Translating Book of the Living – an amateur experiment.

This is a personal challenge /project/ experiment that I think might benefit from being done in concert with others.

I moved to Lausanne, Switzerland 6+ years ago, and I speak / read French at something like a B1 level (a1 is beginner – c1 is the first stage of fluency). This is my auto-didact project of the moment.

Because this is an amateur experiment, I hope, that if you have some knowledge of French, you’ll pipe up and make your own suggestions. Or, even if you don’t, you might look at my choices for translating certain words in the verses as a way of reflecting on what is in the English version.

And if the Destiny is going to happen, it’s probably gotta happen in French, too. N’est-ce pas?

1. God is Change

All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
Is Change.

Is Change.

∞ = Δ

1: La Divinité est le changement

Tout ce que tu touches
Tu le changes

Tout ce que tu changes,
Te change.

Le seul principe qui dure est le changement

La Divinité est le changement.

∞ = Δ

CHOICES (all provisional in light of ongoing development)
I chose to translate God as Divinité rather than as the closer (at least colloquially) equivalent Dieu. I have not dug into the etymology of Dieu. Perhaps, Dieu would be a stronger choice, because the verse “makes strange” with the word that most are accustomed to using regularly. But as Earthseed’s god is rather abstract, I thought “divinity” might be a strong choice in that sense.

I chose to use the familiar tu instead of vous, which would give the verse a more formal register. Vous also would introduce a hierarchical note, and  social distance,  which I think is inappropriate to the spirit of partnering, and which, I have found some people are anxious to dispel. When I make the “error” of using tu with strangers in casual conversation, especially with those who are younger than me, they are eager to put me at my ease by indicating  that the informal address is fine.

A final choice: I chose principe over vérité for truth. This verse, to me, is about first causes and  principe clearly has that in its etymology, while also suggesting something durable and useful at the same time.

This was corrected with the help of my wife, Nelly Pitteloud, a native speaker.


4 thoughts on “Translating Book of the Living – an amateur experiment.

  1. I am not a French speaker by any shape or form, but I like what you’ve said about your word choice. Your choice of tu over vous seems to me to also harken to Martin Buber and his work/view on I and Thou. See for more on what that entails.

    One question. Have checked for French translations of the two books and checked how the translations compare?

    Keep up the good work and Shape God.

      1. John, do you have a suggestion about whether I should add translations to the existing post, or should I make each one a new post, and consolidate them later?

    1. Hi, John just let me know that there are French translations, but I think I am going to avoid them for a while, to avoid undue humility and maximize creative ignorance! Will check out that link about Buber, Thx!

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