Last week, when we were checking out The Golden Ass, I insisted on showing you a bunch of different translations of one of the opening passages. I couldn't help myself! I don't know much about translation -- I don't even properly have a second language -- but I think the attempt to render meaning from one language to another is fascinating.
So fascinating that back in the Don Quixote days, after seeing all the hullabaloo about how the Grossman translation (the one I read) was slicker than snot, I ordered a bunch of different versions from the Library for comparison. And having gone to that work, it would be selfish for me to keep the fruits of my labor all to myself!
So here, with no further ado, are various translations of the first few lines of Don Quixote. You're welcome.
Edith Grossman, 2003: Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing. An occasional stew, beef more often than lamb, hash most nights, eggs and abstinence on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, sometimes squab as a treat on Sundays – these consumed three-fourths of his income.
Samuel Putnam, 1949: In a village of La Mancha the name of which I have no desire to recall, there lived not so long ago one of those gentlemen who always have a lance in the rack, an ancient buckler, a skinny nag, and a greyhound for the chase. A stew with more beef than mutton in it, chopped meat for his evening meal, scraps for a Saturday, lentils on Friday, and a young pigeon as a special delicacy for Sunday, went to account for three-quarters of his income.
Charles Jarvis, 1885: Down in a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to recollect, there lived, not long ago, one of those gentlemen who usually keep a lance upon a rack, an old buckler, a lean horse, and a coursing greyhound. Soup, composed of somewhat more mutton than beef, the fragments served up cold on most nights, lentils on Fridays, collops and eggs on Saturdays, and a pigeon by way of addition on Sundays, consumed three-fourths of his income….
Peter Motteux, 1712: At a certain Village in La Mancha, which I shall not name, there liv’d not long ago one of those old-fashion’d Gentlemen who are never without a Lance upon a Rack, an old Target, a lean Horse, and a Greyhound. His Diet consisted more of Beef than Mutton; and with minc’d Meat on most Nights, Lentils on Fridays, Eggs and Bacon on Saturdays, and a Pigeon extraordinary on Sundays, he consumed three Quarters of his Revenue…
A 1910 edition, also claiming to be the Motteux translation: At a certain village in La Mancha, of which I cannot remember the name, there lived not long ago one of those old-fashioned gentlemen who are never without a lance upon a rack, an old target, a lean horse, and a greyhound. His diet consisted more of beef than mutton; and with minced meat on most nights, lentils on Fridays, griefs and groans on Saturdays, and a pigeon extraordinary on Sundays, he consumed three-quarters of his revenue….
Tobias Smollett, 1986: In a certain corner of la Mancha, the name of which I do not choose to remember, there lately lived one of those country gentlemen, who adorn their halls with a rusty lance and worm-eaten target, and ride forth on the skeleton of a horse, to course with a sort of a starved greyhound.
Three fourths of his income were scarce sufficient to afford a dish of hodge-podge, in which the mutton bore no proportion to the beef, for dinner; a plate of salmagundy, commonly at supper; gripes and grumblings on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, and the addition of a pigeon or some such thing on the Lord’s-day.
And, why not, here's the first sentence of the twelfth chapter:
Grossman: At this moment another young man approached , one of those who brought the goatherds provisions from the village, and he said: “Friends, do you know what has happened in town?”
Putnam: Just then, another lad came up, one of those who brought the goatherds their provisions from the village. “Do you know what’s happening down there, my friends?” he said.
Jarvis: Soon after this there arrived another young lad, laden with provisions from the village. “Comrades,” said he, “do you know what is passing in the village?”
Motteux: A young Fellow, who us’d to bring ‘em Provisions from the next Village, happen’d to come while this was doing, and addressing himself to the Goat-herds, Hark ye, Friends, said he, d’ye hear the News?
Motteux II: The same, but with the capitalization under control.
Smollet: In the mean time, one of the lads who brought them victuals from the village, entering the hut,* said, “Do you know what has happened in our town, comrades?”
* The "hut"? Where did the HUT come from all of a sudden? Awesome.