“The Two Old Bachelors” by Edward Lear: a semantic and traductological analysis
Keywords:Edward Lear, Two Old Bachelors, Victorian, nonsense, absurd, semantics, traductology, homonymy, Hersant
The aim of this article is to describe from a semantic point of view Edward Lear's poetic short text entitled “The Two Old Bachelors” (from Laughable lyrics, a fourth book of nonsense poems, songs, botany, music, etc., 1877) translated into French exactly a century after it was published by Patrick Hersant (Edward Lear - Nonsense, 1977). In addition to a properly semantic analysis of the original English version of the poem and what makes it an absurd text, we wish to show on the basis of this preparatory study how Patrick Hersant addressed the traductological dilemma he was confronted with: indeed, a part of the absurd aspect of the text is based on the homonymy of “sage” in English, which can be a plant (sage1) or a wise man (sage2). While they need the first one to make their recipe for stuffing, they find as a substitute a clever man who quietly ejects them from the mountain where he sits. It can be seen as dealing with the threat faced by homosexuals during the Victorian period. Confronted with this difficulty, the translator delivered an interpretation that is very little faithful to the original. As part of a long tradition of loose translation from English to French, Hersant's text offers a new illustration of the concept that any translation should be perceived as another text.
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