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The Persian Letters in seven English translations © Philip Stewart - page 7 / 16

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Je comptai pour rien la pudeur : je ne pensai qu’à ma gloire:

  • (O)

    What cared I for modesty! I was inspired with an ambition to conquer.

  • (F)

    I thought nothing of modesty, glory was my only thought.

  • (D)

    For me, modesty counted as nothing; I thought only of conquest.

  • (L)

    I gave no thought to decency; I thought only of my vanity.

  • (H)

    Thinking only of my glorious victory, I counted modesty as nothing.

  • (B)

    I disregarded modesty, and thought only of the glory to be achieved.

  • (M)

    To modesty I gave no heed, my only thought was for my own honour and glory.

Thus, everyone goes for “modesty” to translate pudeur. “Glory” is chosen for gloire in two cases, despite its inadequacy, which accounts for its use three other times with some qualification: “glorious victory”, “glory to be achieved”, “honor and glory”: the former brings in the suggestion of triumph over rivals, or over Usbek himself, which is more the implication of conquer/conquest, also used twice.

As for […] ton âme incertaine demeura longtemps sans se fixer, here are the variants:

  • (O)

    A long while thy soul remained in doubt, where to fix

  • (F)

    long thy wavering soul remained unfixed

  • (D)

    unable to control your roving fancy

  • (L)

    your wavering soul remained for a long time in a state of indecision

  • (H)

    without settling your uncertainty

  • (B)

    irresolute, your mind remained in doubt

  • (M)

    for a long time your wavering heart remained irresolute

Soul does not so easily enter an erotic discourse in English as âme does in French, so while three of the translators do indeed stick with soul, two others change it to the less intrusive mind or heart while the other two substitute completely different (and somewhat arbitrary) constructions, “roving fancy” and “uncertainty”.

III.

Ce n’est pas qu’à mon tour je n’aie un nombre infini de désagréments ; et que tous les jours ces femmes vindicatives ne cherchent à renchérir sur ceux, que je leur donne : elles ont des revers terribles : il y a entre nous comme un flux et reflux d’empire, et de soumission : […] souvent elles se plaisent à me faire redoubler de soins ; elles me font faire de fausses confidences : tantôt on vient me dire qu’il a paru un jeune homme autour de ces murs ; une autre fois qu’on a entendu du bruit, ou bien qu’on doit rendre une lettre. (The chief eunuch to Ibbi, Letter 9)

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