Wednesday, October 18, 2017

1970s British humour

Here is a classic sketch from the 1970s. It seems to me that it is still funny: which is absolutely not the case for much of 1970s comedy


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Suggested translation, extract from Anna Gavalda's novel

Anna Gavalda[1]

Yep. You shouldn’t rely on appearances. I can be pretty foul-mouthed, but that’s my form of camouflage.[2] Just like geckos on the tree trunks or like Arctic[3] foxes that change their coats[4] in winter, my showy[5] side is not my real colours. There’s a kind[6] of hen – I can’t remember its name – which has feathers just behind its feet and so rubs its footprints[7] out[8] as it walks along. Well, I do that too, except it’s the other way round: I blur everything[9] even before I make contact.
Why do I do it?[10] Because there’s always my body twisting[11] who I am (and even more so when I wear my friend Samia’s fly paper t shirts, I admit)

So we started off with his cat and then cats in general and then we went onto dogs and bla bla bla they’re not as noble but they’re so much more affectionate, and from there, couldn’t avoid it, we had to get onto my job. He got a real kick out of finding out[12] that I was in charge of all the creatures in the Animaland at Bel-Ebois.[13]
“What, all of them?”
“Course. Maggots for fishing, dogs, guinea pigs and gerbils, carp, parrots, canaries, and  erm rabbits of all sorts, dwarf rabbits, lop-eared rabbbits[14] and angoras, Plus all the animals I’m forgetting right now because of the rum but that are in there anyway, you know!” (Truth is, I’m not really in charge, but seeing[15] that he lived opposite Notre Dame and I lived in the Northern suburbs behind the Stade de France football stadium, I felt I had to adjust the pecking order somewhat).[16]
“That’s wonderful”[17]
“What is?”
“No, I mean to say[18] it’s picturesque, it’s like in a novel.”

[2] Note that this is enough : « tenue de camouflage » is translated as « camouflage ».
[3] Note thecapital letter.
[4] The word “pelage” exists in English, but it is in technical register, not in everyday use, and this passage is very much everyday in style.
[5] « Flashy » is possible.
[6] Or a breed.
[7] Note that if you just put “prints” it is generally read as “fingerprints”.
[8] Or wipes out its tracks.
[9] Or throw people off my trail
[10] The verb is important here.
[11] Or distorting.
[12] Or It blew his mind
[13] http://www.animaland.fr/category/animaux-de-compagnie/
[14] Occasionally called Bélier rabbits.
[15] “Since” would be too formal.
[16] A student found this, I didn’t, but it is excellent. “Restore the balance” is not bad, either, or “balance things out a bit”.
[17] Fabulous. “Marvellous” might be a little posh. “Splendid” is much too posh. “Ace” or “magic” are dated.
[18] It was pointed out to me that the French original is socially marked, so “I mean to say” is better than “I mean”.

Translating "un quart de sourire"


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Britain in the 1970s and wider contexts

It is always best to be able to put 1970s phenomena in wider contexts. In the exam, without giving a detailed chronology of a subject such as Ireland, trade union legislation, immigration laws, racist violence or feminist activity, a clear sign that you know what went before and what came after is extremely valuable (expecially what came after, which is generally ignored by candidates). Here then is some (mostly later) context for two themes.

Legislation against trade union activity 


Popular music as an expression of immigrant identity

key words : Le Royaume-Uni à l'épreuve de la crise, Britain in the 1970s, agrégation.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Information importante: grève de mardi

Pour les étudiants qui préparent l'agrégation: 

J'ai décidé de faire grève mardi 10 octobre avec beaucoup d'autres fonctionnaires, avant tout contre le gel des salaires. Ce gel affecte beaucoup plus les agents de catégorie B et C que les professeurs des universités, donc c'est en partie une action de solidarité.

Comme les autres collègues, je suis toujours particulièrement soucieux des étudiants qui préparent les concours nationaux, car cela implique un engagement et un travail énorme de votre part. Ainsi pour "limiter les dégâts", je vous livre ici l'enregistrement des cours que j'ai donnés l'année dernière sur les années 1971 et 1972. Il s'agit de fichiers MP3, que vous pourrez écouter en vaquant à d'autres occupations, et d'un PDF du powerpoint.

Première partie du cours ici 
Deuxième partie du cours ici
Diaporama qui accompagnait, ici

Je vous retrouve mercredi matin pour le cours de thème.

Pour les étudiants du M1 LEA: 

J'ai décidé de faire grève mardi 10 octobre avec beaucoup d'autres fonctionnaires, avant tout contre le gel des salaires. Ce gel affecte beaucoup plus des agents de catégorie B et C que les professeurs des universités, donc c'est en partie une action de solidarité.
Il n'y aura donc pas de cours mardi. Afin d'avancer néanmoins vos connaissances des thèmes que nous étudions, je vous demande de regarder cette video au sujet de la crise économique. Pour tout comprendre, vous aurez peut-être besoin de regarder deux fois (mais vous aurez appris à écouter des accents irlandais). Par la suite nous examinerons en cours la situation aujourd'hui

M1 LEA The Celtic Tiger

I spoke in class this week about the economy of the Irish Republic, and the political history of the country. If some of this was hard to follow, or if you need to revise, you can find the class in MP3 here.

Mp3 class : Britain at the beginning of the 1970s. Préparation agrégation civilisation britannique : Le Royaume-Uni à l'épreuve de la crise

You should by now be getting a clearer idea of the main currents of regularity and disturbance which are the 1970s. This week's class dealt with the first two years. We will be able to move more quickly later, since  the themes need more introduction when they are first mentioned. You need to be combining this chronological view with thematic reading and videos.

The class is available in MP3, for those who couldn't get there, or for revision purposes.

Britain in the seventies and today

Do the tensions, conflicts and disagreements between the two main parties (and within each) in the 1970s resemble the situation in the UK today? This is generally worth a valuable paragraph or two at exam time. Here is The Independent on today's situation:


Friday, October 06, 2017

Zola: suggested translation October 2017

Extract from Emile Zola La Fortune des Rougon 1871. Suggested translation

When the heads of the soldiers[1] appeared on the edge of the esplanade, Silvère turned instinctively towards Miette. There she was, looking quite grown-up[2] , her face all pink, in the folds of the red flag; she stood on her tiptoes[3] so as to be able[4] to see the troops; her nostrils quivered as she waited nervously, and her white teeth, like those of a young wolf, could be seen between the red[5] of her lips.
Silvère smiled at her. He had scarcely turned his head when a rifle volley rang out. The soldiers, who could as yet only be seen from the shoulders up, had[6] fired their first shots. He felt as though a powerful wind were[7] passing over his head as a shower of leaves, cut off by the bullets, fell from the elm[8] trees. A sharp noise, like the snapping of a dead branch, made him look to his right. He saw a big lumberjack,[9] who had stood a head higher than the others, lying on the ground with a small black hole in the middle of his forehead.

So Silvère fired his rifle, not[10] aiming at anything, then reloaded and fired again. He carried on[11]  like a man seized by fury, like a beast which thinks of nothing[12] as it hastens to kill.

He could no longer even make out the soldiers; smoke hovered[13] beneath the elm trees like strips of grey muslin. The leaves continued to rain[14] down on the insurgents, since the soldiers were firing too high. From time to time, among the dreadful noise of the rifles, the young man heard a sigh, a muted gasp; and the small band moved aside as if to make room for the poor soul who was falling, clinging onto the shoulders of the men beside him. The firing went on for ten minutes.
Then, between two volleys, a man cried out « Run for your lives! » with an awful terrified tone. Groans were heard, men muttered angrily « the cowards, oh the cowards! ». Horrible[15] rumours were passed around: the general had fled, the cavalry were putting the infantry to the sword all across the Nores plain. And the shooting did not stop. They fired irregularly, flinging stripes of flame into the smoke. A rough voice shouted again that they should[16] stand and die there. But the panicked voice, the terrified voice[17] shouted ever louder “Run for your lives! Run for your lives!”

Some men ran away, throwing away their weapons, jumping over bodies. The others closed ranks. There were about ten insurgents left. Two more ran away – and among the remaining eight, three were killed with a single volley.

[1] This is more literary in style than “the soldiers’ heads”, so preferable here.
[2] The French term seems to be ambiguous: Miette looks older than her age, but also looks a figure of importance in this historical situation. I have not found a similarly ambiguous expression in English, so have had to choose. “She was looking great” (elle avait une super mine) is of course quite wrong.
[3] One can also say “she stood on tiptoe”. Note that in other contexts one can use the verb “to tiptoe”, as in the song “Tiptoe through the tulips” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZMHJX4b9bU
[4] I think it best to add “to be able to”.
[5] Note that one cannot say “redness” here. Redness is normally a temporary colour: the effects of a mosquito bite are itching and redness. Verify this by searching for redness in the British National Corpus (an invaluable resource for detailed distinctions in vocabulary) https://corpus.byu.edu/bnc/
[6] It is not necessary to use “just” here, which underlines unnecessarily the fact that the event is very recent. Of course, generally “venir de faire quelque chose” translates as “have just done” but the two expressions are naturally not identical in meaning.
[7] This subjunctive is probably not absolutely obligatory, but is advisable.
[8] Note that although English has more capital letters than French, names of plant species do not take a capital.
[9] We have three words – woodcutter, lumberjack and logger – which are in order of increasing industriality. (A logger uses enormous machine tools, a lumberjack uses an axe and a saw on big trees, and a woodcutter uses an axe on small trees, perhaps for collecting firewood). “Logger” is not possible here.
[10] I have preferred to avoid ”without” here. It is a small nuance, but “without” in English is “heavier” than “sans” in French. If you look very carefully at this linguee page, you will see the nuance, I think. http://www.linguee.fr/francais-anglais/traduction/sans.html

[11] There is no verb in the French sentence. Very, very frequently, in these cases, you must add a verb when translating into English. (Although not always, as this writer emphasizes: http://palimpsestes.revues.org/1518?lang=en

[12] “Thoughtless” is, not acceptable, it is too light: it is, approximately, the opposite of “attentionné”.
[13] Many students were tempted by a form with BE + ING
[14] Some students were tempted by “kept raining down”. The difficulty here is that “keep doing” is a structure which tends to imply deliberate persistence, whereas the leaves were not raining down on purpose. Note the difference between “My boyfriend continues to call me every morning” and “My boyfriend keeps calling me every morning”. the second clearly suggests annoyance.
[15] I am trying to avoid repeating “awful”.
[16] Note that this voice is speaking of the moral duty of the insurgents (this is how I read this). So, a structure with “had to” is impossible since it would refer to an obligation imposed on them from outside.
[17] “The voice of terror” may be problematic here, because it would equally well translate « la voix de la terreur ».