Thursday, February 07, 2013

Quote for the day: the fine art of translation

(Our readaloud book right now:  Crystal Mountain, by Belle Dorman Rugh.) 

Three American brothers, their English friend Boadie, and her governess, all living in Lebanon just after World War I, spend an afternoon picnicking, and meet a native boy, Braheem, who plays his reed pipes for them.  (The boys speak Arabic, but Boadie and Miss Dunbar don't.)

When the music stopped, Boadie heaved a sigh.

"That's jolly good.  Tell him I liked it, will you?" she said to Gerald.

Gerald translated her remark, as closely as he could, into Arabic.  It took him several sentences while Boadie waited wonderingly.

"Did I say all that?" she demanded in amazement.

Braheem smiled and touched his hand to his forehead.

"Well--you see I had to say it in the Arab way," explained Gerald.

"Just what did you say I said?"

"Oh, something like this:  'May God bless your lips, and may the name of God be upon you; the music was sweet as the song of a nightingale on a moonlight night.'"

Boadie was silent with awe at her own eloquence.  Miss Dunbar remarked dryly, "A bit loud for a nightingale.  I should say more like the Scottish bagpipes skirling away in the Highlands."

Braheem looked questioningly at Gerald.  Sometimes he could guess at the English lady's meaning, but not always.

"She says that your music reminds her and makes her long for the mountains of her homeland," translated Gerald obligingly.

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