Fables de Jean de La Fontaine traduites en anglais par Christopher CARSTEN séance du 21 décembre 2008

Quel est le degré de trahison? C'est insoluble, on ne peut pas traduire...

D'autre part, nous vivons dans un autre monde, donc il faut moderniser. Et pour la traduction, il faut trouver la rime ... et le rythme; mais, dit Danielle, le choix du mot et la concision du verbe comptent. Vouloir absolument rimer n'est pas nécessaire. Et puis l'archaïsme apporte un mystère, mystère qui exalte notre intérêt. Jean: "L'important est de rester dans les mots de La Fontaine".
Montrer le courage de celui-ci par rapport aux puissants de son époque. "Il faut rajouter un peu d'humour" , cet humour qui n'existe pas dans les Fables", rétorque Christopher. Si La Fontaine n'a pas d'humour, pourquoi en rajouter? La Fontaine n'est pas Fabrice Lucchini... Bref, la rencontre fut intéressante, agrémentée par le talent de la dessinatrice, Sophie de Garam .
Mais laissons La Fontaine maître de son oeuvre.
Maryvonne NICCOLAI

Le billet à Claudine par Michel BOUDIN
Mais que diable peut-on attendre encore, Claudine, d'une séance littéraire consacrée à La Fontaine et à ses fables? Après les avoir tant et tant lues, ces fables, après avoir suivi tant et tant de commentaires, après avoir apprécié tant et tant d'explications, quelles informations neuves, quelles trouvailles nouvelles espérer?
C'est pourtant, jolie cousine, ce qui nous arriva par la grâce d'un traducteur inspiré qui nous tint sous le charme de sa passion pour La Fontaine et de sa profonde intelligence des textes.
Il est vrai que les exigences de la traduction (ici en anglais) obligent à pénétrer au plus profond du sens des fables mais aussi à intensément s'imprégner du rythme particulier des vers du fabuliste.
Pari difficile. Pari tenu!
C'est en effet avec un bonheur rare que nous avons pu voir Monsieur Christopher CARSTEN examiner d'improbables équivalences, soupeser la densité d'une tournure, jauger la malice d'une cabriole linguistique.
Les fables, soudain, reprenaient vie autrement. Un peu comme un tableau dont on rafraîchit les couleurs.
Le débat, dans ces conditions, Claudine, ne porta guère que sur des détails. Jusqu'où peut-on "tricher", moderniser, provoquer? J'ai pour ma part été chaque fois convaincu par la pertinence des arguments de M. CARSTEN.
Mais le charme ne s'arrêta pas là. Sophie de GARAM, avec ses gravures sur bois, nous introduisit dans une autre dimension. Les fables empruntaient au tracé onirique de ses dessins une subtile intemporalité. Nous étions dans un monde où des renards aériens guignaient d'intouchables et merveilleux raisins!
Pour qui ces raisins? se demande encore aujourd'hui, tout songeur, ton cousin:

voici cinq fables traduites en anglais par Christopher Carsten.

Le renard et les raisins, Fox and Grapes

A fox with something of a Gascon swagger
(Though some say full of Norman pith and cunning),
Half starving, spied up high upon an arbor
Grapes, whose visibly ripe clusters, dangling
With full red rosy skins, in sunlight shone.
Gladly he would have made of them a meal alone.
But since he couldn't even reach them with a stick :
« They're much too green, » and added « food for a hick. »
Wasn't this better than to gripe and groan ?

Le loup et l'agneau, Wolf and Lamb

The strong one always happens to be right,
And proof of this will be immediate.
A lamb was drinking one fine day
The cool, pure water of a rippling stream.
Drawn by his stomach it would seem,
A hungry wolf arrives in search of prey.
« Who gave you the right to cloud my beverage ? »
Growled the animal in snarling rage :
« You shall be punished hard for your temerity. »
« Sire, » replied the lamb, « your Majesty
Should not give way to anger,
But rather consider
That since I wade and drink
A goodly distance down the stream
From thee, your Grace,
I could have left no trace
Or cloud, as you might think. »
« You're clouding it, » rejoined the cruel beast ;
« Besides, I know you slandered me last year. »
« How could I, if I wasn't even born ? »
Enquired the lamb, « I'm suckling my mother. »
« Well if it wasn't you, it was your brother. »
« I haven't got one. » « Then ‘twas folks of yours :
You, your shepherds, and your hounds
Are always after me, and never off the track.
That's what I've heard : it's time I pay you back. »
This said, the wolf with a leap and a bound
Seizes the lamb, and mile on mile
Of empty forest witnesses the feast.
Such was the extent of his fair trial.

La besace The Beggar's Bag

Said Jupiter one day : “Let every breathing creature
Come gather round the toenails of my grandeur.
If anyone's unhappy with his size (or nose or ear),
Let him speak without fear,
For I will make amends.
You first, monkey (what a sight!) come tell your friends
About their looks ; do they compare with yours?
Are you content?” -- “Who me? Of course I am,
I too have four feet like the rest of them.
My portrait, Sire, reflects perfection's charm,
But, as for brother bear, who' s got the craft
To make a painting out of that rough draft?”
The bear gets up ; all wait for a dark complaint.
Far from it. Praising himself without restraint,
He scorns the elephant's ungainly plight:
“Add to his tail! Take something off the ears!
Revise, he says, that unbecoming fright.”
The elephant now ponders what he hears,
And, though considered wise, speaks like the bear:
Observing how she eats, he judges that
Madam the whale is verily too fat.
Dame Ant demeans the mite as scarcely there
While she herself is statuesque.
Old Jupey damned the lot, dismissed them all --
Each self-deluded beast. Yet more grotesque,
Our species takes the cake. With patent skill
We give ourselves full pardon, then
Deny it when it comes to other men.
For them we're eagle-eyed,
But for ourselves, as blind as bats.
The sovereign maker made us, past
And present, into beggar's bags :
He put a pouch for our defects in back,
And then, to balance out the cosmic laws,
He put one up in front for others' flaws.

La cigale et la fourmi, Cicada and Ant

Having sung the summer through,
Cicada found herself quite destitute.
And when the North Wind blew,
Provisions being less than scant,
She crawled on down to neighbor ant
With cries of famine,
Hoping to borrow just a bit of seed
To tide her over till the coming Spring.
« I'll pay of course, » she tried to plead,
« Before the month of August,
Both interest and principal.
Come, trust a fellow animal ! »
The ant however is no lender ;
Lending is the least of all her flaws.
«Could you tell me what you did
On all those hot dry days ? »
She asked the borrower.
« Night and day, my pardon to you ants,
I sang, for one and all. »
« You sang ? I am enthralled !
Now all you have to do is dance. »

La grenouille qui voulait se faire aussi grosse que le boeuf, Frog and Ox

There was a frog who saw an ox
As massive as he was robust.
No bigger than an egg herself, she must
At once be like him. Envy stalks
Her every gesture. With a huff and a puff
She says, “Now tell me what you think, Sis;
How's this for a start? No? Not enough?” --
“Nope.” -- “How ‘bout now?” -- “No way.” -- “And this?” --
“Not even close.” Though confident at first,
Poor little froggy huffed so much she burst.

Folks today show symptoms of her flaw :
Like Pharoah, this one bids
The raising of glass pyramids ;
For every senator, “L'Etat, c'est moi,”
And all those tiny governors, though dopes,
Nurse presidential hopes.

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