Sometime between today, Saturday, and last Saturday a shop window on rue Saint-Jacques has been transformed into a faux burial plot complete with Astroturf and a park-like backdrop. This isn’t an actual storefront just a window advertising a “funeral solutions” shop down the street. In Paris, if you are in the vicinity of a hospital or a cemetery there will also be a Solutions Obsèques nearby. These shops generally display arrangements of cloth and ceramic flowers and urns in sizes and shapes to celebrate every personality. Today’s was the first I’d seen a window display with an actual burial monuments. I suppose this is because grass and marble headstones take up a too much actual and mental real estate.
Now, in a completely different direction but more literally on topic, I saw a translation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin at a flea market this afternoon. I know I read Mme Beecher’s opus in high school, presumably in U.S. History. I don’t remember anything about the discussions we had but I do remember being proud of myself for finally understanding what it meant to be an Uncle Tom. Lord only knows where I’d heard the hateful term. Is Uncle Tom’s Cabin still read in American high schools? I’m not sure if I hope so or hope not.
Moving even further afield, earlier this week I heard a radio broadcast about a French city promoting doggy bags to discourage food waste. The three-party radio panel was dubious about the French populous taking to this invention of dubious utility. The “scholar” explained that “doggy” translated to “chien” and therefore implied that the leftovers transported in these bags where meant only for dogs. The “bard” explained that Chinese restaurants had introduced doggy bags to France and then made an off color illusion. The animatrice* informed the bard that listeners were emailing in their displeasure with his illusions. The piece ended with aural head shaking and hand ringing. The consensus: Some things do not translate.
And lastly, here is an episode of Radio Lab all about translation.