Translating Book of the Living – an amateur experiment, verses 3 and 4

A gift of God
May sear unready fingers

∞ = Δ

Un cadeau de la Divinité brulerait des doigts qui ne sont pas prêts

Un bienfait de la Divinité flétrirait des pousses

CHOICES: The first translation is the most literal word for word translation. It adequately carries the oxymoronic tension between “gift” and “sear”, but does not get at “unready”, which harbors suggestions of : unpreparedness, clumsiness, immaturity, and being untrained.

Thus, the second more playful translation tries to get at all of the tension packed in the English – bienfait  literally a “good deed”, a blessing; fletrirait, “would wither/may wither”, pousses, “sprouts”- good things withering sprouts captures the oxymoronic tension better, I think. Also, the internal rhyme makes it more memorable. The horticultural imagery, again more memorable.

∞ = Δ

We do not worship God.
We perceive and attend God.
We learn from God.
With forethought and work,
We shape God.
In the end, we yield to God.
We adapt and endure,
For we are Earthseed
And God is Change.

∞ = Δ

Nous ne rendrons pas un culte à la Divinité.
On perçoit et observe la Divinité.
On apprend de la Divinité.
Avec effort et prévoyance
Nous façonnons la Divinité
A la fin, nous nous rendrons à la Divinité.
On adapte et on endure
Parce que nous sommes…


et la Divinité est le changement.

∞ = Δ


Worship, the verb, may be up for grabs, as there is no single cognate verb. There are other possibilities, although culte, is a good fit for the noun worship. 

 There are some possibilities around “We Shape God” that I won’t belabor, beyond saying the verb shape can be rendered many ways. My amateur eye does not see a single French verb that is similarly literal and figurative at the same time.

Earthseed…John Halsted has alerted me to the existing French translation and I am tempted to see how the pro translator handled the neologistic portmanteau that is Earthseed. I will fiddle with my ignorance a bit longer: I am trying to avoid the typical “this of that” construction that presents itself to the anglophone ear – grains de terre, and actually construct a French neologism. Terre is obvious (and also carries the same association with the anglophone  expression “Mother Earth”, la Terre mére ) – but how to render “seed”? Semence: seed for sowing and sperm /  semen.  Germe : Le Grand Robert tells me it is more figurative, and is used in association with ideas, as well as plant development and embryonic development. Grain is literally seed and doesn’t seem to get used metaphorically, like the other two choices. Stay tuned. Maybe, I’ll use all four or five suggested here.


2 thoughts on “Translating Book of the Living – an amateur experiment, verses 3 and 4

  1. I like semence. My ancestral name, before a dozen generations at the mercy of Canadian-English baptismal and marriage clerks, was Semeur, a sower of seed. Actually, apparently it was Semeur de la bonte (sorry I don’t have a French keyboard on my phone so I am leaving out the accent aigue). So my name was sower of goodness. Before the last change 4 generations ago it was Saumure (pickling brine). I suppose spelling does matter. Anyway, I like the idea of being a member of SemenceTerre which uses the same root as my ancestral name and just as metaphorically!

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