Thursday, 15 August 2013

Translations

In Poul Anderson's "Peek! I See You!" (Homeward And Beyond, New York, 1976), when a galactic official interviews an Earthman, translation is necessary between two galactic languages and two Terrestrial languages. When the entire exchange is rendered into English for our benefit, we get some humorous effects. We also discern something of the personalities involved and wonder how much has been lost in translation.

In Interlingo-12: "'May I therefore initially request - request, mind you; we shall not compel you - request and advise that you relate to me in circumstantial detail what I wish to be apprised of, beginning with the events which led to your untoward arrival.'" (p. 57)

In Interlingo-7: "'He wants to know how the bum got here.'" (ibid.)

In Hopi: "'The honorable envoy of the Federation's guiding council asks what gods led hither the stranger's path...'" (ibid.)

In English: "'The pterodactyl character is a kind of inspector...He won't hurt you, but he would like to know a few things, like how come you stopped by.'" (p. 58)

CS Lewis generates a similar effect when his character Ransom translates from English into Old Solar:

"'...our commerce, and our transport system which is rapidly annihilating space and time. Our right to supersede you is the right of the higher over the lower.'"

becomes:

"'...he says we exchange many things among ourselves and can carry heavy weights very quickly a long way. Because of all this, he says it would not be the act of a bent hnau if our people killed all your people.'"

(CS Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy,London, 1990, p. 121)

Lewis' purpose is more serious but Anderson also addresses the question of how rational animals, hnau in Solar, should relate to each other. So far, the Galactic Federation has admitted one Pueblo Indian village but not the Americans, Russians, British, French etc.

5 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    But, as far as the Galactic Federation was concerned, Earth was merely an unimportant backwoods planet in the middle of nowhere important. The Hopi Indian village was recruited into the Federation simply because it was convenient to have a waystation where occasional Galactic ships would stop by for one reason or another.

    Sean

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  2. Yes, and the Indians were a lot less trouble than the Americans, Russians etc would have been!

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      Ha! That too! And a lot cheaper for Galactic Federation tax payers, who would otherwise have to foot part of the bill for bringing all Earth technologically up to date if the planet had been brought into the Federation.

      Sean

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  3. - which is what does happen at the end of the story, of course.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      Indeed! And I thought it was very amusing the means used by Sean F.X. Lindquist to bring about the entrance of Earth into the Galactic Federation. I had to laugh at how Poul Anderson used Flying Saucer believers to bring that about. And it was interesting how Anderson also showed how some FS believers were, within the terms of their beliefs, capable of being hard headed and shrewd.

      I'm also reminded of Christopher Buckley's satirical novel LITTLE GREEN MEN, about how a fading Washington, DC talk show host became convinced he had been abducted by aliens and what happened afterwards. A real laugh riot!

      Sean

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