Andrei Makine: Pardonnez mon français, non?
Michael Kimmelman, whom I've previously cited in Gypsy Scholar, has written a fascinating NYT article, "Pardon My French" (April 21, 2010), on the feared 'decline' of the elegant, elite French language -- feared by the French to be declining, though Mr. Kimmelman is more optimistic.
Foreign-born speakers, however, are taking over . . . for instance, a certain Andreï Makine, who initially encountered difficulties as a foreigner writing in French in France:
[T]o a contemporary writer like the Soviet-born Andreï Makine, who found political asylum here [in France] in 1987, French promises assimilation and a link to the great literary tradition of Zola and Proust. He recounted the story of how, 20-odd years ago, his first manuscripts, which he wrote in French, were rejected by French publishers because it was presumed that he couldn't write French well enough as a foreigner.Kimmelman has his own point to make, but I find amusing that the Germans and Serbians both wanted the 'original' Russian rather than the original French and that Makine had to stay up for two weeks writing nonstop to produce the 'original' Russian from the original French.
Then he invented the name of a translator, resubmitted the same works as if they were translations from Russian, and they won awards. He added that when his novel "Dreams of My Russian Summers" became a runaway best seller and received the Prix Goncourt, publishing houses in Germany and Serbia wanted to translate the book from its "original" Russian manuscript, so Mr. Makine spent two "sleepless weeks," he said, belatedly producing one. (page 2)
But perhaps there is something more original about a Russian-language edition of Dreams of My Russian Summers? I am curious. Which is better, the French original, or the Russian translation? For that matter, how are the German and Serbian translations from the 'original' Russian? Are they superior to the French original? And what of the English translation from the French Le testament français?
As I implied once before, I am lost among the translators . . .