Monday, November 16, 2009

The Great Don Quixote Mashup

A couple of months ago, with my awesome instinct for the kind of material that lures in a wide internet audience, I posted lists of two sentences from Don Quixote as they appeared in a number of different English translations. Perversely, it turned out to be a pretty popular post. The Adviser even went so far as to throw down the literary glove:
I challenge you, M5K, to select your favorite bits from all the translations to create an all-star mashup of the first graph.
Now, I don't know if he was tweaking me for the way I reviewed Gilgamesh, but it hardly matters. I'm helpless before a good challenge.

The Famous Opening Sentence

Version 1. In this one, I do exactly what The Advisor said: I cut and paste from the translations I originally listed to get what I think is an accurate and sensitive version of this famous and much-footnoted sentence, as well as a reasonably elegant one:
Somewhere in La Mancha, in a village whose name I don't care to remember, there lived not long ago one of those gentlemen who keeps a lance in a rack, an old shield, a skinny nag, and a greyhound for racing. His stew had more beef than lamb in it, and he ate hash most nights, lentils on Fridays, scraps on Saturdays, and perhaps a pigeon on Sundays -- these accounted for three-fourths of his income.
Version 2: OK, that was fun, but it's hard to resist the lure of really interpreting Cervantes. So here's what the sentence feels like to me, written out like I imagine Cervantes might have done it if he were living today. And a West Coast American.
A while ago, in some village or other in La Mancha, there was one of those gentlemen farmers whose ideas, ideals, and household goods always seem to lag two or three generations behind the times. He had the obligatory antique lance in its antique lance-rack, and an ancestor's ancient shield hanging on the wall; he had a skinny old greyhound for racing, and an even skinnier horse for riding. He ate lamb when he could get it, but usually settled for beef. On Friday he fasted on lentils, and on Saturday he fasted on leftovers, but on Sundays he feasted, sometimes allowing himself a pigeon as a special treat. Three-fourths of his income went to buy food.
The Obscure Random Sentence

Version 1: Same deal: the cut-and-paste job.
Just then, one of the lads who brought the goatherds their provisions arrived from the village. “Do you know what is happening down there?” he asked.
Version 2: Trying to make it feel right.
About then, one of the village boys the goatherds paid to haul up their supplies arrived. "Do you know what's going on down there?" he asked.
So there you are, Advisor. There's your long-distance dedication. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make a fool out of myself by suggesting I have some kind of special access to Don Quixote, and can write.


Cartophiliac said...

I think Michael5000 tilting at windmills should be your new banner image...

mrs.5000 said...

Ah, but when Cervantes chose those details he didn't NEED to explain what they signified. If he were writing today, he'd be talking about, I dunno, the ham radio set, the old DeSoto up on blocks in the sideyard. Store-brand mac-n'-cheese, a mocha parfait with extra cream on Sundays.

Ben said...

I don't think I've ever seen the term "fasted" to describe the only thing one DOES eat.

See, you did good and made me smarter.

Michael5000 said...

@Carto: Quixotic? Moi?

@Mrs.: True. But on the other hand, using those details for DQ distracts from the Rennaisance Spain setting.

@Ben: I don't know if that's a dictionary-correct use for the word, but I liked the fasted/fasted/feasted rhythm.

Elaine said...

Okay, I have to say it: FASTED is misused; M5000, you should clue Ben in before his English teacher marks him down for usage error...
and the editor in me can't like some of the sentence order choices. This is why writing is actually work: the reader must be able to grasp the meaning smoothly without having to go back and reread or check. Suggest spellcheck...caricature. I know, I know, I'm an old Fuddy-duddy.

What I love, however, is that you did this! (It would be a great assignment for an English class. ) Kept me interested, for sure!

Epistemz Dialektix said...

I have to say it: That was awesome; M5000, you should clue elaine in before her English teacher marks her down for revoking poetic license.

Personally, I thought the use of "fasted" for eating mere "leftovers" was funny, or ironic, or droll, or whatever you wittellectuals say these days. The scraps were so negligible that it was like fasting; and the alliteration with "feast", as you mention, does work good.

Michael5000 said...

@Elaine: Well, yes, I understand how written language works. Many of the sentence-ordering choices were made 500 years ago, though, which is part of what makes it a pretty devious exercise. I remain proud of "fasted on," and have corrected the spelling of "elegant" and patched the typo of "obligatory" for your comfort and convenience.

Now: let's see your version!

@Epistemz: Thanks, bro. (sniffle)

Elaine said...

Now, now. Poetic License is allowed! and you fulfilled it beautifully with the latter part of: "He had the obligatory antique lance in its antique lance-rack, and an ancestor's ancient shield hanging on the wall; he had a skinny old greyhound for racing, and an even skinnier horse for riding." But we have "antique" repeated in the same phrase, with "ancient" following (and "ancestor" already clues us in.) Dicing the meanings finely, "ancient" is older than "antique." (Possibles: aged, obsolete, out-dated, dusty, disused.) Repeating ain't stylish.

My quarrel with the village boys bit was this: too much verbiage separating the subject and predicate. If the inserted modifying or explanatory phrase is too long, it's difficult to keep the sense of things. "Just then a village lad delivering the goatherds' provisions arrived to ask, "Do you know what's going on down there?" Either move the phrase or shorten it to promote scansion.

Again, though-- I love that you did this. (Oops, Epistemz: too late! I AM the English teacher.)