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:
- For each language, identify the very basic sentences that underlie virtually all translations. These sentences are the starting point for everything.
- See how the basic sentence has been built on to arrive at the various translations.
- 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:
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?