marcel barang


In English, French, Reading matters on 16/01/2011 at 7:21 pm

Tok Kham Nueng

It went something like this:
– Hello, Pop? I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that within our back office everything is fine, all ‘teasers’ come up, whether in Explorer, Chrome or Firefox. The bad news is that there are only two people in the world able to read those teasers – you and me – because starting from the homepage they won’t show.
– Oh? Let me check. [Twenty seconds go by.] All right, refresh and try again.
– Wow! It works. What was wrong, then?
Tok Kham Nueng (One word missing).
That was all the explanation I got. But works again – well, almost: there’s only that small matter of changing the payment system to make it less of a mission impossible placing orders – and anyone can at least get the flavour of some of the last batch of short stories (Ten short stories 2010) as well as liberal excerpts of that fabulous novel, Four Reigns, the author before his death and now his heiress have kindly refused me permission to ‘translate’.

Bis repetita

I owe readers an apology and myself a rap over the knuckles. The other day, as I considered translating yet another song, ‘Born to run’ by Bruce Springsteen, I had the nagging feeling I had already worked on it. So I went through all the archives of this blog (there’s apparently no other way of tracing an entry or a title). No trace of ‘Born to run’ (yet I still remember I did puzzle out its ambiguities, or was it just in my head? Perhaps I should go easy on pastis…), but, uh, that ‘Hotel California’ I posted the other day I’d already posted six months earlier (‘On a dark desert highway’, 14.6.10)! Different renderings, mind you, with variations here and there. Placent? I hope.

Lyrics translation

That ‘Born to run’ search led to the discovery of a treasure trove of songs in translation, thousands of them, in all sorts of languages from all sorts of languages: Never mind that most singers and most songs are unknown to me, that quite a few are God-bent, and that – at least in the French-English and English-French registers – only a few translations near perfection while too many are faulty or pedestrian and invariably pockmarked with misprints. As I understand it, this site attracts as pastime a considerable number of (self-proclaimed) professional translators and, for those, there’s no excuse for gross spelling and other grammatical errors.
For a lark, I picked the first ‘English-French translation requested’, ‘Revival’, and when I was finished translating it realised it was some sort of daft gospel song (I hear the voice of one calling, prepare ye the way of the Lord. | And make His paths straight in the wilderness | And let your light shine in the darkness | And let your rain fall in the desert.): ‘His paths’? But then whose ‘light’? And whose ‘rain’? I posted my version nevertheless.
Then, to increase the challenge, I chose a song in quaint French to turn it into equally quirky English. It’s entitled ‘Nos travers’ by Audrey Gagnon and Bruno Labrie, and its great first lines (Quelques éclaboussures de verres | Nous portent sur l’éclat d’un fou rire) are cheapened by the next two (Quelquefois de tous nos impairs | Je devrais peut-être nous ralentir).

A few splashes from glasses
Carry us on the edge of the giggles
Sometimes with all our blunders
I should perhaps slow us down

All right, let’s leave it at that. You can always listen to the French version at


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