The Perils of Reading in TranslationAugust 2, 2007 at 1:02 pm | Posted in books | 9 Comments
From an essay in Esquire by author Benjamin Percy:
Sometimes I’m struck most by the authors who say the least. “Mother died today,” wrote Albert Camus in The Stranger. That one gets me every time. For a couple reasons. First of all, we’ve got a death, which means I’ve got a reason to pay attention. And then there’s that voice, so blunt and distanced, so stripped down. He doesn’t say Mom, he says Mother. He doesn’t say passed, he says died. Does this guy have a heart, I’m wondering?
Of course, as everyone knows who has read Camus in the original, the narrator of the story doesn’t say Mother at all — he says Maman, and that, for me, makes all the difference.
Maman is certainly closer to Mom than to Mother, but it might actually be closer to Mommy or Momma… It’s a child’s word, sentimental and emotionally charged. For a grown man to use this word, especially in contemplating her death, is anything but distanced or heartless. Miss this point, you risk misreading the entire novel.
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