08 February 2009

Translating from the French, or How might a human being put the same idea?

On the first page of the first chapter of his 2001 book The Flâneur, Edmund White describes La Défense as having gone ‘directly from being futuristic to being passé without ever seeming like a normal feature of the present’. He then goes on to say:

Honestly, instead of ‘like a normal feature of the present’ I almost wrote 'without ever being inscribed within the interior of the present'. That's how much I've been submerged in contemporary French nonfiction. I frequently have to stop and ask myself how a human being might put the same idea.
Obviously this is a bit of exaggeration for the sake of a bon mot, but as someone who does a fair bit of translation from French to English, and proofreading of texts translated from the French, I have to say that I find this absolutely hilarious. I am forever asking myself the very same question: just how would a human put that? Hmm...