The themes, motifs, and elements of the book are interwoven quite intricately and delicately. Its textures and scope amaze me. I am also amazed by the realization that this process of discovery is a vitally necessary part of a writer’s work and life: assessment, appreciation, perhaps even atonement. The highest fulfillment of writing is only achieved through filling the writer’s files — mental, emotional and spiritual — full of satisfaction and the sense of calm that comes from meeting the goal of “nailing it”!
On a strictly technical level, I quote this passage from THE DAWN:
“The French do not usually form adjectives and adverbs from their nouns. They instead string together a prepositional phrase, or two, along with the noun, to express the one-word modifier that the English so quickly create from a single noun and a suffix. In this instance, the moue, the pout, says it all while saying nothing at all.”
I rarely pull a pout while composing L’AUBE. Quite often, however, there is a hilarious laugh whenever I discover a French cliché that is far from cliché!
COMPOSING L’AUBE UPDATE:
In early March 2017, I decided to come to an all-stop, an operational pause, a personal and professional halt in my translation of THE DAWN into L’AUBE. Something within me said that Arthur could not leave England yet for France. I left him on the front porch of that astoundingly aesthetic Arts-and-Crafts house in Chichester, East Sussex, and I decided to begin re-reading Le Rouge et le Noir by Stendhal. An assigned book in the Analyse de Texte class of Professeur Thibault, this novel was, I believed, worth a second try, at least for stylistic and grammatical purposes.
I have progressed at such a rapid rate through the Stendhal book that I realize I’ve learned all that I can from it, at least stylistically and grammatically. By Chapitre XI (Chapter 11), the plot became boring. Other than for my immense enjoyment in reading the French text aloud, this book is not of much use to me now. Julien and the married woman’s sighs and his cruel eyes have become predictable! If his hand reaches one more time for “la main blanche” of madame de Rênal, I am going to intervene and either slap it away or seize it! Make up your mind, woman!
My target re-start date of the arduous work is this September, perhaps after Labor Day, definitely after an eventfully fun summer. I know that Arthur Boucher Carmichael awaits me!
Book Three: Guillaume
It feels like an early spring here in northern Northern California as I begin the translation of Book Three of THE DAWN into French. The almond trees in mid-January are almost in bloom. How fitting for me to return to Provence from the cold, damp, foggy winter climes of Chichester in West Sussex, England, 1940.
It was a long haul for Arthur and me and Book Two, beginning with the translation of this Book in late summer 2016. I took time off for many things, including the penning of a new novel (The Point of the Sword).
I kept pushing back to get “it” done. It was with immense joy that I finished the final review of the last chapter of this Book just a few days ago. I also keep improving with the translation. I can now do it while watching the Toronto Maple Leafs and the San Jose Sharks!
I feel glad to leave England and return to France. Even if Dear Reader dumped him long ago (May 2013 Essay), Guillaume awaits me!
Hockey Night in Provence
It’s autumn in California, and in Toronto —
and in Provence.
This autumn 2018, the French translation of BOOK 3, Guillaume, proceeds apace, along with the fast pace of the skates of the San Jose Sharks and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The past year of letting-go-of-Marleau has come to a merciful end. I am now fully enjoying the new, young, dynamic San Jose team, coached by the firm but compelling leadership of Pete DeBoer. Steady pressure is the operative approach. This strategy works for me too!
This year, my traditional hockey-spectating is not business-as-usual, but I am working with it:
Due to NHL Local Blackout Rules, my viewing of any San Jose Sharks game is delayed. I therefore use the time difference to my advantage. I watch the Sharks game 48 hours later, on my schedule. I employ the same tele-visual viewing method with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The happy absence of commercial interruptions and the wonderful absence of any Period Intermissions have speeded up an already fast game to a view-time of approximately 1 hour.
Those late-night shoot-outs are a thing of the past!
It’s always exciting for me to watch The Shark-Veterans: Captain Joe Pavelski, “Pickles” Vlasic, and Alternate Captain Logan Couture. Defenseman Brent Burns is a bit less flamboyant without his Man-Bun this year, but the season is still young for this Alternate Captain!
Tomáš Hertl, still baby-faced at 25, and his family in the Czech Republic are waiting for that Stanley Cup too. Goalie Martin Jones (“Joner”) is doing his quiet, level-gloved best to help make that dream come true.
Defenseman “Jumbo” Joe Thornton, whom I call Thumbo, has returned to the ice after a series of injuries. During his first game back from injuries this season, he scored the tying goal against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Way over yonder in Toronto, Canada, the Maple Leafs are super-charged with Auston Matthews (presently on Injured Reserve), Alternate Captain John Tavares, Jake Gardner, and Nazem Kadri. It’s not surprising for me to see Patrick Marleau wearing the A - as an Alternate Captain — of his Leafs. Coach Babcock keeps making the right decisions!
Keeping track of two NHL teams keeping score has significantly aided my progress with composing L’AUBE. I am motivated to keep an ever more resolute but compelling watch over Guillaume de Vallon as he leaves behind the life of an aristocrat and forges a new identity as a French resister.
I do believe that Guillaume would have made one sensational forward!
He is most unlike that player, “La Rondelle” who is all over the place!
And just who is La Rondelle?
The story of La Rondelle came to me more than a few years ago while I was watching a television show about the early days of broadcasting professional ice hockey. A young man, living in the north-northeastern United States, was listening one night to a hockey game — broadcast on the radio in Canadian French from Montreal, Canada.
This hockey fan wanted to know who was that player, La Rondelle: He was on the ice all the time, and he was all over the place.
Of course, he was!
“La rondelle” means the puck in French.
Guillaume is not all over the place. He’s just in France, with a brief trip to London to meet le général de Gaulle. Guillaume does return one day to France, to Roussillon where he surprises Camille with some crèvecœur chicks.
Book 3, Guillaume, is the final book in Volume 1 of L’AUBE. Operation Nottingham — or Op Nott as the nickname has it, — opens up Volume 2. I hope to be completed with the translation of these ending chapters of Volume 1 by Playoff Season.
Next year, I hope to see either — or both — of my favorite NHL teams go all the way to the Stanley Cup! Until then, it’s Hockey Night in Provence!
13 February 2019
There are times, on a rainy Wednesday such as this one, when the rain and gray skies become overwhelming. And the Day Off from translation that I’d promised myself goes out the rainy-day-window.
Dear Husband was at his office job in Sacramento; he received some email updates from me on my job in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The following is a running commentary that gives sights and insights into my process of writing, translating, and thinking during the composition of Chapitre 23:
To Dear Husband:
Cold and wet here. The warmth of the morning is gone!
Propane tanks being filled today. Chance is on the small sofa barking. I am doing translation.
To Dear Writer-Wife:
Very dark, cold and rainy here. The clouds have sucked all the warmth away. I hope his barking is not too distracting. The sad part is it isn’t even our propane tank!
To Dear Husband:
Oh, it was a real gathering of the trucks! The propane truck was here, a delivery truck, and the mail truck!
Chance has calmed down. He ought to be exhausted. I am figuring out if I still know how to say “tip your hat” in French (incliner le chapeau). Hat etiquette seems to be an old custom!!!
I know that I used the word — satchel — in THE DAWN to try not to say “suitcase” too much. It’s now a Britishism for school-bag, which a satchel clearly was not during World War II! I’ll have to change “satchel” in the English version of this chapter.
I really can’t wait until I get to Book 4 and
try to tackle the “duffel bag” of Artur!
Try to avoid one problem in English and you get 3 in French!!
Sacoche — is a saddlebag (horse). I will remember that one!
To Dear Writer-Wife:
That is a lot of business for a rainy day. And yes, that tank in front belongs to the neighbor.
At least you figured out the “tip your hat”! That is progress indeed.
To Dear Husband:
Now that I know the fedora that Pierre Richarde wears is a “Borsalino” made in Italy, I guess tipping the hat is “vieilli” along with wearing one!
I guess Jean Moulin wore a Borsalino too!
Oh gosh, phrases and expressions that I learned 30-40 years ago are now considered old-fashioned (un peu vieilli) by Word Reference.
Very bad for any language to consider some standard 20th century terms as almost archaic!
I am glad that I have insisted on using them!!!! Very Victor Hugo!
To Dear Writer-Wife:
I am glad too. You have a duty to keep some of these phrases alive! And they are much better than the so-called modern versions — what does Word Reference know anyway?
To Dear Husband:
Word Reference knows every literary term that I automatically use and then double-check and find out that I am often more accurate than they! I really know the “dated” literary words!
My Friend in Provence knew that I know the real French of the post-WWII era. Without realizing it, I was schooled in that school of French thought by French exiled to America!
I am having to go back into the first few chapters for descriptions used in this chapter (23) and I see the details are very sparingly given. On purpose. The pace of the novel really was set just right in the beginning, and then it develops with more speed and depth and detail.
I knew what I was doing!!
Let us hope, Dear Reader, that I continue to know what I am doing, on this rain-soaked day, and every day!