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sabato 2 aprile 2016
SIMENON SIMENON. THERE ARE MORE YELLOW SHOES
More on faithful translations in the Maigret stories. SIMENON SIMENON. IL Y A D'AUTRES SOULIERS JAUNES Davantage sur des traductions fidèles dans les histoires de Maigret. SIMENON SIMENON. CI SONO ALTRE SCARPE GIALLE Ancora sulla fedeltà delle traduzioni nei romanzi di Maigret
Yellow shoes appear elsewhere in the Maigrets.
goose dung shoes (souliers jaunes caca d’oie in French) help a bad guy
stand out in La Première Enquête de Maigret. Fortunately, in Maigret’s
First Case, translated by Robert Brain and published by a British
publisher, these shoes remain yellow, unlike the bizarre change to brown
seen in The Man on the Bench. Brain chooses goose-dirt over goose dung,
but dung or dirt, both are yellow, so he got that part right.
contrast, some yellow shoes crucial to the plot in Au Rendez-Vous des
Terre-Neuvas don’t survive. In the recent English translation, The Grand
Banks Cafe by David Coward in 2014, they become tan! For example, The
Tan-Coloured Shoes entitles an introductory chapter whereas Les souliers
jaunes, whose literal translation is The Yellow Shoes, heads the
original. While these shoes remain unequivocally tan throughout the
book, notably in The Sailors' Rendezvous, the earlier translation by
Margaret Ludwig, mon ami M Google found yellow shoes 12 times. Ludwig
stayed faithful to Simenon, but Coward pulled a switcheroo. Was his
reasoning similar to that behind the odd brown to yellow conversion in
The Man on the Bench?
These changes are what they are,
for better or worse. The important thing, once again, is not the color
itself, but the distinctiveness of the color. The knowledgeable
Maigretphile Murielle Wenger points out that translators can choose
concrete or symbolic expression, depending upon what they wish to evoke
for their readers. To my mind, in the yellow shoe matter, the shock (le
choc) should override.
For a good example of this effect,
I shift out of the Simenon/Maigret genre to a contemporaneous work: the
1954 Les Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir. A couple celebrates the end
of WWII in France with a shopping spree. Both buy “aggressive yellow
shoes” (souliers d’un jaune aggressif) and parade in front of some
bare-footed street urchins. In French, when aggressive qualifies a
color, it means a color that ‘offends good taste by being provocative.’ I
suspect Simenon in the same way opted for yellow in his three books
And by the way, I’m not sure if it’s
worthwhile to harp on why fantôme becomes Apparition rather than Phantom
in Maigret’s Apparition (Maiget et le fantôme), but I may yet.