Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The French in Tropic of Cancer

I read Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer last year. The book is set in France, mostly Paris. And, unsurprisingly, the text is frequently punctuated with French words, phrases, or more. I’ve never studied French. I’ve been exposed to it, yes, as here. But there’s plenty I don’t know, even basics. My usual strategy is to get what I can from context and what similarities to English exist. (Somewhat less helpful is trying to relate French to the Spanish & Portuguese I have studied.) Anyway, remembering that the web now has made simple translation available, I flipped back through Tropic of Cancer and typed up all the French I could find. I typed up some German too, I think, and maybe a thing or two else, who knows. Here’s the list:

les voies urinaires
avec des choses inouies
Comme un oeuf dansant sur un jet d’eau
comme d’habitude
Amer Picon
sans vin
dejeuner intime
Es war’ so shon gewesen
Zut alors!
Par ici, Madame. N’oubliez pas que les places numerotees sont reservees aux mutiles de la guerre.
vin de choix
voila quelque chose de beau
Tres lesbienne ici
idee fixe
Un acte gratuit pour vous, cher monsieur si bien coupe en tranches!
la belle boulangere
Le bel aujourd’hui!
Charmant poeme d’amour
Chez nous, c’est pour les chiens, les Quaker Oats. Ici pour le gentleman. Ca va.
le petit frere
femme de chambre
C’est moi … c’est moi, madame!
Il est mechant, celui-la.
Non, il n’est pas mechant, il est tres gentil.
Je le connais bien, ce type.
Tout compris.
Comme ca tout est regle …
Il ne faut jamais desesperer.
Defendez-vous contre la syphilis!
Ca y est maintenant! Ausgespielt!
Ecoute, cheri … sois raisonnable!
quand il n’y aura plus de temps
Vite, cheri! Oh, c’est bon!
Mais faites comme chez vous, cheri. Je reviens tout de suite.
Tout Va Bien
J’ai vu des arbres que ne retrouverait aucun botaniste, des animaux que Cuvier n’a jamais soupconnes et des hommes que vous seul avez pu creer.
Fay ce que vouldras! … fay ce que vouldras!
Salut au monde!
les surveillants
a partir de jeudi je ne parlerai plus de femmes
veilleur de nuit
Faites comme chez vous, cheri.
Mon Dieu, ne dites pas ca! Ne dites pas ca!
bal musette
Faut faire des economies!

I entered all that in Google Translate and got back this:

the urinary tract
with things unheard
As an egg dancing on a jet of water
as usual
Amer Picon
without wine
LUNCH intimate
Es war 'so shon gewesen
Zut alors!
Here, Madam. Remember that numbered seats are reserved maimed by the war.
wine of choice
voila something beautiful
Tres lesbian here
idee fixes
An act free for you, dear sir so cut into slices!
the beautiful baking
The beautiful today!
Charming love poem
For us, this is for dogs, Quaker Oats. Here for the gentleman. Ca va.
the little brother
That's me… c'est moi, madame!
It is wicked, one.
No, it is not bad, it is very nice.
I know well, this kind.
All inclusive.
So everything is rule…
We must never despair.
Defendez you against syphilis!
That's it now! Ausgespielt!
Look, cheri… be reasonable!
when there will be more time
Quick, Cheri! Oh, it's good!
But make yourself at home, cheri. I come back right away.
Any Va Bien
I saw that trees not found any botanist, animals that Cuvier never suspected and men that you only have been created.
Fay what vouldras! … Fay what vouldras!
Hi the World!
From Thursday I will speak more women
night watchman
Make yourself at home, cheri.
My God, do not say ca! Do not say ca!
bal musette
Should make savings!


I haven’t much faith in computer translation. Note the many words Google Translate just ignored. But what was almost opaque becomes a cracked window through which I can get a bit more of the scene.

I separated out one song Miller quotes:

L’autre soir l’idee m’est venue
Cre nom de Zeus d’enculer un pendu;
Le vent se leve sur la potence,
Voila mon pendu qui se balance,
J’ai du l’enculer en sautant,
Cre nom de Zeus, on est jamais content.

Baiser dans un con trop petit,
Cre nom de Zeus, on s’ecorche le vit;
Baiser dans un con trop large,
On ne sait pas ou l’on decharge;
Se branler etant bien emmerdant,
Cre nom de Zeus, on est jamais content.

Unfortunately the results are a mess:

The other night I got the idea
Cre name of Zeus enculer a hanged;
The wind gets up on the gallows,
This is my balance to be hanged,
I have the enculer jumping,
Cre name of Zeus, one is never content.

Kiss in a con too small,
Cre name of Zeus, the s'ecorche lives;
Kiss in a con too large,
It is not known or being unloaded;
With branler being well emmerdant,
Cre name of Zeus, one is never content.


Unknown said...

Did you ever find a better translation to the song near the end?

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Sadly, no. Not that I've made any attempt to look since I put this post up.

If you find one, come back and let me know!

Unknown said...

Thank you for the this list! Que magnifique! (I learned that from Peewee's Big Adventure) How very intellectual of me. I certainly appreciate the effort, all kidding aside

Glenn Ingersoll said...

This has turned into one of the most popular posts on Dare I Read. I've wondered if it's been useful. Bonjour, Mark.

Dave said...

The song at the end is pretty raunchy. More or less literally, here it is:

The other day, it occurred to me
By Zeus, to fuck a hanged man.
But the wind kept blowing
And I lost my balance.
I'd have never been able to fuck with all that jumping.
By Zeus, we're never satisfied.

When a fuck is too small,
By Zeus, it skins your cock;
But when a fuck is too large,
You can't even feel your discharge;
And it's annoying to wank.
By Zeus, we're never satisfied.


Glenn Ingersoll said...

Thanks for the version of the song, Dave. Fits with the rest of the book, all right.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this. Was starting to do the googling myself and came across this post. There doesn't seem to be a decent guide to the book. Perhaps if I could think of the right word I could find, glossary...I don't know.