Tuesday, April 05, 2011


A detail that tickled me in Sarah Bakewell's Montaigne book: her comment on the style of Montaigne's early English translator John Florio.
Where Montaigne writes, ‘Our Germans, drowned in wine’ (nos Allemans, noyez dan le vin), Florio has ‘our carowsing tospot German souldiers, when they are most plunged in their cups, and as drunke as Rats’. A phrase which the modern translator Donald Frame renders calmly as ‘werewolves, goblins, and chimeras’ emerges from Floriation as ‘Larves, Hobgoblins, Robbin-good-fellowes, and other such Bug-beares and Chimeraes’ – a piece of pure Midsummer Night’s Dream.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, very florid! I'm not entirely sure why "larves" (=larvae per OED) belong in this list... I'm very fond of this kind of translation, where the basic structure and the superficies are evidently the products of two different sensibilities. (The literary v. of Eliza Doolittle at Ascot in "My fair lady.")