Lost in Translation

Last Monday, our ENGL 229 Professor asked us to choose a manuscript among a list of many others, each in different languages such as Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, and Middle English. My instinct led me to immediately choose the text that was closest to a language I mastered; French. Little did I know, transcribing a piece of  Marie of France’s Fable – “De Leone agreoto” ; taken from the British library, was harder than keeping all of my hair inside one rubber band.

The manuscript I had in front of me looked like this:
British Library, 1260s ms

The first thing that struck me as beautiful was the way the columns were perfectly arranged; let’s just say it’s very OCD-Satisfying. The first letter of each verse seemed to be fixed in such a way that it would fit a specific zone. Ergo a certain attraction of the eye to these symbols, that look like letters (or so I thought), but I’ll get back to that later.

First, let’s contemplate the way the verses are perfectly aligned, or should I say “columned” in front of each other. The piece I got enclosed has most of the writing in brown, the beginning of the verses striped in orange but most importantly; both the big “J” and “O” in orange and blue respectively, reminded me of fairy tales books. The “O” has a lot of scribbles, some kind of designs attached to it. One would think that this would be were the story starts. Then I asked myself, if it were the case, why draw the “J” this way?
As I began my first attempt to untie the words lost in the scribbles, I realized that this was far from being simple. The first obstacle I encountered was distinguishing the “s” from the “f” and sometimes even from the “t”. The handwriting had multiple ways of writing the latter. Moreover, the first letters, which I thought would be attached to the first words, rather looked detached from them, it made no sense!
What I did find interesting though (throughout the 10th or 20th attempt), was the similarity of most words which were situated specifically at the end of the verses; almost all of them were very close to modern French. For example, “petit”, “chien”, and “seignur” weren’t hard for me to recognize.

Struggling to find out the meaning behind the initial letters, I started looking online for a different version of the manuscript, one that’s typed. Here’s a Snapshot of what I found, that includes the verses I chose to transcribe.
online manu

The Fables of Marie de France; an English Translation, XV. De asino adulante

The English Translation functioned as a spoiler; my task was to try and transcribe what I saw, which was very different from the picture above.
The electronic version did help though, in understanding what those initials I was talking about meant. Apparently, the writers back then had this way of abbreviating words, in most cases coordination conjunctions.
“Qui” is written as a “q” that is struck through with an orange “C” or an “F”.
“Que” on the other hand, is written as a “q” and some kind of weird accent over it.
Also, a new chapter begins in the English version, right where I started transcribing.It is displayed by “XV” roman numbers and a clear title. However in the manuscript, it’s not very clear whether they’re moving on to another story, or if the passage is a subdivision of the whole page.

Now this is what the handwritten version of my transcription looks like:


The next step was to try and type the passage on our computers; here is the result:
Or un riche hume cunte escrit

Qui aveit un chenet petit

Su u entefeiz a lui rua

C un fun aines les guarda

En sun courage entendi bien

Qui tuit lautre aiment le chien

Pur le seigneur quil cherisseit

E ki odlui le dedueit

Suz fun mantel le fut muscier

Su fut lel autres dur abaier

Mut seit li asnel ppensez

Que mellz del chien vaallt asez

Que de bunte e de grudur

Mielz saverait a sun seignur

When I compared the manuscript with the English version, I learned how “ppensez”, written in the manuscript with “pp” and a  wavy-like accent over, really spelled; “purpenser”.  Another interesting note would be how in the English version some words seem to be missing out.

What I did here is something called “remediation”.
According to the Oxford English Dictionnary, remediation is : “The action of remedying something, in particular of reversing or stopping environmental damage” (oxforddictionnaries.com), or : “The giving of remedial teaching or therapy” (oxforddictionnaries.com).

While searching for a clear and concise definition of the latter, I found a WordPress post by Caitlinelizabethmullen, published the 30th of October, 2012. I think the image enclosed below that she had posted describes remediation in regards to media studies and communication;

I have to say that after my tentative transcription writing, remediation seems very complicated. It might omit some words, misunderstand them, see words as symbols and vice versa, or write them in different meanings. It feels as though every time a literary text was remediated, some truth about it went away. Still, we can’t blame transcribers and researchers, since understanding these writings would be jumping into another era, a whole new world, and getting lost in translation.







The Souvenir Shop

I’ve been doing some thinking this past week about students and graduates leaving Lebanon. In our 9th grade civics and geography books, they call it the immigration of the brains.

This is for every parent out there whose children are eager to finish school and leave,

This is for my mother, for my father,

This is for you newlywed.

This is for every nostalgic Woman right now, who misses her Son or Daughter.

If you want us to stay, stop calling it Gharbyye and Charkyye

If you want us to stay, start listening to music in the car, and not the news. Let your kid explore politics his own way.

If you want us to stay, recycle. Stop whining about the garbage while you still throw bits and pieces out of your car. Stop striking while you still keep the empty popcorn box on your seat. Stop cursing while you ignore a water bottle on the ground.

If you want us to stay, respect animals. Teach us how to love Nature and Forests. Take us to Museums, take us to Plays, Read for us.

If you want us to stay, stop doing good things, dressing up and buying, for your pride, or your neighbors.

If you want us to stay, don’t fight with a citizen, because he supports a different political group. Listen to each other; it’s completely okay and human to have different political ideologies.

If you want us to stay, wait till the actors come back and bow to tell YOU thank YOU, before you leave. Have some respect to performance, put respect first and not traffic.

If you want us to stay, start driving like a civilized person. And don’t be a douchebag just because “everybody does it”.

If you want us to stay, start loving and respecting your country instead of hating it. Stand up when you hear our Anthem, and shut the f* up.
Make us love it, give us its art its music, take us to Der el Amar, to the Bekaa, Sour and Saida, to Mezyara, Tannourine…  show us the historical Part of Byblos and not the souvenir shop. Tell us our own story before taking us to Paris and Rome.

If you want us to stay, stop looking at IDs, start looking at people. Being Christian or Muslim on your ID doesn’t necessarily mean you are, so don’t come and criticize based on religion. Religion is a way of life, not a feature, it’s a choice.

If you want us to stay, don’t bribe.

If you want us to stay, make us craftsmen of the land.
Make us artists; make us thinkers and philosophers, make us dancers and musicians, make us true politicians; make us Leaders.

Maybe then, Beirut will be united; Maybe then, we’ll listen to Fairuz; Maybe then, we’ll save us from the garbage; we’ll stop cutting off trees and destroying treasures, we’ll watch plays, we’ll become actors, we’ll be honest and modest, we’ll fall in love with our country, with our people.

Maybe then we’ll stay.

Dear parents, all it takes to keep your Son and Daughter from running is moving on. Letting go of the devastating past, understanding that we are children of life, we’re not yours, we’re not you.

If you want us to stay; stop the cultural war, and start listening to us.

Save your tears dear mothers, save your money oh fathers; and don’t be a souvenir shop, be history.