Le Petit Prince



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Le Petit Prince in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Mongolian

Few books have been translated into as many languages as Le Petit Prince, a so-called 'children's story' written in 1943 by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Le Petit Prince has been translated into Chinese well over 50 times (including adaptations). There are 16 Japanese translations following the expiry of the copyright. And it has also been translated into Vietnamese a number of times.

Here I look at how Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese translators have come up with so many different ways of translating what look like very simple words and sentences. To do this, I've come up with a very basic technique:

    1. For each language, identify the very basic sentences that underlie virtually all translations. These sentences are the starting point for everything.
    2. See how the basic sentence has been built on to arrive at the various translations.
    3. Explore the ways in which translations vary.

At the end of it all, I hope we will arrive at some understanding of the "genius" of these four languages, an idea of what translation is about, and maybe even some notion of how to write in a foreign language.

For those who are interested, there are many sites about translations of 'The Little Prince', including: 1. The Petit Prince Collection, 2. Der kleiner Prinz in den Sprachen dieser Welt, 3. Der Kleine Prinz - The Little Prince - Le Petit Prince, 4. the multilingual Little Prince, and 5. la page internationale du Petit Prince.

The main content at this stage is:

little prince French or English?
  * Identifying whether a translation is based on the original French of Saint Exupéry, or the English version of Katherine Woods (only applicable to Chinese; all Japanese and Vietnamese translations are based on the French).
little prince The Fox's Secret
  * Introduction to the fox's secret in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Mongolian.
  * All the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Mongolian versions of the secret that I have.
  * Voici mon secret. Il est très simple -- an analysis of the French original.
  * A detailed look at how this has been translated into:
  * On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur -- an analysis of the French original.
  * A detailed look at how this been translated into:
  * L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux -- an analysis of the French original.
  * A detailed look at how this been translated into:
  * A look at how the fox's secret has been translated by online translation software (French to English, French/ English to Chinese/Japanese).
little prince Sunsets
* Translations of the passage: Ah! petit prince, j'ai compris, peu à peu, ainsi, ta petite vie mélancolique. Tu n'avais eu longtemps pour distraction que la douceur des couchers de soleil. J'ai appris ce détail nouveau, le quatrième jour au matin, quand tu m'as dit:
—— J'aime bien les couchers de soleil. Allons voir un coucher de soleil...
little prince Like the heart of a dying bird
  * Translations of the sentence Je sentais battre son cœur comme celui d'un oiseau qui meurt, quand on l'a tiré à la carabine.
  * What size bird did Saint-Exupéry have in mind?
  * What is a dying bird's heartbeat like?
  * 'Shot by someone's rifle' (Quand on l'a tiré à la carabine) in Chinese.
  * 'Shot by someone's rifle' (Quand on l'a tiré à la carabine) in Japanese.
  * 'Dying' (qui meurt) in Chinese.
  * 'Dying' (qui meurt) in Japanese?
little prince My collection
  * Bibliographical details of translated versions of the Little Prince that I have.

Special note 1: In 1972, the British duo Mark-Almond released an album called Rising. Track 7 was a song entitled 'The Little Prince'. The song is gentle and haunting, but I've never been able to figure out whether it was about Le Petit Prince or not!

Special note 2: Am I the only one who feels that the portrait of a hunter at Chapter 21 looks like Adolf Hitler?



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