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French Pop Song of the Week: “En tête à tête” by M

posted June 23, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music translation world literature


Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be at a French rock concert? Well, here you go: Matthieu Chedid, better known by his stage name M, singing “En tête à tête” (about five years ago in Paris). One of France’s most extravagant and innovative rock stars, M combines the driving, rhythmic motion of rock with the elegant evenness of the French language.

Below are the lyrics and a translation.

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French Pop Song of the Week: “La Corrida” by Francis Cabrel

posted April 18, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music poetry translation world literature


Although Francis Cabrel has been one of the best-selling songwriters in France since the late 1970s, he’s hardly had the typical life of a celebrity. Raised in the village of Astaffort, in the southwestern French department of Lot-et-Garonne, he still lives there with his longtime wife, Mariette. His first hit, “Petite Marie” (“Little Marie”; 1977), was dedicated to her.

Below is a video of Francis Cabrel performing “La Corrida” (“Bullfighting”), a song from his 1994 album Samedi soir sur la terre (“Saturday Night on Earth”), which sold three million copies. I love the tall, French windows at the back of the stage.

The lyrics describe the horror of bullfighting from the point of view of the bull, and the song shares with Cabrel’s other music a dreamlike quality and a yearning to say something that feels essential. Andalousie (Andalusia), mentioned below in the lyrics and translation, is a region in southern Spain known for bullfighting. The French expression “dormer sur ses deux oreilles” (“to sleep on both ears”) means to sleep deeply. In the song it’s used as a pun. After killing a bull the bullfighter is sometimes given its ears as a gift.

Francis Cabrel – La corrida
envoyé par dimigardien. – Regardez la dernière sélection musicale.

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French Pop Song of the Week: Apollinaire’s “Le Pont Mirabeau”

posted April 9, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in authors music poetry translation world literature


Although poet Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) is not a pop lyricist, the words to one of his best-known poems, “Le Pont Mirabeau” (”The Mirabeau Bridge”), were put to music by Marc Lavoine, pictured above on the cover of his CD titled simply Marc Lavoine (2001). “Le Pont Mirabeau,” the first track on the CD, is a bridge in Paris that spans over the Seine River. Apparently Apollinaire had to walk over the bridge to get to the home of painter Marie Laurencin, his girlfriend from 1907 to 1912. It is also the bridge where poet Paul Celan likely killed himself in 1970. His body was found miles downstream.

Below is Lavoine, since the 1980s a successful French actor and crooner, singing “Le Pont Mirabeau.”

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The Queen of Translators

posted March 26, 2010

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in books publishing translation trends world literature

Why Translation Matters

In the world of literary translators, Edith Grossman is a rock star. She is known for her mastery of translation, which includes the seemingly insurmountable ability to merge translated language with cultural nuance and style. Grossman is responsible for the English translations of a number of titles by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, including Love in the Time of Cholera, as well as the 2003 translation of Miguel de Cervantes’ classic Don Quixote.

Though many acknowledge that translation is an art form, there are plenty of others who hold translation in lesser regard, not giving it the credit it is due. It’s possible they consider translation a technical task, something a translator can plow through, dictionary in hand. Grossman takes offense to this, and she details the importance of translation in her forthcoming book, Why Translation Matters (release date March 30, 2010).

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2010 Best Translated Book Awards

posted March 15, 2010

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in books publishing translation

confessions of noa weberrussian version

We have a deep interest in translated works here at Thomas Riggs & Company. Not only are we planning to publish translated books but we also have personal interests in various languages (one coworker even uses French software). The other day we were discussing the power and difficulty of translation; when translating works of fiction or poetry, how literal should the translator be? How much liberty is the translator allowed? Language is infused with cultural nuances, so how are those translated? So, yes, it’s very complex, which is why good translators should be applauded.

The 2010 Best Translated Book Awards just announced its winners, and the fiction and poetry winners both came from independent presses. The fiction winner was The Confessions of Noa Weber, a book in Hebrew by Gail Hareven, translated by Dalya Bilu and published by Melville House Press. Bilu has been translating Hebrew literature for some time and is highly respected in her field. The poetry winner was The Russian Version by Elena Fanailova, translated from Russian by Genya Turovskaya and Stephanie Sandler and published by Ugly Duckling Presse. Turovskaya, a poet herself, immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine, and Sandler is a professor at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.

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