shambles

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shambles

Post by NogaNote » Sat Apr 21, 2007 10:28 pm

The poem is from Normand de Bellefeuille's "Categoriques 1 2 3" and is translated by Doug Jones.

“Le père. Le prédicat.
La famille.
Parfois, la viande."

Translation:

"The father. The predicate.
The family.
Sometimes, the shambles."

When I first encountered the translation, I was quite perplexed. Why "shambles" for "viande" (meat).

The casual meaning of shambles is;

a. A scene or condition of complete disorder or ruin
b. Great clutter or jumble; a total mess


In order to get the translator's intention, I had to check out the etymology of shambles, "slaughterhouse" (1548), "place of butchery" (1593), and "confusion, mess" (1901)".

This is one of those rare examples where a translator gets the better of the poet he translates. The translation works on several levels, indicates different types of dysfunctional familites. Some are a shambles, as in, messy, confused, lacking discipline. Some are pathologically dysfunctional, there life a shambles, as in a butcher's block, cutting each other to bleeding pieces.

The image in the English translation is more complex than the French original. No?

Also see earlier posting shambles.

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Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Apr 22, 2007 3:16 am

Indeed so. The entry at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=shambles has the following account of the development of 'shambles':

1477, "meat or fish market," from schamil "table, stall for vending" (c.1305), from O.E. scomul, sceamel "stool, footstool, table for vending," an early W.Gmc. borrowing (cf. O.S. skamel, M.Du. schamel, O.H.G. scamel, Ger. schemel) from L. scamillus "low stool," ultimately a dim. of scamnum "stool, bench," from PIE base *skabh- "to prop up, support." In Eng., sense evolved to "slaughterhouse" (1548), "place of butchery" (1593), and "confusion, mess" (1901).

I surmise that the abbreviation 'PIE' stands for 'Proto-Indo-European'.

How appropriate 'shambles' is here as the translation of 'viande' is not possible to judge from the small fragment you have cited. It would be necessary to have the larger context of what is being described.

However, what this little translation conundrum does illustrate quite well is that the act of translation (and especially the translation of a literary text) requires a much deeper engagement with the cultural associations of both the source and the target languages than a non-specialist might suppose; good-quality translation involves far more than a simple mapping of words and concepts from one language to another, and even the best translators cannot keep all the balls in the air at once. Sometimes, it is appropriate that not all the balls are flying.

As with governing, to translate is to choose.
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shambles

Post by NogaNote » Sun Apr 22, 2007 2:59 pm

This is the entire poem, 9 words. Which in my opinion is what makes for its genius. In poetry, as in translation, frugality with words is a definite asset. I'll have more to say on this (thereby defraying my own stated principle in favour of wordy economy) later.

A-propo , Eric's "As with governing, to translate is to choose.", here is a joke I heard during a translation theory class, explicating the difficulty of translation:

A man is employed in an orange factory. His job description: Standing by a conveyer belt on which oranges are .. well, conveyed, he must sort them out: put small oranges in the small orange crate, medium size oranges in the medium size orange crate, large size oranges in the large orange crate.

A week later, his supervisor saunters by and enquires how the new employee fares.

-It's a very stressful job, the poor man says.

-How come?

-Well, you know, decisions, decisions...
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Post by russcable » Sun Apr 22, 2007 5:28 pm

If you're going to add "deeper meaning" to words by looking at their etymologies (a slippery slope to etymological fallacy), the translator has replaced a "living"-based word with a "death"-based word.

The noun predicate here I suppose is some sort of derivation of one of the verb definitions, something like "consequences". Dictionaries I checked, including a French one (not a French->English but with definitions in French), define the noun as having 2 exact meanings in grammar and mathematics/logic. Unless the poet intended that the father is the subject or the proposition, then the translator had a chance to clarify this term as well. But then, it's poetry so all bets are off, I guess. (^_^)
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Apr 22, 2007 6:34 pm

A nine-word poem does not, in my opinion, qualify to be called 'genius', especially when it is as obscurely expressed as this one is.
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Post by Bobinwales » Sun Apr 22, 2007 6:51 pm

Where does The Shambles in York fit into this?
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Post by NogaNote » Sun Apr 22, 2007 8:06 pm

Erik_Kowal wrote: A nine-word poem does not, in my opinion, qualify to be called 'genius', especially when it is as obscurely expressed as this one is.

Really?

What about this poem by Ezra Pound:

IN A STATION OF THE METRO

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

??

I thought the pairing of "family" with the meat-market was an unusually stark and effective image, the very opposite of "obscure".

Here is how I read the poem:

The father is the subject, the law. The pridicate is the agent of action, that is, the mother, who enforces the law ("wait till your father gets home tonight and hears what you have done..."). The children are implied in the collective "family". They are not directly identified. And the whole arrangement sometimes works like a meat market, with cleavers, blood and nourishment all implied.

In this translation, the translator did not add "deeper meaning" to words by looking at their etymologies". For the 'deeper meaning' was the explicit, surface meaning in the French original. He could have stayed with a simple equivalent ("meat") but he opted for a more complex word, challenging the reader a bit.

I believe that in literary translation, the translator resides not that far away from the poet, in the way he/she is called upon to excavate in the language and reveal and recover meanings. It is a creative endeavour which sometimes is successful, as in this example.
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Apr 22, 2007 9:02 pm

Noga, I don't disagree with you about the task of the literary translator, but I continue to resist the 'genius' descriptor. It takes more than a striking phrase or image to qualify for that.
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Apr 22, 2007 9:38 pm

.. ok from Downunder, as we are all standing on our heads .. an across the bigger wider pond, as Dale might say, view ..

Le père. - the father - figuratively the big father god
Le prédicat. - in keeping with the current trend of shortening words I choose this to actually mean prédicateur .. the preacher
La famille. - the family - figuratively the concept of the human flock
Parfois, - sometimes
la viande. - the meat - figuratively as in the expression the meat in the sandwich

.. and so we have a poem (genius?? .. no, simply a poem) that paints the picture of the constant condition of religious man who finds himself crushed between the preaching beliefs and mysteries of the organised church and his own simple understandings of his everyday needs and desires .. see, simple as .. *grin* .. and the best part is that is what it means to me and after all poetry and the images it paints is such a personal thing .. d'accord ?? ..

WoZ (upside down) in Aus 23/04/07
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Post by NogaNote » Sun Apr 22, 2007 10:04 pm

Erik_Kowal wrote: Noga, I don't disagree with you about the task of the literary translator, but I continue to resist the 'genius' descriptor. It takes more than a striking phrase or image to qualify for that.

Will you consent to "brilliant", then? And does it really matter, that I think s poem reaches a certain pristine truth deserving of some superlative qualification while you disagree (meaning, I suppose, that you are left indifferent to the artistic achievement wielded by an image, simplicity and austerity of the words?)?

Antoine Berman's theory of translation is an attractive proposition. He claims that it is not enough for the translation of a literary text to be merely an adequate reflection of the original. A really good translation potentiates the original. I thought this tiny poem illustrated Berman's idea perfectly.

It's a rare thing.

Btw, for his translation of Normand de Bellefeuille's Categorics One Two and Three, Doug Jones received the Governor-General's Translation Award in 1993.
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Post by Mel » Wed Apr 25, 2007 1:40 pm

The Shambles of York

The Shambles is often called Europe's best preserved medieval street, although the name is also used to collectively refer to the surrounding maze of narrow, twisting lanes and alleys as well. The street itself is mentioned in the Domesday Book, so we know that it has been in continuous existence for over 900 years.

The Shambles has the effect of a time machine, transporting you back to the Elizabethan period. The houses that jostle for space along The Shambles project out over the lane in their upper stories, as if trying to meet their neighbours opposite.


Shops in The Shambles - note the window sills where meat was displayed in the medieval period.
(click to enlarge)
In some places the street is so narrow that if you stand with arms outstretched you can touch the houses on both sides.

The name "Shambles" comes from the Saxon "Fleshammels", which means, "the street of the butchers", for it was here that the city's butcher's market was located. Notice the wide window sills of the houses; the meat for sale was displayed here.

The butcher's shops have now been replaced with shops catering to visitors, including jewelry and antiques; indeed, the Shambles is now one of the premier shopping areas in the city of York.
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Post by Bobinwales » Wed Apr 25, 2007 3:11 pm

Hello Mel, Welcome back, I thought that we must have upset you :-)

I assume you got that piece from here. I really should have guessed that it was all down to butchery. I have only been to York once, and was amking my way to the Shambles, when amazingly I met a friend from Wales, and he dragged me kicking and screaming into a pub, so I never got to see it.
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Apr 25, 2007 5:40 pm

Noga, In the future, before posting, would you please check to see if the topic has been previously discussed so that we don’t end up with multiple listings on the same subject. See shambles
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Post by NogaNote » Wed Apr 25, 2007 5:48 pm

Do you mean that I should have titled the thread differently? Or continue with the old thread? Can an archived thread be resuscitated?
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Post by Shelley » Wed Apr 25, 2007 6:28 pm

Y'know, when I went to the link and saw the picture of The Shambles in York its similarity to Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies was impossible to miss. Then, I read the 2004 archived thread Ken pointed out on the same topic (shambles). In it, a poster remarked that The Shambles in York looks like a Hollywood movie set: all painted, shiny and gussied-up. I wonder . . .

Never mind. After googling around, it appears to me that Diagon Alley (in the first film) is somewhere in London near Leadenhall Market. Sometimes, the dots just don't connect.
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