Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

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Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006
My favorite line in Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera reads thusly in the original:
“Ton âme est bien belle, mon enfant,” reprit la voix d’homme grave, “et je te remercie. Il n’y a point d’empereur qui ait reçu un pareil cadeau. Les anges ont pleuré ce soir.”
The standard English translation reads:
"Your soul is a beautiful thing, child," replied the grave man's voice, "and I thank you. No emperor ever received so fair a gift. The angels wept tonight."
This is a good translation. Bravo for not importing the "my" of mon enfant into English, as "my child" would sound like a priest talking to a penitent. As it stands, "child" captures the very French combination of paternalism and deep-background eros that is implied by mon enfant. (N.B. The noun enfant is masculine regardless of the sex of the person referred to.)

A more literal rendering of Il n’y a point d’empereur qui ait reçu might be "There is no emperor who may have received," but that's clunky, and in translating literature, unlike translating philosophy, I approve of minor departures from literalness in order to capture better the feel and flow.

Un pareil cadeau is literally "an equal gift" or "a comparable gift" -- except that pareil has connotations of equality and comparability at a high level of wonderfulness. (Think of the archaic borrowed English word "nonpareil"-- the incomparable, the nothing-else-like-it.) "So fair" is a stroke of inspiration.

I trust it's obvious that the weeping of the angels is not for sorrow, but for joy at the "child's" achievement (in context, a debut in a starring role at the opera), which the "grave man" receives as a "gift."

My reasons for blogging this today are confined to the oral tradition.