Sunday, April 26, 2009

English translation & Significance of the title

The Outsider is originally written in French, and has been translated into English by several authors. There are three main translations of The Outsider:

  1. Stuart Gilbert
  2. Joseph Laredo
  3. Matthew Ward

Three translations differ much in tone (for example Gilbert's translation is much formal) but more importantly, the opening of the story is different for each translation.

  1. Gilbert's translation: "Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY. Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday."
  2. Ward's translation: "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know. I got a telegram from the home: Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours. That doesn't mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday."
  3. Laredo's translation: "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know. I had a telegram from the home: 'Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.' That doesn't mean anything. It may have been yesterday."

Not only the translation affects the way the story is written, but the title differs depending on where the story is translated, and who it is translated by. The Outsider, originally L'√Čtranger can be translated in three different titles:

  1. The Foreigner
  2. The Stranger
  3. The Outsider

The Foreigner
  • Meursault is a French Algiers
  • He is a foreigner to the land , but text establishes that in fact his family has lived there fore several generations
  • Anti-heroic protagonist is culturally foreign to Algeria
  • Meursault is detached - foreigner to society, to human customs
  • Most fitting considering the time it was written and existential nature of the novel

The Stranger
  • Meursault is a stranger among other people because he is so isolated from them - mentally, emotionally, spiritually and by the end of the text, physically (because he is imprisoned)
  • Implies that Meursault has been viewed as a "strange" or "odd" person
  • Meursault is a stranger even to those who think they know him
  • But this can be seen as a wrong interpretation - Meursault is, if anything, ordinary - because he works like every one and goes out with his friends and girlfriend like everyone else
  • He is not really a stranger, but rather an observer without an emotion connection to the world

The Outsider
  • Meursault feels alien to the Arab (Muslim) society in which he lives as a colonist
  • As he is oblivious of the motifs he lives, he is not restricted by any meaning exterior to his sensory experience, a character trait rendering him foreign to his contemporaries: thus, most English translations are rendered as The Stranger and infrequently The Outsider

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