Translation of Automne a Pekin : LUSENET : Boris Vian : One Thread


Following my earlier question regarding a good Vian work to translate, I have decided on Automne a Pekin. I now have to choose an extract of about 2000-3000 words which are linguistically challenging and most of all, would impress an examiner. I am considering section 'B' of the introductory section - Claude Leon's entrance into the text. It's great because its full of references (Camus/Sartre/Carroll) etc. but I'm not sure if its ideal in terms of the actual text to be translated.

I'd be really interested to hear other people's comments or reccomendations on suitable passages for translation - perhaps where there is a greater mixture of register/mood/tone etc.

Secondly, I would be interested in people's comments on the difficulties in translating Vian's work. I.e. stylistically/lexically etc.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give me, regards, Ollie

-- ollie (, May 13, 2003


Ollie, I think you might find Alistair Roll's book important for the translation.

Having not been translated into English L'Automne à Pékin (Autumn in Peking) remains something of a mystery to English language readers.

At least Rolls clears up some important concepts driving Autumn and renders the book intelligible. He explains that Peking is Paris, and that the desert of Exopotamie where the action takes place, is a layered metaphor for Paris's makeover by modern bureacracies, modern laws and modern architecture. These forces "normalised" Paris, destroyed the glass-covered corridors which created the distinctive "strolling" character of Paris before the War. The disappearance of the old Paris is lamented by Louis Aragon in Le Paysan de Paris (Paris the country), an important intertext from which Vian draws the "corridors" of italicised text.

Rolls demonstrates that Autumn in Peking is much more a literary novel than Froth and reliant on a familiarity with Vian's library for much of its deeper meaning.

Most important of these influences is Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. These books contribute an entire methodology of the dream journey to Autumn, in which all the major characters enter the story by falling asleep.

Along the way Rolls suggests many other intertexts that are woven through Autumn. The Outsider - Albert Camus Mort à crédit - Louis Ferdinand Céline Fleurs de mal - Charles Beaudelaire (which could hardly not be an influence for a French author) Le Bal du Comte d'Orgel - Raymond Radiguet Érostrate - Sartre Tropic of Cancer - Henry Miller Adolphe - Benjamin Constant

Vian's interest in genre fiction - both as bedtime reading and as income as a translator - surfaces in an intertext by Agatha Christie, Murder in Mesopotamia and another by hardboiled writer Verne Chute: La Funiculaire des anges. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie is also important.

Possibly the most deeply connected influence is The Wonderful Visit, by H. G. Wells, is also an important reference for Red Grass.

-- Robert Whyte (, June 29, 2003.

My press TamTam Books will be releasing the first English translation of 'Autumn in Peking' in (of course) the Fall of 2004. The translation is by Paul Knobloch. I am sorry to be late in responding, but been very very busy lately. But I promise this to be a great edition! Also working on another Vian project with Paul will write about that later. Ciao, Tosh

-- Tosh Berman (, June 26, 2004.

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