Land Use, and Bernard Marie Koltes' "Quai Ouest"
(a play set in the French banlieu):
Unofficial English Translation
The sun shines, you know, on the tundra,/the sea, the ghetto . . .
[From a favorite poem of mine about the sun;
still trying to find the author.]
Over the airfield looms the idol of night.
In its shadow the earth is spun by a stellar wind
in an eddy of spiralled stars. We are dwarfed by the dark.
We inherit a handful of dust and a fragment of stone.
Yet listen, the music grows around us, before us, behind.
There is sound in the silence. The dark is a tremor of light.
It is the corn rising when winter is done.
It is the madmen singing, the lovers, the blind,
The cry of Tom of Bedlam naked under the sun.
--from Judith Wright* (1978), "The Moving Image," II,
in The Double Tree, Selected Poems, 1942-1976; rpt. from The Moving Image (1946).
Some Links . . . on author Koltes,
on the French banlieu and housing/land use issues
|Text of "Quai Ouest"|
|(Snowflake image above from Clip Art.com (http://www.clip-art.com/index.php)|
Some Links . .
(Many links originally from a report I did for a class on Immigration and National Identity in France, taught by Dr. Alec Hargreaves at Florida State U.)
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Translated from the French of Benard Marie Koltes.
I know that an English translation exists in the U.K.--by Methuen--for the British Commonwealth market, which I have not looked at; eventually I will match mine with the one published by Methuen and argue the merit of each. This is a free English translation. It is not my intent to violate copyright. The original French copyright is held by Koltes and his heirs I suppose; the play is published in French by Les "Editions de Minuit" [Midnight Editions].
I am sorry that Koltes' vision is absolutely bleak here. Hopefully in real life, people can envision and make real a better world than the one here.
Koltes claimed "Quai Ouest" [1985; Les "Editions de Minuit" (Midnight Editions)] was inspired by an empty hangar he had found in the old New York port, now abandoned for the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine terminal in New Jersey. Koltes describes the world of the abandoned hangar and of "Quai Ouest" as "mysteriously left in neglect in the midst of a garden, a space where the normal order of things is not found, but where another order, quite queer, comes into being" [2003, 2004, & 2006, Gwen.org, Koltes, http://koltes.gwen.org/quai_ouest.htm; transl. C. E. W.]
But, it is on a 'river' cutting through a port city that the play takes place, and the play's setting may bear as much resemblance to the piers along the Seine River in the marginal communities on the outskirts of Paris as it does to the ancient New York port. The main characters seem to be Spanish, Arabic, and Gypsy?ethnicities often residing in the French banlieu. Koltes's play was in fact published in the middle of the 1980's when the housing built in Paris's banlieu for its immigrants began falling into widespread decay! The abandoned hangars in Koltes's play do of course recall those of the American nineteenth-century market place: according to Lovell [October, 2004, in Common-place], Helen Tangires, in her study of public markets in nineteenth century America , described
the major shift in the mid-nineteenth century [market] from low sheds with overhanging protective eaves and open sides built by vernacular builders, owned by the city, and situated on public land (often in the middle of a purpose-built, extra-wide street), in which trading hours and behaviors were regulated to support a moral economy of "fairness" between buyers and sellers understood to incorporate all classes and to accommodate a panoply of activities, to large architect-designed, private, multi-story enclosed buildings (often utilizing Renaissance Italian urban-building vocabularies) on private land explicitly inviting middleclass patronage. (2004, 2006, http://www.common-place.org/vol-05/no-01/reviews/lovell.shtml).
Koltes portrays two of the three women in the play, Monique [Koch's unwitting "accomplice"] and Cecile [Charles's mother] quite negatively. Whether or not Koltes was a misogynist I am not addressing, but simply translating Koltes's descriptions of these characters as they are in Koltes. Monique's character is most negative in that she is so prejudiced against the impoverished inhabitants of "Quai Ouest;" and actually unfortunately such prejudice has been a common reaction in France to slums and immigrants. (I have yet to decide likewise about Koltes's rather stark portrait of another character, Abad.)
Koltes, born in Metz in 1948, started off his theater writing career at almost thirty, in 1977, with a monologue, "The Night Just Before the Forests" ["La Nuit juste avant les forets"]. He died in 1989, four years after writing "Quai Ouest." The play was originally edited in collaboration with Patrice Cherau and received great acclaim at the "Theatre des Amandiers de Nanterre."
Although Koltes has been compared to Samuel Becket, who wrote in both French and English in a pared-down diction, I would argue that Koltes's drama is more concerned with physical description and contemporary social problems than Beckett's is.
The work is in some sense to me, a post-colonial work, although Koltes was European. (Other post-colonial works, with no more happier endings, include Midnight's Children, The God of Small Things, and Things Fall Apart. Koltes like Rushdie in Midnight's Children nevertheless has a sometimes comic vision of the post-colonial world he portrays, although Koltes's humor is darker, and I think we feel in the end the heat of that world in Koltes even more than we do in Rushdie.)
In my translation, I have aimed for 'naturalness' in English at the same time that I have tried to preserve the rhythm and feel of the original. I have tried to preserve?as much as possible?the various characters' voices as Koltes rendered them.
Please note: All quotations below are Koltes's selections--Koltes put them in quotation marks; I've italicized them however. Any insertions of mine below are bracketed . My links to numbered footnotes where I discuss my translation choices are in brackets , not parentheses; Koltes has put some of his stage directions in parentheses (). I put stage directions in upper case as well, as that is the convention I learned. Koltes italicized his initial description of the setting. I left it italicized and put it in a serif font.
--Translator's note )
The end of all flesh has got into my thoughts.
I would like to see the shade and tree where I can rest my head.
--Burning Spear 
In a forgotten quarter of a large Western port city, separated from the center-city by a canal, an abandoned hangar of the ancient port.
Koch, Maurice, age sixty; Pons, Monique, age forty-two. Cecile, age sixty; her daughter Claire, age fourteen; her husband, Rudolfe, age fifty-eight; and Charles, their son of twenty-eight years of age. Fak, about twenty-two years old. And a man somewhere in his thirties, without a name, whom Charles, at the beginning, calls 'Abad' two or three times.
|One evening in a snow storm, two years back, Charles, who was returning home by ferry, was alerted by the workers whom he met each morning and who worked at the port of a strange and disquieting presence against the length of the exterior wall of the hangar. He went to investigate and saw a sort of heap, mute and immobile, half-covered by the snow, vaguely like a wild pig, dead, or perhaps sleeping. He approached. When he was two meters from it, the form jumped up brusquely, giant, thin, shaking violently, eyes blazing and with a skullcap of snow on its head; it spoke a few unintelligible words, not intelligible in as much that they made Charles laugh who caught their final consonants, probably English or perhaps Arabic, with which he baptized provisionally the animal. Then, because he was in a good mood, he took the stranger by his arm, led him into the hangar, and found for him a corner where the stranger could get shelter from the snow. He left him a few cardboards to keep him warm, and upon seeing him situated, the steam rising heavily from his body, Charles set off whistling and returned home.|
He stops to orient himself. Suddenly, he looks toward his feet. His feet are gone.
IN FRONT OF A DARKENED WALL.
THE SOUND OF A CAR'S MOTOR, IDLING, NOT FAR OFF.
MONIQUE-- And now: where? which way? How! Sir? Through here? It's a wall, one cannot go on further; this is not even a wall, no, it's nothing at all, perhaps a house, perhaps the river or maybe a strange land, a large and disgusting ditch. I no longer see anything, I am tired, I can't anymore, I'm hot, my feet hurt, I do not know where to go, Sir!
And if suddenly someone, something appeared coming out of this dark hole, what face should I put on? Of what would be my countenance if a type, several types, a whole mess of types all at once surged about me? I'd like to take on a natural air but at this time, here, in this get-up, I would have quite a fine air. I hear noises, I hear dogs, it's filled with savage dogs all around us, who crawl in this rubble. I should have tried to get the car in here; perhaps with the head lamps we could see, at least, what is creeping below.
We are before a wall, Maurice, one cannot go on further. Tell me what we should do now, tell me in which hole you would like us to fall.ENTER KOCH
KOCH--I know, myself, just exactly where we are.
MONIQUE--Just exactly, then hold on, you are tough, just exactly, bravo. Manage it all yourself since you know it all just exactly. Finally, I am not your mother, I am not your wife, I am not your nanny; and I've no desire to risk our skin at your whims.
KOCH--Do not risk a thing, Monique; go back.
MONIQUE--Go back? How is it you want me to go back? I've got the car keys.
KOCH--I'll get back by my own means.
MONIQUE--You? Your own means? What means? Sir! You do not drive, you cannot tell left from right, you could not have found this wasted  quarter by yourself, you cannot do a thing by yourself. Well I wonder how you can go back.
KOCH--I will call a cab.
MONIQUE--Hold on, a taxi, bravo. Find a telephone here, find one, wait for a car to pass, wait. Sir! We are lost in this disgusting hole and you talk of a taxi.
KOCH--There is a ferry that docks here twice daily, at the new port. I remember exactly the place where you catch it. It stops at six o'clock; I will catch it.
MONIQUE--And me? What will I do? I cannot leave you by yourself here and I cannot leave in any case because it is me who can drive; with the responsibility of having brought you here, with  you who cannot do a thing by yourself, with  your blasted boat that may not even exist anymore, truly I have a fine air. They could have at least left the street lamps, one might have recognized something. There is something on the ground that is slippery, and I do not know what it is. In my family, fancy it, I had the reputation of being able to see clearly in the dark, so much so that they gave up locking me in the cellar in order to make me afraid. But so much darkness, this, no, I have never seen so much. I should not have left the keys in the car; that is all that is needed [is?] for it to be stolen, Sir! To go back on foot, it would take hours through these quarters without light or sign-post. What's more, I can sense that we are being watched, Maurice, I tell you.
(TIME. SOUND OF THE CAR'S MOTOR, FAR OFF.)
Once there were street lamps here; this was a bourgeois quarter, ordinary, animated, I remember well . There were parks with trees; there were cars, there were cafes and shops, there were old folks crossing the street, babies in carriages; the old hangars of the port served for parking and some served for covered market stalls. It was a quarter of artisans and retirees, an ordinary world, innocent. It was not so long ago.
But today, Sir! No matter what person, the most innocent, who gets lost here in plain day  can be slaughtered in full sun , and his corpse thrown into the canal without anyone thinking of looking for him here.
All that, it's the fault of too low rents. The landlords should be encouraged to raise the rents, they should have been forced to raise them, even if they did not want to. The black roaches , the rats and the black roaches have entered here like vanquishing soldiers; the landlords have let the walls crumble, broken windows have not been replaced, the old people are dead; alas the shopkeepers have ended up abandoning these quarters, and today all these buildings, miles of streets lined with buildings, do not bring in a nickle, a penny, for anyone, nothing at all, nothing, it's sickening. God knows who lives here now, God knows who is watching us.
Come on, Maurice; no matter what, you don't open your mouth, I've no wish to talk all by myself all evening; the motor is idling, come on.
Do not leave me alone, don't leave me alone. 
A SUDDEN BREAK IN THE CLOUDS LIGHTS FURTIVELY  THE HUGE WALL OF THE HANGAR AND THE DESERTED HIGHWAY ON WHICH A SILENT RAIN OF LEAVES IS FALLING; THEN THE DARKNESS RETURNS WITH JUST THE LAPPING OF WATER AGAINST THE WALLS.
THE INSIDE OF THE HANGAR; OPENING ONTO THE HIGHWAY. KOCH ENTERS AND LEANS ON A POST  .
KOCH--Would you, if it please you, help me to cross this hangar and take me to the edge of the stream, there where there is a good view of the new port, there where you catch the ferry? I am way too much of a clutz to risk crossing alone; and help me find two rocks to put in my pockets. I promise that this is all that I will ask.
Don't hold my indiscretion against me, I beg of you; I'll make as little noise as possible. Believe above all that I am innocent of all you will think, of all that a man will think inevitably, on seeing a man here, in this state, at this hour, and with an aim that no one can divine; I know well that you are thinking now of ten thousand things, ten thousand reasons of which none is good. I ask you to believe me.
But it's for sure that I am not wearing shoes for walking here, that my memory is not so good that I can get myself around in this darkness, that all has changed so, and besides, that I absolutely need someone to help me get to the other side; there may be yet enough light for me to find the rocks myself; then I will thank you and that will be all.
The trouble is that money, I mean to say cash money, coins, bills, it's been a long time since I've had those in my hands, it's been a long time, you should know that money does not come anymore in coins, in bills--the way it did in was it the Middle Ages?, I do not know history--except for when you have a drink in a bar or buy cigarettes; but as I've quit smoking, and as for alcohol, I only drink that once in a while, I've nothing on me but credit cards; I'd like to leave you my credit cards, if you know how you might use them, I know it's not easy, but if you know how, then so much the better for you; me, screw it all, I don't care.
(HE ADVANCES A FEW PACES IN THE SHADOW, PLACES HIS BILLFOLD ON THE GROUND, DRAWS BACK AGAIN.)
It's several meters, perhaps two-hundred steps, I am sure I won't be mistaken about the hangar, the place where you get the ferry, it's there I want to go; it's reason enough , I suppose, enough for my presence here; in any case, it's of little matter to you, it's there that I want to go all the same .
(HE FUMBLES IN HIS POCKETS.)
There's the lighter. It's a Dupont. It works with a kind of refill, I think, I do not know really but it works, in any case, I've brought it purposely; and the cufflinks, they are gold, and also a ring. (HE TAKES THE LATTER OFF HIS FINGER.)
Crap. (HE ADVANCES, PLACES THE ITEMS ON THE GROUND, RETREATS.)
The watch, I've no wish to put it down wherever, for whomever to trample it. It's a Rolex, it works with a kind of battery, I don't know really, I don't know anything about it, anything at all, it's among the more costly, in any case, and with no need for rewinding.
(HE SLIPS IT OFF HIS WRIST.) I swear to you that this, it sickens me to take it off. I suppose that that's because it was me myself who bought it, all alone, for no reason, one day, whichever one, in Geneva, on passing a jeweler's. It's not like the ring or all the other stuff, gifts, crap. So, I assure you, this one, it bothers me to put it on the ground. (HE STRETCHES OUT HIS HAND. EXPLOSION OF BIRDS' WINGS, TAKING FLIGHT , RIGHT NEAR  HIM.) Take care, then, I beg you, take care to not trample it. (HE STEPS FORWARD, PLACES THE WATCH ON THE GROUND, RETURNS TO HIS PLACE.)
Now that I no longer have got a thing, help me.
(CHARLES SEIZES HIS HAND.)
CHARLES (LOW VOICE)--The others are waiting for you, over there, like fools, as if you were coming by water, in a police boat, in full light; but me I knew you were coming the back way, along the walls, like swine; I was certain because I would have done the same in your place. I suppose you were not expecting to find here  anyone so shrewd as yourself; and perhaps you were wrong to think that here , all the world is also foolish. This is why, believe me, you will not extract a thing from us, not a slip, not anything illegal, nothing. Not from me in any case; it's for myself that I speak.
Even before you got out of your car, I noticed it, I heard the sound of the motor, I even noted the make; a jaguar, I note it even when it is just the idea of a jaguar crossing someone's head, that's why I've come. 
When I saw the other day that the ferry no longer stopped here, I told the others: don't you worry; perhaps it's a strike, perhaps a breakdown, perhaps the boat has become too old, perhaps no matter what. But when the little one came on me sleeping and said to me: there's no more water, I thought all at once: it's thus they've  decided to butt in here. I all at once understood, I did, that they don't cut off the water unless they're determined to meddle, it's the last thing they cut, because of the fires that might break out. And when they come to that, it's because they've decided to chase out just to the last the black cave  rats. But you all  have forgotten that the rats are much more cunning  than people. I speak above all for myself. . . .
To the others I said: 'be on guard, they've got their eyes upon you, they watch  you now, they have you under surveillance; they look into your slightest breathing , your tiniest movement , the most piddling  of your dreams; and if they imagine, from across the stream, the least wrongdoing in one of your breaths, in one of your dreams, they'll race over, they'll tear it out of the silence and darkness of where you dwell, they'll fatten it and force it forth,  and make of it a crime that they will show the whole town and then, they will have their reason and you'll  be taken for imbeciles with reason.'
(LOWER STILL) You want us to clean out of these parts, right? You'd have to be more rat than a rat to enjoy it here. There's no more coffee, no more goods, no more women; there's no more transportation, no more electricity, no more ferry, no more water. I have a job, a real job, a normal one, waiting for me at the port, the role of gorilla in a club, whenever I want it. Understand that I have no reason to do you harm, me, that  I've no reason to help you. I've no reason to trouble myself, me; I've my time and patience. Remember, my old man, remember, whatever happens, I'm with you.
Remember that it's you who asked me to go with you here; and that if I help you go here, I'm only going along with you. Sleeplessness makes the whole world jumpy. At night you  don't sleep anymore because you've been working, in the day you don't sleep anymore because you haven't worked; so you do not sleep anymore ever. But me I don't need sleep, I'm not jumpy, not ever. I am, quietly, on principle, with you.
That's why I waited for you here, along the walls, in the back, like swine; but already I can tell you that you are wasting your time. You won't find a thing here. Look around you, you won't find a thing; look in the corners, scour the ground, rummage through people's heads; there is nothing left, not even the littlest dream, no part. There is nothing but wiseness everywhere.
(HE LEADES KOCH ACROSS THE HANGAR.)
* * *
("Who are you? You who have seen the devil, who are you? I am trying to say: I returned home one night through the great garden with my school sack on my back, I saw a man under the lamp post, his back turned, I walked up to him, he turned his head, only his head, he had smooth pink skin and blue eyes, I dropped  my sack and saved myself by running all the way home, I was trying to say to him: who are you? An insight  takes its time taking ants walking from my feet to hair to come to mind, but I am trying to say: one night my father got up like he used to get up for my brothers when they coughed and trembled with fever and I was not coughing and I did not have a fever but he looked at me, in the morning he asked the maids to neither dress me anymore the way they dressed my brothers nor to feed me anymore, nor was I to live under the same roof as my brothers; then he tore out my name and threw it in the river's water with the trash, I am trying to say: children are born colorless , born for the darkness and hiding, with white hair and white skin and eyes without color, condemned to run from the shadow of one tree to the shadow of another and at noon when the sun does not spare any part of the earth to flee into the sand; fate beats the drum for them like lepers ring bells and the world makes what it can out of it; for others, beasts, lodged in their hearts remain secret, and only speak when silence rules all over; it's the lazy beast that stretches itself out when the whole world is sleeping, and that bites  the man's ear in order that the man remember it; but the more I say the more I hide, it's because I will not try more, will not ask myself more--who  I am." SAYS ABAD.)
THE DOCKS. ABOVE THE STREAM A SOFT WHITE LIGHT IS DRIFTING.
KOCH (LOW)--I'm afraid.
CHARLES (LOW)--What for?
KOCH--I'm afraid. I don't know why.
CHARLES--You've got your weapon?
KOCH--Weapon? No. Why?
CHARLES--A cop does not come into this corner like this without a weapon.
KOCH--I'm not a cop.
KOCH--Nothing, ordinary, an individual.
CHARLES--If that's true, you've got reason to be afraid. (REAL LOW:) Those are Westons?
KOCH--It's not me who buys my shoes. (LOWER STILL:) Who is that?
That one, there, in the shadows, who is looking at me.
CHARLES (LOWER STILL)--Don't get alarmed. Have you got a weapon?
KOCH--No, I told you, no.
CHARLES--No one comes here without a weapon, without a reason.
KOCH--I've my reason.
CHARLES--Then you've got a weapon.
CHARLES--If that's true, you have a cracked head, my old man.
CHARLES MOVES TOWARD ABAD. ABAD AND CHARLES SPEAK INTO EACH OTHER'S EARS. CHARLES RETURNS TO KOCH.
CHARLES--He wants to know who you're looking for.
CHARLES--What have you come to do here, then?
KOCH--Die; I am here to die.
CHARLES (LOW)--Who is it  wants your death?
KOCH--No one. Me.
KOCH--For a personal account, an account of money. I need to render an account of the money that someone has entrusted to me, and there!, that money no longer exists. To tell you a bit about it, it's about Holy money . I can't go before  the governing board. An account of reputation, if you wish. My reputation has gone through the water . Screw it, it can go through the water , that does not bother me. But I don't want to see the [it?] sinking.
CHARLES (LOW)--This is not a good place, here, to flee prison.
KOCH--I'm not fleeing any prison, who's talking about prison? Do you see good Sisters [nuns] dragging before the courts a respectable man to whom they have, in all confidence, entrusted  the investment of their money? I've simply neither the age nor the desire to remake myself.
CHARLES--Why don't you flee abroad, with that money?
KOCH--What money? I'm telling you I don't know what happened to it. (AFTER A WHILE.) I cannot bring myself to recall. From day to day, maybe. I drew on a bit one day, a bit another day. I do not recall any great expenditures. I have an average lifestyle. I do not remember any madness that I've engaged in, these last years. You should not, at the moment you retire, agree to become administrator in projects, where no one is watching you.
CHARLES--(AFTER A WHILE, TO ABAD)--He came in a car. He's not a cop. He hasn't got a weapon. He hasn't got a good reason. He is cracked.
ABAD SPEAKS INTO CHARLES'S EAR WHO THEN RETURNS TO KOCH.
CHARLES--He wants to know why you want to take care of your dirty business here.
KOCH--I knew this quarter, at another time. I was looking for a place that suited  me. I only want you  to let me go up to the river, to let me pick up two rocks. I'm not going to make any noise. I don't want anyone to strike me, to do me evil. I've nothing else to give.
CHARLES--Did you come here alone?
KOCH--Yes. Except for a woman.
KOCH--She's the driver of the car. She is still over there, certainly.
CHARLES (SUDDENLY)--Is there a strike, at the port?
KOCH--A strike? I don't know anything of it, me, what are you saying to me about a strike? there are always strikes, I suppose. Besides, I live on the other side of town, I don't concern myself with port business, I never [even?] stick my nose outside.
ABAD AND CHARLES SPEAK FOR A LONG WHILE INTO ONE ANOTHER'S EARS.
CHARLES (TO KOCH)--He says no.
CHARLES--He says that a death here will bring the police.
KOCH--Crap. The whole thing will be muffled. Would you like it if I wrote a word, that would clear/whitewash/absolve you. You can [will] bring it to that woman.
CHARLES--He says no.
KOCH--Tell him that with two rocks in my pockets, my body will stay at the bottom, no one will see a thing there.
CHARLES--No. (LOW) What will you give me, in return?
KOCH--I've already given you everything. And you have not even picked up the watch.
CHARLES--I'm not picking it up, me.
KOCH--Take the car.
CHARLES--You have given me no money.
KOCH--I've given you my credit cards.
KOCH--But that's money, that; I don't know any other kind of money.
CHARLES--In your pockets.
KOCH--I've cleaned out my pockets. Take my jacket if you like, and go make me a peace with your money. What do you want then? A hundred francs here, a hundred francs there, alcohol and cigarettes, crap. Bills and coins, those are the money of the poor, the money of beasts. My credit cards are money, and my watch, and my car. It is parked two streets over. Don't tell me that a car is not money.
CHARLES (TO ABAD)--He's not answering questions. I believe he is completely cracked.
KOCH GOES UP TO THE WATER, PICKS UP TWO ROCKS. CHARLES COMES TOWARD HIM, GRABS HIM BY THE JACKET.
CHARLES (TO KOCH, REALLY SOFTLY)--Are you really going to do it?
CHARLES--Why? You have all you want, you can go where you like. You've got the dough; I feel it, your dough; the scent stings my eyes. Why are you doing this?
KOCH--Let me go.
CHARLES--And the keys?
KOCH--They are in the car, I suppose.
CHARLES--And the woman?
KOCH--Sort it out with her yourselves.
CHARLES--And your shoes?
KOCH--I'm keeping them. (CHARLES LETS GO OF KOCH.)
CHARLES LOOKS AT ABAD, ABAD LOOKS AT KOCH, KOCH PUTS THE ROCKS IN HIS POCKETS.
The second day, a little after dawn, as he was reclining in his bunk, his Lieutenant came to tell him that a strange sail was entering the bay.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
[Back to Top]
(1) 1985, Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.
(2) Burning Spear's "shade and tree" echoes the words of 12th century poet Bertran de Born, who wrote in what is today Southern France, "no i trob plus ni omb[r]a ni om ni esta," "I can find no more shadow, man, or this [verse]." Bertran de Born wrote these lines as the close of a verse satire; in it de Born talks about the coming of war. His satire always intrigued me, so I remarked on it here.
(3) shaking violently: From Fr. "agitée de tremblements," lit. "trembling with the shakes," "agitated with shaking"
(4) dark: From Fr. "noir," "black." I chose "dark" to avoid suggesting a "black hole" though of course Koltes might not have been entirely unhappy with a comparison to a black hole.
(5) face, countenance, air: All from the same French word, "air." I did not feel identical translations worked--Monique is clearly punning on "air" here.
(6) savage dogs: From Fr. "chiens sauvages," "wild dogs" or "savage dogs."
(7) below: From Fr. "par terre," "on the ground."
(8) wasted: Fr. "fichu," "desolate," "blasted," "god-forsaken," "done for."
(9) you catch: From Fr. "on prend," "one catches." The French often use the pronoun "on," 'one' where in the U.S. "he or she," "we," or even "you" is preferred.
(10) with: From Fr. "et," "and." The first French phrase literally rendered would be, "and you who cannot do a thing by yourself;" the second, "and your blasted boat . . ." I chose "with" in the first case because it seemed to flow better; in the second, "with" to keep the effect of repetition found in Koltes' use of "et . . . et."
(11) all that is needed [is?] for it to be stolen, Sir!: From Fr. "il ne manquerait plus qu'on nous la vole," lit. "that's all that is needed that it be stolen," but this phrase, which conveys the ambiguity of the original, is awkward in English.
(12) I remember well: From Fr. "je m'en souviens très bien," lit. "I remember it well." I omitted the pronoun to preserve what I feel the rhythm to be and because "I remember well" is quite natural in English for talking about one's memories of a place, just as "je m'en souviens très bien" is in French.
(13) in plain day, in full sun : Both "plain" and "full" are from French "plein," 'full;' but "plain day" is the English idiom--but too much of a cliche to be repeated here I think. Or does the French phrase, "en plein jour," here mean "in the open," "in plain sight," in full view?"
(14) black roaches : From Fr. "cafards," "black dogs," "roaches," or cockroaches. "[R]ats," in the following section, from Fr. "rats," may be translated as "rats," "black rats," or "water rats" at Word Reference.com. "[B]lack roaches" is more original than "cockroaches," and I liked the rhythm of "[t]he black roaches, the rats and the black roaches."
(15) living world : or perhaps "world of the living?" From Fr. "monde vivant."
(16) do not . . . don't: Fr. "ne me . . . ne me." Although "ne me" does not vary, I preferred to change the "do not" to "don't" at the end of the "do not" series in the translation. This variation is not possible in French. A reason for the change--besides whim--is that I have been using "do not" also to translate "ne . . . plus," "no longer," "do not . . . anymore," just above, so it was time to vary the phrase.
(17) LIGHTS FURTIVELY: Fr. "ÉCLAIRE FURTIVEMENT," would normally be "FURTIVELY LIGHTS" in English, with the adverb first; however I felt that the original French word order should be preserved here. It's a stage direction however, in any case, and the word order here is irrelevant to the performance.
(18) LEANS ON A POST : From Fr. "s'appuie au montant;" alternately he is bending himself towards the roof, leaning upward so to speak.
(19) reason enough : From Fr. "raison honnête;" an alternate translation would be "an upfront reason."
(20) it's there that I want to go all the same : From Fr."c'est quand même là où je veux aller;" lit. "it's all the same there where I want to go." In the original French, the verb phrase, "c'est," "it's," precedes the adverbial, "all the same," with the whole followed by "there," and then a second clause. I wanted to start the sentence as much as possible like the French, for emphasis. "All the same it?s there . . . " did not seem to work so well as my rendition opening with "[i]t?s there" and then concluding with the adverbial, "all the same"--I think the final position still allows some emphasis on "all the same," conveying the original emphasis on this as well as on "là," "there."
(21) EXPLOSION OF BIRDS' WINGS, TAKING FLIGHT : From Fr. "bruyant envol d'oiseaux," perhaps, literally, "searing [or burning] take-off of birds." Burning in this case might also be read as 'so rapid as to burn,' though it seems likely that Koltes meant to suggest birds' being consumed as if by fire on take-off. I note that an explosion might be associated with burning, especially at take-off, and consumption might also be associated with burning. Still considering options here.
(22) RIGHT NEAR HIM: From Fr. "tout près de lui" This is the idiomatic translation of "tout près."
(23) here; also that here: From Fr. "ici", "qu'ici" The French word order, with "here" at the beginning of the clause, is preserved here, for emphasis.
(24) that's why I've come: From Fr. "c'est pourquoi je suis là;" "that's why I'm here." I'm not sure which translation I'm going with!
(25) they: Fr. "on," "one," is translated here and in the sentence that follows as "they." The pronoun "on" is commonly used in French where "you" or "they" would be used in English.
(26) cave: From Fr. "cave" which actually means "basement" or "cellar." Perhaps it should be translated as "underground," "subterranean."
(27) you all: From Fr. "vous," "you (pl)." I translated "vous" as "you all" to make it clear that Charles is addressing not just Koch, but Koch as a representative of the status quo, that Charles is addressing really everyone in authority, everyone who belongs to the status quo and is thereby opposed to the people Charles refers to as the "black cave rats," the squatters Charles is one of.
(28) cunning: From Fr. "malin," which also has the connotation of "malicious," or "malevolent."
(29) "watch": From Fr. "regardent," which might also be translated as "are watching," but I chose the habitual to indicate the repeated act of watching.
(30) slightest breathing, tiniest movement, most piddling of your dreams : The Fr. is "le moindre" in each case, but I opted to avoid the exact repetition in favor of the repetition of meaning in the different adjectives of the list.
(31) force it forth: Fr. "le feront pousser," "push it," "force it out." I liked the repetition of sound in "force," "forth."
(32) you'll: Fr. "on aura [été pris pour des cons]" "one will have [been taken for imbeciles]." Again, the pronoun "on," "one" is more common in French. Here "on" is referring not to those representing the status quo from across the stream but the people who inhabit "Quai Ouest," "the others" whom Charles has been addressing indirectly here--so I chose to translate it with "you."
(33) that: From Fr. "sachez que," "understand [or know] that;" "understand," already said once just above here, has been elided here in my translation for rhythmic reasons.
(34) you: From Fr. "on," "one," which, as noted above, is common in French, rare in English.
(35) dropped: From Fr. "lâché;" this might also be translated as "I let go of my sack," or simply as "I let go my sack." Still debating!
(36) insight: From Fr. "idée," which might be translated as "idea" or as a "sudden glimpse of understanding."
(37) children are born colorless: Abad's monologue about outcast children seems to describe albino children--no color in the eyes, hair, skin; but the children are clearly outcasts, lepers (whose skin is also blanched, bloodless--at least near the extremities), or at least "social lepers." Does Koltes identify with Abad in any way? I actually know little of Koltes' biography.
(38) beasts: From Fr. "une bête," "a beast." However the indefinite plural in my translation works with the plural noun "autres," "others," and in fact, Koltes is describing beasts in the hearts of multiple others, even though both the French words for "beast" and "heart" in Koltes remain singular.
(39) bites: From Fr. ""se met à mordiller," "comes to bite," "starts to bite." Maybe I should translate it thus?
(40) who: From Fr. "qui;" it follows the repetition of the French "plus," "more." The dash is inserted in my text so that there is a pause after the final "more," as I think Koltes intended this-- this pause makes the echoing of "more" the more apparent.
(41) Functionary?: From Fr. "Fonctionnaire." Another translation is "Public official." I'm still trying to come up with the best way to translate this in American English.
(42) Westons?: See http://www.departures.com/fa/fa_0305_jmweston.html--Departures.com, "Sole Mate: J. M. Weston Steps Into the Future," to learn about Weston shoes in France.
(43) Who is it: From Fr. "qui c'est qui;" "who is it who;" the second "who" is elided in my translation because the French expression is actually a shortened form of the longer "qui est ce qui" which is normally used in French.
(44) Holy money: From Fr. "argent sacré" "sacré" might be translated alternately as "Holy," or as a curse word, "blasted," or "damned." Since the money belonged to nuns, and since Koch here seems to be trying to make clear what is special about the money, I opted for "Holy," but there is almost surely the sense of "blasted" here too!
(45) go before: From Fr. "me présenter a;" alternately, "report to."
(46) has gone through the water: From Fr. "à l'eau." I'm not sure whether to translate this clearly idiomatic expression as "has gone through the water," or "is in the water" (maybe the more common expression in the U.S.).
(47) Screw it: From Fr. "je me fous bien [qu'elle soit à l'eau];" perhaps more literally, "I don't give a -- that it's in the water [under water, gone through the water]."
(48) prison: Fr. "prison;" Charles's "pas un bon endroit . . . pour fuir la prison" may echo the sounds of Koch's line just above "je ne veux pas voir le plongeon," "I don't want to see the sinking"--both "prison" and "plongeon" begin with p followed by a liquid, and end with an unstressed fricative plus "on." In the original, Charles's "prison" almost seems to correct or rephrase Koch's "plongeon."
(49) entrusted: from Fr. "[ont, en toute confiance] ouffert [la gestation]," "offered." But the nuns offered the investment of their money to Koch, so they entrusted it to him.
(50) You should not: Fr. "il ne faut pas," a construction with a dummy subject, which means roughly "it's not a good idea," "don't," " . . . should not."
(51) suited: from Fr. "me ressemble," "suits," or "agrees with." Since Koch says that "[j]e cherchais," "I was looking for," "suit" seemed to make more sense in the past tense.
(52) you: again the nonspecific Fr. "on," "one," is translated here as "you."
(53) river: from Fr. "fleuve," "river;" I have translated it initially as "canal" in Koltes' description of the quarter; with Koch approaching it and seeing it, the soft white light floating above, as a "stream;" and finally with Koch demanding to be allowed to go to "the river" (I do once call it a river at the beginning when Monique suggests that "perhaps" it's a "river" they are going to come upon).
* Judith Wright: Information and Some Links:
Wright was born in Australia, educated in Europe, travelled briefly upon finishing her education. She returned home during the war to help her father run the family ranch in Australia, and met her husband, together with whom she opted for a career in writing. The couple had one daughter. Wright was instrumental in helping to save Australia's barrier reef, researching the issue, and serving on a Government Commission. She considers that among her greatest achievements. She writes that "[p]oetry is not propaganda, but it must spring from the heart." She attributes her love of the land and its early inhabitants to her father. To see several of her poems, check out, Judith_Wright/Wright_Poems.html. Here are some other links (to resources outside of this site):
This page last updated, February, 2007; site last updated 2009.
(Background/border image from http://www.barrysclipart.com).
[View Essay on Land Rights: AccesstoLand.html]
[View a translation of a poem about land use by Sandra Jayat, "Off-limits to Nomads"] (Note: Jayat's parents were Tsigane.)
[Land Use in the New World: View Voltaire's "Letter to Rousseau"] (Note: In this letter, Voltaire responds to Rousseau's suggestion that life is better among the 'savages' of the New World, and invites Rousseau to come instead to Switzerland.)
[Links for (reading) Therèse Desqueyroux: Explore Therese Desqueyroux's Decisions about Land Use]
[View my partial translation of a RAI song from the Banlieu]
[Poem by me: "L'air de la rue du Saint Michel"]
[View my start for a sci-fi 'horror' story, "The Vampires of Hoi An"]
["Peut-être C'est impossible"] (Remarques: voici une page introductoire sur la probabilité et la statisque)
(Alors, creez un habitat web . . .
[Quelques liens aux ressources utiles] (Remarque: Voici des liens à des ressources pour apprendre ou améliorer votre français; ou, si vous préférez, des liens à des leçons que j'ai créées pour vous apprendre l'anglais; un lien à un didacticiel du w3c pour vous apprendre le HTML et la création Web; et, finalement, des liens à mes conseils sur la cration Web, avec quelques renseignments en français. Note: Here are links to resources for learning French, to some ESL lessons I created, to my French translation of a W3C tutorial on web design, and finally, to my own tips on web design in English--with some info. in French.)
[Archives of some of my work from suite101] and [More archives] (which has since been removed from suite101 by editors)
[Photos of Some of My Old Friends]
[Back to Koltes' Play]
[Back to Top]
(Background image on this page worked over from Barry's clipart.com.)
(This page is not meant to endorse the program or platform or goals of any political party anywhere. It was created to provide an online portfolio for my translation and writing and as workspace for me -- something that might be useful for writing and editing jobs, or for getting published, for the purpose of repaying my student loan & getting money to build a small rv]; in addition, I wanted to provide the links on Therèse Desqueyroux to people I knew who were studying and teaching French. Since this is workspace some folders though are just workspace and so it's not all viewable --it's impossible generally to publish in journals work that has been previously published/public online. As for my views on land use, my family, of course, always favored better -- and generally stricter -- zoning laws; today I believe that stricter zoning laws could have solved the problem of beach erosion in Florida had these been implemented in a timely way -- and we could have thus had a beautiful coastal fishing, wilderness, and camping paradise -- something like the preserved barrier islands and coastal wilderness in South Carolina to the north of Charleston; however this would have meant a loss in some revenue from beach development. In the third world, clean drinking water and proper sewage treatment are major issues [these are not exclusively third world issues of course; when I lived in Los Angeles, I recall that raw sewage was dumped into the Pacific from Santa Monica; when I lived in Kuwait -- hardly a third world country either -- raw sewage was dumped into the Persian Gulf from the Kuwait University faculty and student residence area]. At the same time, having quickly built housing structures is helpful to migrant workers. However, as other writers note, if infrastructures are provided rapidly at low or no cost to developers who have not followed the law and sold cheaply to migrants, then this only punishes developers who have tried to adhere to the law. Somehow, whatever is done to expedite the incorporation of these infrastructures into new urban developments has to have something for both groups of developers to fly. Doing so perhaps means more government involvement -- not always a good thing of course. Finally, I do think it is nice that travellers can get safe parking at 24-hour places here; that's a nice move by the private sector in the U.S. )