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Re-Creation of a Recreation

A Comparative Study of Two English Translations of L'Ecume des Jours by Sophie de Nodrest

A Sensualist Approach to the Translations
The 'innocent' reader
The Title
Strangeness of the Translations
French Cultural Elements
Foreign Elements in the Original Work
The Translations As Distorting Mirrors
The Original Perception of L'Ecume des Jours
The Image of L'Ecume des Jours as Reflected in Mood Indigo
The Image of L'Ecume des Jours as Reflected in Froth on the Daydream
Context and Fidelity
The Collège of 'Pataphysics
Re Creation of a 'Langage Univers'
Re Creation of that Recreational 'Langage Univers'
Different readings of L'Ecume des Jours

IntroductionBack to top

In this dissertation, we will thus consider the two existing translations of L'Ecume des Jours in English, both in relation to each other and to the French original, trying to underline the strokes of genius as well as the drawbacks of each of them. This will enable us to decide, hopefully, what criteria are to be heeded to assess or translate successfully such a kind of work- i.e. a literary work in which language plays a prominent role, not as a mere tool for story-telling, but as the most striking feature and the very essence of the book.

The first translation, Froth on the Daydream, has been written by Stanley Chapman and was first published in 1967. As a matter of fact, there exist two versions of that translation, published only a few months apart. When we met him, Mr Chapman stressed the fact that the first one was only a draft and that only the second version should be considered as a 'finished good'. Strangely enough, though, the most recent edition is based on that first 'draft', hence its importance in our comparison. Besides, since it is the version that today's readers can have access to, we will refer mainly to this latest edition, pointing at the divergences when necessary. The second translation, Mood Indigo, has been written by John Sturrock and was published in 1968. However, Mr Sturrock insisted that the translation dated back to two or three years prior to its publication and had only lacked a publisher. He had translated it out of fondness for the novel, but it was not before S. Chapman's was published in England that he was contacted by Grove Press for the American market. Both were thus published at a time when L'Ecume des Jours enjoyed a tremendous success in France, selling thousands of copies and thereby compensating for its poor beginning twenty years earlier. Nevertheless, neither translation sold very well : in 1975, only 6000 copies of Mood Indigo had been sold in the USA, a derisory number compared to the million sold in that much smaller country that France is; besides, it has never been reprinted. Froth on the Daydream was slightly better received and has been regularly reprinted ever since. This may lead us to wonder whether this had to do with the translations per se or with their public.

Consequently, we will devote the first part of our study to the impact of those translations, that is to say to the way in which an English speaking reader must have perceived them. We will first consider their readability, then the image each of them gives of the original work, and lastly their aesthetics. We will then move on to a linguistic approach to support our comparison. To begin with, we will examine some basic processes of translation- i.e. transposition, or conversion, and modulation. Then, we will scrutinise the grammatical field, that is to say noun and verb determination and syntax. Next, we will concentrate on the lexical field, both in its syntactic and semantic aspects. Last but not least, we will decide which translation best fits Vian's 'langage-univers' i , and explore the motives of this better adequacy.

A Sensualist Approach to the TranslationsBack to top

To begin with, we will study Froth on the Daydream and Mood Indigo from an impressionist point of view, that is to say, we will try to evoke the different reactions triggered by each of these translations and to stress what elements might be responsible for these reactions. (The pages referred to in this dissertation will be given between brackets, with the abbreviations EJ for L'Ecume des Jours, when necessary, FD for Froth on the Daydream, FD' for the second version and MI for Mood Indigo.)

Obviously, a translation is intended to be read. Consequently, the readership is a very important parameter in the assessment of a translation. However, before the public- in this case the English speaking public- can have access to the translated novel, another reader intervenes: the translator. Indeed, the translator is the first reader of the book he is going to present to the public. It is not a coincidence that John Sturrock, the translator of Mood Indigo, should have translated L'Ecume des Jours because he had read and liked the book ; he was a reader first, then a translator. Accordingly, anybody reading a translation is in fact reading the translator's reading of the original work; in a way, it is a removed reading. Indeed, before the 'innocent' reader, the translator has deciphered- or tried to do so- the original, and produced what he deems to be a faithful equivalent in the target language, so that the innocent reader discovers the text through the eyes of the translator.

As a consequence, the first task- and duty- of the translator is to understand the text fully. As I. Finlay puts it, this 'involves understanding it to the same extent as would a native-speaker of that source language', and we may even add better than him, since a native speaker may be permitted not to elucidate an ambiguity in the text, whereas the translator has to shed light on it in order to translate the passage adequately. Translation is a reading in detail.

Jouve states that 'reading (...) is a work of deciphering', and he adds that 'the novelistic reading abides by the principle of pertinence: the need to understand, the interpretative instinct are present in every reader' iv , but it is even truer for translation and translators. Indeed, it is an activity that involves a close study of the text so that one may be able to identify those different kinds of meaning, and then to transfer them all- or at least as many as possible- in the target language. But here appears one of the many pitfalls of translation: it has to be as accurate as possible and to render every nuance that is in the original text, and yet, the resources of the target language seldom allow the translator to reproduce the effects of ambiguity, multiple meaning or intertextuality, for instance. Therefore, the translator has to 'plump one out of several connotations and thus his rendering becomes an interpretation , whether he likes or not'. And this interpretation may at times be questioned; the frontier between unavoidable and abusive interpretation is hard to define.

Besides, the search for the thought behind the words is often illusory owing to its being very arbitrary: how can one decide what the author- especially when the latter is dead- meant when he wrote such expression as he chose, apart from the most obvious, the most basic signification of that expression? In the case of Boris Vian in general, and of L'Ecume des Jours in particular, the problem is outstandingly difficult, since some of his plays on words are rather obscure; in some cases, one cannot be sure whether he is confronted with a mere demonstration of fantasy or with an elaborate play on words- for instance on page 40, when Colin hesitates before his rendez-vous as to where he will take Chloé, and evokes the 'courses de veaux' or when he rejects the idea of Saint-Lazare station because 'il n'y a plus que des brouettes et pas un seul train'... The translator in those cases cannot do as the French speaking reader does, who, although puzzled by what he reads, can go on reading. The translator has to make a choice and decide what the English speaking reader will be allowed to discover and/or understand. In a word, the translator orients the innocent reader's reading.

The 'innocent' readerBack to top

As we have seen, the English speaking reader discovers the text through the crib of the translator's eyes, his reading is conditioned from the start, all the more so when he is aware that he is reading a translation. P.-L. Rey writes that 'the illusion [of the world created in a novel] implies the reader's complicity. (...) Battling alone with the text of the stories, the reader impresses on them the rhythm of his daydreaming and can turn them over at his leisure.

However, here, the reader is not alone, or at least, he is not alone with the same text as the translator was; he is confronted with a text that already bears a reader's imprint. P.-L. Rey then goes on to oppose the reader to the cinema-goer, who is dictated his mental images by the director's choice. Well, we may compare the translator to the director: in a lesser way, the translator also influences the reader's mental representation. For instance, Colin's complexion is said to be 'doré[e]' (EJ 7), but becomes 'radiant' in Froth on the Daydream (9), and 'golden' in Mood Indigo (7), or again, his 'complet beige' (26) becomes either a 'camel suit' (FD 34) or a 'beige suit' (MI 28). Necessarily, the reader does not have the same images according to the translation he happens to be reading, which is the perfect illustration of the influence of the translator's own reading and subsequent choices.

[...] Can the differences found between our two translations be accounted for by a difference in the targeted readership? The fact that John Sturrock translated L'Ecume des Jours for his pleasure whereas Stanley Chapman translated it at the request of a publisher cannot but be influential on the result. We may think that the numerous puns to be found in Froth on the Daydream, as well as the overall lightness of tone, were intended to make the book attractive to a larger public, and thus serve its mercantile purpose, whereas Mood Indigo only suited his translator's inclination. Similarly, although this will be studied later in this dissertation, we can already note that S. Chapman's version(s) may be of an easier access since he tends to transform French cultural elements into specifically British ones- a game of 'marelle' (29) has been turned into a game of 'cricket' (FD 37), for instance. Still, in both cases, the more cultivated the reader is, the more fully he appreciates this novel, just like a French reader for the original work. As a matter of fact, the intended reader is eventually less influential on the translation than the translator himself.

The TitleBack to top

The first feature that drew our attention at the beginning of our study was the difference in the translation of the titles. Indeed, those chosen by S. Chapman and by J. Sturrock respectively had nothing in common. 'Froth on the Daydream' was echoing the French title, whereas 'Mood Indigo' could not be immediately linked to 'L'Ecume des Jours.

We looked for an explanation of the French title, in order to assess the different rendering in English, and we encountered G. Bridet's, for whom the word 'écume' designs 'the fragility of human life and the impossibility to fathom its meaning'. The characters' happiness is only an appearance, something that remains at the surface, just like 'l'écume'. Additionally, the novel only captures 'l'écume du malheur', that is to say its surface manifestation and the interpretation of this 'parable' remains open to the reader's mind. I. Finlay states that 'titles (...) are often difficult or impossible to translate literally', and yet, 'Froth on the Daydream' is very close to the original's words. It could be back translated as something like 'L'Ecume de la Rêverie'. Indeed, one of the meanings of 'froth' is 'a mass of bubbles of air or gas in a liquid', and 'froth' is given as the second possible translation for 'écume' in the bilingual Robert and Collins Dictionary. Besides, for an English speaking reader, 'froth' evokes the beginning of a poem by Adam Lindsay Gordon:

Life is mostly froth and bubble
Two things stand like stone
Kindness in another's trouble
Courage in your own.

As for 'daydreams', it deviates to some extent from 'jours', yet includes the latter in its morphology (days). Consequently, the notion of surface manifestation remains, although with a slight shift of emphasis. Nevertheless, according to R. Whyte, the English title does not have the 'sad heroic nuance of the book and French phrase', and for him, it has been one of the biggest barrier to the success of the book. As for him, he suggested the title 'Chloe', in reference to a song by Duke Ellington, the other title of which is 'Song of the Swamp', as an evocation of the sadness and loss of the book.

On the contrary, 'Mood Indigo' has nothing to do with the original words. 'Mood Indigo' is also the title of a melancholy song by Duke Ellington, the name of which occurs several times in the novel, and which echoes the jazzy rhythm of the original work and the world in which Boris Vian moved (See I. 3. i). We must notice, however, that this is not the title chosen by Mr Sturrock. His publishers were the ones who decided of the title, maybe in an attempt to integrate the book in the American culture. This contrasts with the general trend of the novel, which rather tends to be literal, and it is a pity that Mr Sturrock was not able to remember his original title, to see whether it was more in agreement with his general strategy.

Once the reader has been attracted to the book because of its title and/or cover, he will flick through it and here appears another component of its appeal: the 'visual apprehension' of the text. For J. and C. Demanuelli, this includes the interplay between the whiteness of the page and the blackness of the letters, they analyse it as a way of 'staging' the text. Consequently, it has to be taken into account and the original choices must be observed. The disposition of the different chapters, for instance, must be respected. In L'Ecume des Jours, they are announced with Roman numerals, and they are positioned one after the other, without page breaks. And yet, no translation presents them in such a way: in the Penguin Books Froth on the Daydream and in Mood Indigo, they do occur one after the other, on the same page, but they are headed with Arabic numerals; as for the Quarter Book edition of Froth on the Daydream, the Roman numerals have reappeared, but there is a page break between each chapter. Both Arabic numerals and page breaks facilitate the reading, yet it would be interesting to know what Vian's original choices were, since in many instances, he deliberately chose to use learned terms instead of their everyday counterpart. Anyway, neither translation heeded that feature of the original.

Lastly, before buying or borrowing a book, the reader will have a look at the peritext- i.e., the blurb, a possible introduction by the translator, a presentation of the author or of the novel, and/or an introduction by the novelist himself. Once again, the clearest way of comparing the different editions is to use a tabular form. However, we may already note that neither translator wrote a foreword stating his position as regards translation and justifying the choices he had to make. And yet, P. Newmark is right in saying that translators should write a preface, explaining how they have treated the work, how they have interpretated any controversial key-terms, and, when appropriate, where and why their translation differs from previous ones- a translated novel without a translator's preface ought to be a thing of the past, and therefore the preface as well as the work should draw the reviewer's attention.

This would occasionally enable the innocent reader to get another light on a particular point, and this would give him an idea of the complexity of the original work, by underlining the litigious points. In a word, he would be less dependent on the translator's interpretation. The perfect example of a good introduction of that kind is the one to be found in Le Nouveau Testament, by J. Grosjean. As we have seen, one translation has a rather enigmatic title- as enigmatic as the French original, a moderately attractive cover- if we consider only the latest edition, a layout facilitating the reader's approach, and a mediocre peritext, except for the contextualisation of the novel. As for the other, its title is also somewhat puzzling, although reminiscent of the title of a song, its cover very neuter, its layout easy and its peritext absent. This is quite surprising since [accortding to R. Whyte] 'books on Vian [and by Vian] for English readers are so rare that their authors seem always obliged to 'start again' introducing Vian to a readership where he is virtually unknown'. We may conclude that both translations are put at a disadvantage by all those elements. Still, we must add that the French 10/18 edition was not shown to advantage either, yet not at a disadvantage either.

Strangeness of the TranslationsBack to top

Yet another parameter in the study of a translation is its potential strangeness. The latter depends first on the number of elements typical to the source language present in the original, then on the number of foreign elements also originally present, and more significantly, on the orientation of the translation- source- versus target- oriented.

The translator can choose to give a change of scenery to the potential reader - a choice of alienation, or to bring the text into the latter's culture - a choice of naturalisation. Both solutions may appeal to the readers, for different reasons: in the first case, the reader discovers the charms of another culture, whereas in the second case, he finds familiar features, which is a recognised source of pleasure. Notwithstanding, it is a problem for the translator to decide the degree to which the cultural expression is to be explained (...), which may range from not at all (leaving the readers to calculate the meaning from a combination of the linguistic context and from their own reading in the [source language] culture) through a few hints to a full explanation in terms of functional (neutral) or even [target language] cultural equivalent.

Another solution is the footnote, considered by some as 'the translator's shame', but frequently used in reliable translations such as that of The Three Sisters by D. Magarshack- on page 123, for instance, the latter explains a symbolical phrase in Russian that is meaningless in English.

French Cultural ElementsBack to top


To begin with, let us examine the names to be found in L'Ecume des Jours and their translations. L. Forster thinks that '[a] name is a linguistic element like any other, and the author is entitled to use it for its associative value (...). But names resist translation, and thereby their evocative value is lost..

What is interesting is that we have been confronted with two radically different strategies, as regards names: S. Chapman translated or adapted most of them, whereas J. Sturrock kept the original ones. Therefore, we may wonder what becomes of their 'evocative value', especially in the first case. Another bone of contention is to decide whether changing the names of the protagonists should be considered as a justified case of adaptation or as a betrayal of the novel. As P.-L. Rey puts it, '[t]he names of the characters of a novel (...) can be the concern of a relation with the novelist himself, or with reality, but also of the relations they bear with one another in a novel, if not from a novel to another'. Consequently, when Mr Chapman introduces the anagram of the word 'asylum' as the name of one of the main characters, we may fear that he is disturbing a fragile relationship unnecessarily. Similarly, 'Pomiane' appears in another of Vian's work, so its disappearance in Froth on the Daydream entails the disappearance of a possibly meaningful intertextuality. However, we cannot but notice that many puns are lost in Mood Indigo, which are compensated for in Froth on the Daydream, and it seems to us that this impoverishment is more detrimental than S. Chapman's modifications and/or additions.

Cultural Motifs:

'Is strange what the speaker considers not to have any direct link with him (what is not from his country, or family, what he has no notion of, etc.)'. Ergo, in the elements that render the translation strange to the eyes of the English- speaking reader, we can list the importance of food, which cannot be obliterated, since in a translation, there cannot be any thematic variations, but which nevertheless creates an unfamiliar atmosphere. This importance is made obvious by the occupation of Nicolas, the recipes that he reads to Colin, and the many meals that we are shown, for a start. Likewise, the reference to the 'marelle' (29) mentioned supra, or that to A la Salade may disorientate a reader unused to the French culture, but here, S. Chapman transformed them into a reference to 'cricket' (FD 37) and Roll Me Over (217), whereas J. Sturrock kept 'hopscotch' (MI 32) and A la Salade (188). The second is doubly unfamiliar for the English speaking reader, since he does not necessarily understand those references, and because the original situations were already 'strange': two 'terrassiers' are playing hopscotch, and 'A la Salade' applies to a coffin... Thus, to the question whether the translator is to bring out the strangeness of the original, or to convey the author's image by using a parallel one within the conventions familiar to his target culture, our two translators have different answers: J. Sturrock makes the translation marginally stranger than the original, whereas S. Chapman makes it much less so.

At the frontier between untranslatable cultural motif and translatable feature, we find the references to the metric system, as in page 13 with 'vingt centilitres ' or in page 62 with 'une baie de cinquante centimètres de haut qui courait sur toute la longueur du mur à un mètre vingt du sol environ'. In Mood Indigo, we read 'twenty centiliters ' (14), unsurprisingly, but 'a bay window two feet high... about four foot ten from the floor' (sic) (67), which is not very coherent. As for the other translation, it reads respectively 'seventy-five milligallons ' (15) and 'a window two feet high... four feet ten from the floor' (80), more coherently, and once again seeking a better integration into the British culture of the time.

Language usage:

By the same token, we can evoke the French distinction between 'tu'- the colloquial form of address- and 'vous'- the formal one. Since the British/Americans do not have the same distinction, it will be interesting to have a look at its renderings, and to assess their degree of integration in the target culture. Colin and Chloe, for instance, start with 'vous' but go on with 'tu', from Chapter XXIII onward, that is to say after their wedding. In both translations, no difference at all is made between those two stages of their relationship; an important nuance of the original work has been lost. Yet, the most meaningful instance of that opposition can be found in the dialogues between Colin and Nicolas. The former uses 'vous', whereas the latter uses the third person of the singular to address his employer. Colin then becomes annoyed with that form of address, and on page 23, for the only time of the book, Nicolas uses 'vous' to answer to Colin's reproach. Next, from page 47, there is an alternation between the moments when Nicolas considers he is working, in which case he uses the third person, and when he is not, and uses 'tu', while Colin always uses 'tu'. Lastly, from Chapter XLI, Nicolas uses nothing but 'tu', because formalities have become obsolete since everything goes wrong in Colin's life. In the translations, the only difference made is between the third person and 'you'. Subsequently, when Nicolas suggests 'si on se tutoyait?' (47), Mood Indigo and Froth on the Daydream read 'Shall we call each other by our first names?' (50), which is the agreed equivalence, given by any dictionary, while Froth on the Daydream' offers 'Shall we kick all the other formalities down the fire escape too?' (52). Once again, the original work has been impoverished since the contrasts have disappeared, and only Froth on the Daydream' somewhat tries to compensate for that loss by introducing a playful suggestion in Nicolas' mouth. Notwithstanding, this defuses the strangeness of both translations for a reader with an English culture.


Last but not least, we may add another disturbing element for a British/American reader, which arises from the difference between the two languages and turns of mind. According to L. W. Tancock, 'the French are self-consciously intellectuals in their regard for the niceties of construction and grammatical logic and purity'; besides, according to J. Darbelnet, French is more abstract than English. Therefore, the English-speaking reader cannot but be a little troubled by those translations, who necessarily reproduce that strange reasoning, all the more so since Vian plays with that tendency and mocks scientific/rhetoric discourses by keeping the traditional structure but filling it with farcical elements (we only have to refer to the foreword!).

Foreign Elements in the Original WorkBack to top

Let us now consider the many anglicisms to be found in L'Ecume des Jours; indeed, according to their translation their could help render the translation more familiar to the reader.

the frenchifying of pronunciation/orthography: - baise bol (154) ' screwball (FD 194) (disappearance of the justification of the pun, yet lexical jugglery and sexual overtones remain) / ' base ball (MI 169) (disappearance of the whole pun)
morphological transfer from English: - les au-courants (73) ' the really turned-on group (FD 93) / ' the ones in the know (MI 79) - les tards-venus (74) ' the late-comers (FD 94) / ' the latecomers (MI 80)
lexical transfer from English: - plexiglas (11) ' perspex (FD 13) / ' plexiglas (MI 11) - hot (13) ' Id. (FD & MI) - sweat shirt (18) ' tee-shirt (FD 22) / ' sweat shirt (MI 19) - grapefruit (24) ' Id. (FD & MI) - Douglas (152) ' Id. (FD & MI)
semantic transfer from English: - Le cri du Patron (75) ' His Martyred Void (FD 96) (equivalent pun) / ' His Master's Voice (MI 82) (total disappearance of the pun)

Back to top

As we can see, all those anglicisms have been integrated into the target-culture, thus neutralising this aspect of L'Ecume des Jours, which alienated to some degree the French reader. However, Froth on the Daydream managed to keep some of the original puns.

The Translations As Distorting MirrorsBack to top

This leads us to concentrate on the image of the original work reflected by each translation and on the feelings they trigger in the reader. A literary work 'has its peculiar aroma, or consistency, or texture, which the translator must try to transmit', but a translation necessarily distorts this aroma; as we have seen above, for instance all anglicisms have disappeared, without being replaced by anything. In fact, two persons- the two translators- have construed a same text and a same world differently, and we must wonder which one is closer to Boris Vian's universe, i.e. what picture is more faithful to the original one.

Furthermore, the question arises whether the reader should be aware that he is reading a translation, or whether he should have the illusion that he is reading a work directly thought and written in English. We come back to the ancestral opposition between clear-glass and coloured-glass translations.

The 'clear glass translation' ought to convey the impression that the text we are reading was thought and expressed directly in our own contemporary language and uses the normal resources of that language (...). The 'coloured glass' version is intended to read like a translation; the reader must not be allowed to forget that what he is reading is foreign in origin and that it is one of its essential qualities.'

This particularly raises the problem of intertextuality, when we can find deliberate allusions to other works, echoes or even parodies in the original novel or story. The translator can make it clear that here we have a quotation, (...) but in so doing he will shatter the illusion of the reader (...) or he can manipulate his French literary echo or quotation so as to make it sound like something from Shakespeare. (...) In the first case he destroys the illusion (...) but truth is intact. In the second, truth is sacrificed, and [the translator] has put in some invention of his own and deceived the reader, but he will possibly have kept the illusion.

Actually, the footnote permits not to break the illusion, by allowing any equivalence in the body of the text, while preserving and presenting the truth in a note. Thus, in the aforementioned translation of Chekhov's The Three Sisters, on page 121, the translator has replaced two lines from Pushkin's epilogue to Ruslan and Lyudmila with two lines from 'Kubla Khan', and justifies his choice in a note, explaining that the Russian reference would be meaningless to an English audience, whereas the British one both conveys approximately the same symbolical meaning and will be more easily recognised. Such notes are rather frequent in that book. However, as regards the translation of L'Ecume des Jours, neither translator chose to put a footnote when necessary, nor to keep the original echoes. Those have mostly disappeared in Froth on the Daydream, and totally so in Mood Indigo. The satirical references to Claudel, for instance- 'Suppôt de Satin'/Soulier de Satin (123) in particular-, have been erased, becoming a mere insult in both translations. The hint to Alfred Jarry's work thanks to 'bouffre' (23 & 33) or 'merdre' has disappeared in both as well, but in Froth on the Daydream the allusion is merely moved to page 102 of the translation, with Colin's 'phynances'. Hence, as we can see, the aroma of the original novel has not been respected at all in Mood Indigo and only partially in Froth on the Daydream, in this matter.

The Original Perception of L'Ecume des JoursBack to top

Before examining more closely the 'mirror' image rendered by the two translations, let us start with the original perception of what Raymond Queneau baptised 'the most heartbreakingly poignant modern love story ever written'. When reading L'Ecume des Jours for the first time, we are first overcome by a feeling of joyfulness and lightness, but then the atmosphere is perverted and everything turns to despair. The mood of the book goes from joy to pain, from light to darkness, from comedy to tragedy. This is made obvious by thematic motifs, like the stress on colours: yellow and green at the beginning, grey and blue in the end, but also by the tone of the novel. Puns are much more abundant in the first half of the book than in the second one; at the beginning they underline the absence of gravity, and their gradual disappearance goes together with the darkening of the atmosphere. The language thus reflects this evolution towards tragedy. Nonetheless, the wonder of ideas and imagination and the delight in language are present to the end. Indeed, Vian belonged to the Collège of 'Pataphysics, an organisation that was interested in imaginary creations, and for whom the authenticity of words was unimportant. Only the exultation resulting from playing with things matters, which shows in the fact that everything in the novel is turned into playthings.

Besides, rhythm is a prime mover of this book. Boris Vian was a keen musician and he loved jazz music. This feature of his character can be found in his novels: not only do streets in the novel we are studying bear the names of famous jazzmen, but also the rhythm of the text itself is reminiscent of jazz music. Significantly, two chapters are written with a very precise meter: Chapter XVI is mostly built on heptasyllables (EJ 47/48) and Chapter XXXII is made up of paragraphs of octosyllables, heptasyllables and pentasyllables. Moreover, we find a very clear alternation of long and short sentences in many places, which creates a dynamic rhythm. This adds to the jocose tone of the beginning, but also to the tragic one in the end since the rapid course of events thus appears to be ineluctable.

One of the most famous features of the Rabelaisian burlesque is preciseness in the fantastic , and this is also a characteristic feature of L'Ecume des Jours, which helps create a universe unique to itself in a very convincing way, in which buildings atrophy, for example. This is also why Vian is 'a superbly imaginative writer, capable of creating images which linger in the memory long after the book is finished'. Indeed, all those minute details give a realistic touch to our mental picture of this novel. And yet, this picture comprises many surprising elements; ergo, when encountering strange elements in one of the translations, we must be careful to decide whether their strangeness must be ascribed to Boris Vian's imagination or to their translation per se. Accordingly, it will be most interesting to study the rendering of this brisk and minute style in English, to see if the impact is also one of amusing horror, of moving whimsicality, in the image of the last scene of the book, in which the little mouse commits suicide by asking a cat to eat her, out of compassion for Colin...

The Image of L'Ecume des Jours as Reflected in Mood IndigoBack to top

To begin with, we can already say that John Sturrock's translation seems to adopt a sourcerer approach, as we will see more in detail in Parts II, III and IV. Indeed, Mr Sturrock chose to keep the French cultural elements in his translation, leaving it to the reader to 'do the necessary homework' to decipher them. But further than this, he also tends to keep the same sentence constructions or word roots- he frequently resorts to words of Latin origin, for instance ( Where we find 'need' in Froth on the Daydream, on page 33, for example, there is 'require' in Mood Indigo, on page 28- see IV. 2.). As a consequence, his translation sounds rather scholarly, and thus addresses a more exclusively learned readership.
Nevertheless, far from creating the same impression as the original, this rendering exudes melancholy and misery almost from the start. The reader is overwhelmed by a gloomy atmosphere as if the desolation of the end had perverted the whole book. This may come from the fact that when translating the book, the translator was not an innocent reader any more: he knew the end. Hence, this different atmosphere would result from his reading of the book: the only emotion here recalled is the sadness of the end, and not the jocundity of the beginning. Indeed, most puns have disappeared, and, where possible, Mr Sturrock has normalised the text, that is to say, the English reader encounters fewer word creations than the French reader and fewer oddities. Therefore, the English reader cannot observe the decrescendo present in the French version- decrescendo when talking about happiness and insouciance, crescendo when talking about downheartedness. This poor reader curiously finds himself right away in as gloomy an atmosphere as in a novel by Thomas Hardy!
Lastly, this translation is very smooth, unlike the original work, so full of ambiguities, that is to say, there is not much room for interpretation; to this end, the sentences tends to be slightly shorter, and the transitions clearer, with more logical links and connectors. The disappearance of most word creations, so typical of Boris Vian's prose, also increases this smoothness: those creations are replaced with existing more or less generic terms, with an acknowledged meaning, thereby robbing the imagination of its role in the reading of this work. The only instances open to interpretation from the part of the reader are maybe the puzzling puns translated literally, and which have thus lost all meaning and justification- see for instance the 'petits fours' on the 'Hercynian tray' (37) as the counterpart of those presented on a 'plateau hercynien' (34), which is a diaphora based on the double meaning of the word 'plateau'- both a 'tray', that is right, but also a 'plateau', when talking about a geological feature. The same problem occurs with the literal taking of French stock expressions- see for instance the development on 'exécuter une ordonnance'. We will come back to this in Part IV, but we can already say that this does not function as it should, since stock expressions differ between the two languages, so that some of these comical developments have no reason for being any more. The translation thus probably seems weird to an English speaking reader, but not weird in the sense that French readers must have perceived L'Ecume des Jours; indeed, in the French original, most oddities can be accounted for in one way or another, their mechanisms can be exposed, whereas here, they proceed from the literal translation of an ingenuous device that does not work in English. This phenomenon, added to the abundance of words of Latin origin, seems to draw this translation toward a coloured-glass translation, that is to say one in which the reader is aware-or made aware- that the text under his eyes was not written directly in his language.

Fauré suggests that '[m]aybe the young Americans simply lack[ed] the experience of May 1968, which could make them aware of the prophetic dimension of Vian's work', to explain the failure of the book in the USA. Indeed, several French critics thought that 'Vian [was] the author of the liberation par excellence, in the broad as well as in the narrow sense. The libertarian emergence of the 60s constituted, with a twenty-year gap, a cultural environment to his liking'. However, we may more simply judge that this prophetic and libertarian- prophetic and libertarian because innovatory- aspect of Boris Vian's work has mostly disappeared in Mood Indigo, and that this translation was too depressing to attract the favours of the public. Therefore, we may conclude that the gloomy image of L'Ecume des Jours in Mood Indigo's distorting mirror strongly contrasts with the original picture.

The Image of L'Ecume des Jours as Reflected in Froth on the DaydreamBack to top

The first thing that must be noted is that Froth on the Daydream is a very fluid translation, with a flowing style. At the outset, this version seems easier to read, as if intended for a less cultivated readership than Mood Indigo's and L'Ecume des Jours's.

For a start, we have already seen that S. Chapman had chosen to turn many specifically French references into British ones, subsequently rendering the book more easy to assimilate for an English speaking reader- see I. 1. iii. Moreover, most of the very numerous technical terms present in the French novel- sometimes so learned that one wonders whether they are Vian's creations or real terms belonging to a specific field- have been replaced with everyday words. For instance, 'l'hyposulfite de soude' (64) has become 'bicarbonate of soda' (FD 82), and the 'servo-frein' (73) a 'Turkish Delight' and a 'Mud Guard' (FD 94). Besides, as we noted when evoking Mood Indigo, Froth on the Daydream favours non Latin terms, which makes the text sound more 'English'- see I. 2. ii. & IV. 2. Likewise, the sentences are much shorter- see III. 3. iii, and, even more than in Mood Indigo, the connectors more numerous. Consequently, we may be induced to think it an easy reading, thereby presenting the original work as an easier book than it is, maybe. R. Whyte maintains that 'exaggerated sympathy for the content makes up for the deficiencies in technical knowledge', and in this case, we may wonder whether the simplification of the lexicon and syntax results from a choice or not. Even so, we must admit that Mr Chapman gives us a delightful book to read, and a book that does not read like a translation, in agreement with Oscar Wilde's ideal.

What is more, when reading the book more closely, we discover many subtleties that might escape the inattentive reader. Multiple readings of this translation make it possible to discover additional puns or witticisms every time, such as the 'mudguard' transformed into a 'Mud Guard' (FD 94). In fact, this translation is very innovating and matches Boris Vian's word creations and word plays, for instance. Indeed, when possible, Mr Chapman keeps the original puns, but he does not hesitate to erase or transform one if it does not mean anything any more in English, unlike Mr Sturrock. In addition, to compensate for the ones he could not translate in situ, he introduces new puns where there was none in French. For instance, we find a new zeugma- which also triggers an anacoluthon- on page 158, with 'armchairs, legchairs, con soles and heels and other pieces of furniture'. As a consequence, J.K.L. Scott derides S. Chapman's translation as being 'too jocular'. Still, in this translation as in L'Ecume des Jours, there can be observed a decrescendo of word plays and of fantasy, proving that S. Chapman respects the original design of the work. Indeed, the Literary Review calls it 'a comic nightmare of good intentions gone from bad to worse', while the Irish Times deems it to be 'charming, playful and tragic', which perfectly applies to the original French novel as well.

It will be obvious from this subpart that we have more enjoyed our reading of Froth on the Daydream than that of Mood Indigo, from the point of view of an 'innocent' reader- as innocent as we could be, that is to say when trying to read it for pleasure, without comparing it with L'Ecume des Jours-, as well as from the point of view of an informed reader. Nevertheless, in this study, we have tried not to be partial and to underline the qualities and flaws of both translations alike.

Context and FidelityBack to top

As we have already noted, the translator has a responsibility both toward the author and the work he is planning to translate and toward the readers whose native tongue is the target language. This responsibility arises from the fact that the translator acts as an intermediary in the usually privileged relationship author-reader, and it is all the greater when no other translation is available. Subsequently, the duty of the translator is to understand the book and its author, hence the necessity for him to have some knowledge of the context of the writing of that work.

The Collège of 'PataphysicsBack to top

In the case of Boris Vian, the first element that must be taken into account is his interest in language. In Robert Whyte's words, Vian belonged 'to a tradition of eccentric imagination often involving quasi-scientific ruminations'. This is particularly true for him since he had been awarded his diploma at the 'Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufacture', and was thus an engineer, i.e. a scientist. Although he did not like working as an engineer, he retained a taste for scientific experiments... applied to language and literature- this sheds light on the importance of the 'mathematical treatment of language (...) in Vian's 'espace littéraire''. A further proof of his interest in language experiments is his involvement in the Collège of 'Pataphysics. This Collège was established in memory of Jarry, to advance the 'Science of Imaginary Solutions', to further the study of exceptions to the rule and to develop original thought having no practical application. A good part of Vian's researches at the Collège was directed to the semantic analysis and remotivation of idioms, clichés and proverbs.

Besides, we must remember that the peritext of Froth on the Daydream presents Vian as a surrealist writer. All this gives us a clue of the importance of words in L'Ecume des Jours, first, and of that of creation and imagination- in fact, of the importance of the materiality of the text. Accordingly, the global disappearance of the verbal fantasy in Mood Indigo means the disappearance of one of the main features of the book and of the author. J. Sturrock has impoverished the text, made it lose its relief. Necessarily, we cannot but assimilate this to a betrayal of the original work; Boris Vian himself noted 'il n'y a pas de mystère dans les mots. J'aime bien jouer avec. C'est pitoyable la peur que les gens ont des mots: ils se laissent dominer par eux'. Maybe J. Sturrock has not been brave enough... As regards the slight increase of verbal fantasy in Froth on the Daydream, we can probably account for it as the will to compensate for the fantasy lost in the silence interpolated between the languages...

Similarly, we may just mention another intellectual 'trick' at work in L'Ecume des Jours: intertextuality. We have seen above that this aspect has been completely deleted in both translations, although these allusions are deliberate from the author's part and although they are part of the charm of the book for a French reader. We may wonder whether notes or equivalent allusions would not have better preserved the flavour of the original work.

GeographyBack to top

Being aware of the context of the writing of the book is also essential in order to decipher the importance of the setting of the novel- Paris. Indeed, at the time Boris Vian was the darling of St Germain-des-Prés- the centre of left-bank Paris in the immediate after-war-, and also one of its prime movers, as a journalist-publicist-writer-jazz musician! And in L'Ecume des Jours, we can observe that the setting is a blend of real life Paris and of a fictional Jazztown: the 'patinoire Molitor' (16), 'hôpital St louis' (sic), 'musée du Louvre', and 'gare St Lazare' (40) can be found on a map of Paris, whereas 'avenue Louis-Armstrong' (10) or 'rue Jimmy-Noone' (113) cannot.

Faithful to its sourcerer orientation, J. Sturrock has kept the original names, both the real and the fictional ones. S. Chapman, on the contrary, has changed most of the real ones: the 'Rinkspot Skating Club' (20), 'Cobblered Vic', 'Old Witch', 'Mittish Bruiseum' and 'Whiskeyloo' (50) have replaced them. All those names are in fact puns made up from famous places in London - Old and New Vic, British Museum and Waterloo. Here, not only does Mr Chapman introduces new puns where there was none, but he also shifts the setting from one capital to another. This is coherent with his targeteer choice yet we may question the suitability of this modification, because of the context. What is more, we must note that Paris (44) has remained Paris(55), thus creating an incoherence; instead of having a city half imaginary half real, we have one that is half imaginary half deformed and bears the name of another!!

[Trnslation strategies]Back to top

We have already caught a brief glimpse of each approach supra : sourcerer for Mood Indigo and targeteer for Froth on the Daydream; let us thus just recall those strategies more clearly.

Froth on the Daydream :

Choice: for Mr Chapman, felicity is more important than fidelity ; he wants the English speaking reader to enjoy himself and to feel at ease when reading his book.

Means: - addition of elements: new puns compensating for the lost ones + gratuitous details (the precision 'parched dry' when evoking Partre (FD 98) or 'unusual' to qualify 'this light' (83), which was self sufficient in L'Ecume des Jours (65), for examples) - deletion of elements: the last paragraph in chapter LX (EJ 163) has been totally removed, for instance (FD 205), as well as the 'injures' received by Colin and Chloé in L'Ecume des Jours (EJ 61; FD 78), for instance. - distortion of thematic pattern: ' honteux d'être si riche' (46) becomes ' happy that he was so rich' (56), ' sur le perron' (58) ' halfway up the stairs' (75), or 'se ruèrent sur lui' (75) 'rushed to his aid ' (96), among many others. - idiolectal English

Result: - highly enjoyable to read and study, hectic yet coherent - unfaithful in many places

Kind of reading: Mr Chapman enables the reader to have a 'naive' reading , since he brings about the suspense, by creating a light atmosphere in the beginning, which does not unveil what follows.

Most prominent side: 'artistic' side of translation

Mood Indigo :

Choice: Mr Sturrock respects every word of the original work; for him, unlike for Mr Chapman, fidelity is more important than felicity.

Means: - no addition nor deletion of elements - a counterpart for every element of the original text, in agreement with L. W. Tancock, who states that 'it is essential that every element in the original text be represented in translation'. - preservation of the puns that survive the language gap - Latin words + syntactic calques

Result: - sadder and more sober than L'Ecume des Jours - very coherent in its choices, except for the title, but the latter was not chosen by the translator.

Kind of reading: 'informed' reading- i.e. the atmosphere is perverted by that of the end, and thus foreshadows it even for an innocent reader.

Most prominent side: 'scientific' side of translation. 'When you have your equivalent from the point of view of meaning, construction and general suitability (...), you begin on atmosphere. And this at once becomes a personal affair, a matter of intuition, perhaps even of art'. Maybe Mr Sturrock stopped too early to render L'Ecume des Jours satisfactorily...

Re Creation of a 'Langage Univers'Back to top

In our previous parts, we have seen that the two translators had radically different strategies to render Boris Vian's masterpiece in English. This can be observed at every level, intuitively as well as concretely, and in every field of our study. In this last part, we will thus examine why exactly one of the two translations appeals so much more to us than the other one, that is to say what are the basic principles behind the two sets of diverse facts we have noted. Last but not least, we will inquire into the possibility that those different principles might ensue from the adoption of two opposite kinds of reading, following a distinction established by R. Barthes in Le Plaisir du Texte.

To begin with, we will consider how L'Ecume des Jours can be assimilated both to a poem and a recreation , before stressing how and why one translation can be similarly considered and the other not at all.

A poem (...) is the succession of experiences- sounds, images, thoughts, emotions- through which we pass when reading or listening impressionably and exerting our imagination in the act of re-creation.'
If we follow this definition of a poem, then L'Ecume des Jours is undoubtedly one. Indeed, this is one of the most prominent features of the book- the abundance of sensual images (auditory, gustative, olfactory, tactile and visual) and emotions, enhanced or rather created by Vian's particular use of language. Besides, rhythm and sound patterns are also primordial in a poem, and they too have a particular significance in the book, as we have seen above. Many passages are alliterative, as on page 50, for instance, where we find a concentration of fricatives- 'Et quator z e Enfants de Foi, dit le Religieux fièrement. Le Chuich e fit un long siff lement: «Fuuiiouou... »', while others are built with a particular meter. Therefore, it is not a surprise that we should find a critical book on Vian in the 'Poètes d'Aujourd'hui' collection of the Pierre Segher editions, and not only because of those of his works that adopt the canonical form of poems...

Additionally, the style of L'Ecume des Jours displays inventiveness, heterogeneity, insolence and ' ludisme ' that makes it a delight to read- a true recreation. According to J. Bens, 'Boris Vian's world'- this recreation so entrancing- 'is entirely based on language, that is to say is born from it and finds every one of its justifications in it. Thus the Verb has really become God'.

As for him, J. Clouzet notes that Vian 'never threw a word on paper which he had not previously mastered, of which he had not find the true signification, the one that our ' laisser-écrire ' conceals all too often'. Thus the Verb reigns over Boris Vian's world, and Vian over the Verb. In particular, like Rabelais, he 'shows us the 'frozen words' 'thawing out''. This is why J. Bens can talk about a ' langage univers' (my italics); this universe is that of ' loufoquerie ', a loufoquerie that might be defined as follow:
'Loufoquerie ' consists in a way of telling everything as if the language, without having to conform to a reality independent from it, was creating its own universe (...). Mainly verbal at the origin, this humour ends up becoming almost a philosophy and a way of living. The 'loufoques ' live in a special world where the word is king (...).

As we can see, every critics agrees about the role of cornerstone of the word in Boris Vian's work, hence in L'Ecume des Jours, hence its importance in its translations...

Re Creation of that Recreational 'Langage Univers'Back to top

We cannot say that either translator neglects words as such in their respective translations, they simply do not tackle the issue in the same way. Mr Sturrock seems to have attached himself to the original words , that is to say that he pays great attention to the original lexicon , and makes what used to be called a literal translation.
Mr Chapman seems to have preferred to concentrate his skill on the translated words , that is to say that he lays the emphasis on the final result. Maurice Blanchot maintains that 'if we want the translated work to resemble the work to be translated, there is no literal translation possible. It is much more a matter of identity springing from otherness'. This seems to apply perfectly to Mr Chapman's version. Indeed, he uses Vian's techniques, but in his own language; that is why we may talk in his case of a re-creation , he does not draw a mere shadow of L'Ecume des Jours in English, he almost makes- or creates- an English L'Ecume des Jours. Where Mr Sturrock has translated isolated or individual words, Mr Chapman has translated a system , with its processes- as we have seen- and its spirit, hence a universe. L. Forster maintains that 'only a translation that is a re-creation can do justice to a work of art', and we tend to agree with him, which explains our preference for Froth on the Daydream. Even Mr Sturrock admits, in his preface to Mr Chapman's translation of L'Arrache-Coeur, that his translation of L'Ecume des Jours was inferior in quality to Mr Chapman's. And talking about Heartsnatcher, he wrote:
Its translator, Mr Chapman, once again, has made what is called a free translation , and very rightly so (...) because it is no good merely reproducing French like Vian's as best as you can, you have to try and do a Vian in English , to make words up, to invent. Mr Chapman has done a supremely good Vian here.

A compliment which we would extend to Froth on the Daydream...

This leads us to ponder upon the status of the translator: do we have to consider him as an artist in his own right, or is he a mere 'technician'? And if we recognise him as an artist, what freedom does he have? P. Newmark states that 'the creative element in translation is circumscribed. It hovers when the standard translation procedure fails, when translation is 'impossible'. It is the last resource, but for a challenging text, it is not infrequently called on'. He then adds that 'it is in expressive texts- poetry, stories (...), where words represent images and connotations rather than facts- that creativity comes into play, and the play of words becomes creative' l. And it cannot be denied that L'Ecume des Jours is a 'challenging' and 'expressive' text, so that creativity is totally justified in this case. Moreover, G. Mounin writes that 'the total meaning is the decisive element of the music of a text (...), we use or dismiss the incidental resources of phonetics, in accordance with the expression we are looking for in the reading of a text (...). Phonetics is a servant'. Thus we can see that the poetical aspect of the work deriving from its musicality is preserved anyway. However, from the strict point of view of accuracy, Mood Indigo is indisputably more reliable than Froth on the Daydream, i.e. much more faithful to the original text. One of the consequences of the numerous- although minute- inaccuracies present in the latter is that the details contributing to what Barthes calls 'l'effet de réel' are not the same in the French novel and its creative translation, so that we may wonder whether we are confronted with the same 'réel'... For our part, we think that Vian's 'réel' is so strange that it does not suffer from slight distortions here and there as long as the reader is immersed in a coherent universe abiding by the same rules as the original one does.

Newmark writes that the skill of translating most texts lies in the alternation on the one hand of literal or rule-governed and on the other hand of 'ludic' creative translation- rule-governed is used in the sense of conformity to the grammatical shifts, lexical equivalences and retention of emphasis (...).

Yet it seems to us that one of the two tendencies is always heavier than the other for each translator. In our case, Mr Sturrock resorts more easily to rule-governed translation whereas Mr Chapman rather resorts to creative translation. When applied to a novel by Boris Vian, in our point of view, the latter trend is better adapted, hence the better result we observe in Froth on the Daydream, despite- or because of the rigour of Mr Sturrock's version.

Different readings of L'Ecume des JoursBack to top

We have already underlined that each translator was first a reader of the book he was going to translate- I. 1. i., and that his first task was to understand it. The origin of the discrepancy that can be observed between the two translations thus probably lies in their translators' original reading of L'Ecume des Jours as well as in their conception of translation in general.

Reading as a Quest for Pleasure

Reading is a recreational activity that requires time; we read to enter a new world, a different universe, with its own atmosphere, to become someone else, to forget our own conscience. 'Entering a work [of literature] (...) is opening an horizon'. And the final aim of that experience is pleasure.
We have already mentioned that notion of pleasure in our first part: Mr Sturrock had translated the book because he had liked it as a reader , according to him. Besides, since the future readers of a translation will discover the text through the crib of the translator's own reading, the latter must convey that pleasure above all.

That pleasure originally arises from novelty - the novelty of the universe we thus discover and/or build when 'entering' a book.

R. Barthes then evokes Freud to stress again that 'for the adult, novelty always constitutes the condition of pleasure'. In the case of L'Ecume des Jours, nothing is more easy than to immerse oneself into such novelty, which goes as far as to question the language itself, so it belongs to the translator to preserve that quality of novelty for the English reader. Another condition of that pleasure, still according to Barthes, is that the book should have been written 'dans le plaisir'. This is not a sufficient condition, yet it is a necessary one. We would add that it is also important that it should have been translated 'dans le plaisir', although this is not the cause of the divergence between Mood Indigo and Froth on the Daydream, since both translators had enjoyed translating L'Ecume des Jours.

The sensations of freedom and creativity evoked earlier on are the ones that enable translators to consider translating 'dans le plaisir'- that is to say to reach a status comparable to that of an author in his own right and not to resemble a performing computer- but also translating at all.

A Text of 'Plaisir' Versus a Text of 'Jouissance'

In his Plaisir du texte, Roland Barthes makes a difference between what he calls texts of 'plaisir' and texts of 'jouissance', a difference particularly obvious in the way we read each kind of text.
The first kind of reading applies to books in which our pleasure is born from the narrative suspense. Indeed, what interests the reader in those books is the gradual unveiling of the plot, and his excitation arises from the hope of learning the end of the story, of reaching Barthes' 'satisfaction romanesque'. This is this curiosity about the end of the story that leads us to skip a few descriptions here, or some dialogues there.

In our point of view, this seems to be the kind of reading adopted by John Sturrock. For him, L'Ecume des Jours is a text of 'plaisir'. He considers the plot as the most important element in the book, and thus favours accuracy about the facts rather than about the technique of writing. He lays the emphasis on the tragic love story between Colin and Chloe, not on their strange verbal universe. This is why indeed we can skip a few passages, without heeding their texture, the concrete aspect of the text.

On the contrary, Stanley Chapman seems to consider L'Ecume des Jours as a text of 'jouissance', still in R. Barthes' terms, and his translation bears the marks of that reading of the book. [...] Here again, the translator's reading of the novel explains his choices, and especially why factual accuracy does not really matter for him. What occurs on a narrative and linguistic level is more important in his eyes than the plot in itself. He thus applies himself to rendering Vian's manipulation of language and in so doing he re-creates Vian's universe, which includes Colin and Chloe's love story but cannot be reduced to it.

He thus concentrates on language and atmosphere rather than on facts. In his translation, fantasy reigns and enables the same criticism of society as the original, the same recreational moment and the same poignant emotion.

Our appreciation of the two translations has probably been influenced by the kind of reading we had made of L'Ecume des Jours, a reading closer to S. Chapman's than to J. Sturrock's, obviously. In our point of view, Mr Sturrock's translation would be a good translation had not the text belonged to the texts of 'jouissance'. As it is, he missed the essence of the book he was going to translate.

ConclusionBack to top

To begin with, we underlined that a translator is first and foremost a reader of the book he is going to translate, so that the translated text subsequently bears the marks of that first reading. This entails for the translator a responsibility of understanding, first, and then of rendering. We thus considered several important aspects of the book and their translations to determine whether the two translators have been equal to the task they had been entrusted with. We started with the appeal of the text, which we found mediocre in both cases, but not really worse than the original one- rather the contrary, in fact. The differences between the two translations began to appeared from the next point of our study onward. Indeed, as regards the strangeness of each translation, they display radically different strategies: Stanley Chapman's Froth on the Daydream obviously seeks to be integrated into the target culture whereas John Sturrock's Mood Indigo remains closer to the source culture, thus alienating the potential English speaking reader.
We then adopted linguistic tools to examine the texture of each translation and see whether our intuition about their respective orientation was borne out. Accordingly, we first evoked the two basic processes of translation- transposition and modulation, and concluded that although they logically appear in both translations, those processes are more prominent in Froth on the Daydream, because of Mr Chapman's wish to give an English flavour to Boris Vian's work. Next, we investigated the fields of noun and verb determination, before moving on to syntax, and we observed that the two translations only agreed when confronted with a constraining feature; as a consequence, divergences abound for verbal determination and syntactical structures but are much less numerous for noun determination. All those divergences reinforce the discrepancy between Mood Indigo and Froth on the Daydream, the latter aiming at an English L'Ecume des Jours, the other at a French L'Ecume des Jours accessible to the English speaking readership. The last domain which we scrutinised, the lexical aspect of the work, still confirmed the general aim and strategy of each translator- Mr Sturrock visibly attached himself to the original words and plot, whereas Mr Chapman concentrated on the 'resulting' words and on the mechanisms ruling Vian's universe in L'Ecume des Jours. Those general trends entail many drawbacks on both sides: austerity and disappearance of a whole facet of the original work in Mood Indigo- the verbal facet-, inaccuracy and factual distortions in Froth on the Daydream.

Last but not least, we pondered upon the probable cause of such a wide divergence between the two translations and we concluded that it could be ascribed to the way in which the two translators had read and perceived the book. We thus established a correspondence between Mr Sturrock's reading of the book and what Roland Barthes calls texts of 'plaisir', on the one hand, and Mr Chapman's reading and Barthes' texts of 'jouissance' on the other hand. Indeed, the most attractive feature of a text of 'plaisir' is its plot and the narrative suspense that goes with it, which would explain Mr Sturrock's concern with factual accuracy. Similarly, the main asset of a text of 'jouissance' is its verbal texture, that is to say the aspect most precisely rendered in Froth on the Daydream. Consequently, to decide which translation best suits L'Ecume des Jours, we must decide to which category of texts it belongs. We agreed that this was a poetical work, entertaining, but also emotional and satirical, but more important still, that its universe was based on language manipulation- a 'langage-univers'. Hence, in our point of view, it is obvious that L'Ecume des Jours should be classified as a text of 'jouissance', its essence being verbal. Therefore, intuitively as well as analytically, we may enjoy Froth on the Daydream as the better of the two translations, despite its faults. Boris Vian, like Raymond Queneau or Alfred Jarry in French or Lewis Carroll in English, requires a creative translator, who does not hesitate to dent his target language- usually his mother tongue- so as to re create a parallel universe, be it a Looking-glass House or a Never-Never Land...

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