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Le Ton Beau De Marot: In Praise Of The Music Of Language Paperback – May 23, 1998
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Marot's poem, in Hofstadter's initial translation (he is to compose many more), begins: "My sweet, / I bid you / A good day; / The stay / Is prison. / Health / Recover, / Then open / Your door ... "--a slim frame on which to hang 600 or so pages of text. But the book is far more than a compendium of translators' triumphs (with the occasional misstep). Most of the renderings are original and lively, some lovely, though Hofstadter often feels compelled to improve them. He lightly laments that Bill Cavnar's rendering, "though superb along so many dimensions at once, still seems to lack a bit of that intangible verbal sparkle that I associate with the deepest Maroticity."
Hofstadter's talents lie in linking his intoxication, erudition, and vision with humor, autobiography, and free association. His book takes on "rigidists," asks questions like, "Is plagiarism potentially creative?" and strives to define linguistic soul. Along the way, it accords the same level of respect to the seemingly trivial: sex jokes, Texas jokes, The Seven Year Itch, and the puzzle of how someone you love can hate a food that you adore. Throughout there is pun, ingenuity, and above all, love for language--which can compress distance and, through constraint, lead to freedom. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
GEB was more complex. The ideas were harder. Le Ton Beau de Marot is, at its core, a book about translation. The book was inspired by the author's attempts to translate a short (28 trisyllabic lines) poem by an obscure French Renaissance poet named Clement Marot. (You'll probably have the poem memorized by the end of the book, at least if you know French - and if you don't, it's conveniently included on a detachable bookmark on the inside back cover.) Hofstadter, after tackling this challenge himself, sent out a letter (reprinted in the book) to many friends challenging them to translate it as well, including a list of some formal constraints on the poem that he wanted to point out and two fairly literal glosses of the poem for the non-francophones in his circle. The book's structure (like all of DRH's other books) is one of alternation - small groups of translations of the poem, which originally were meant to constitute the whole book but now make up a sort of sideshow and can be skipped without detracting from the understanding of the book, alternate with chapters on various issues of translation. The poems don't play the role that you might expect, a role roughly analogous to that of the dialogues in GEB. In GEB, the dialogues were meant to introduce some point that would be developed in the chapter. Here, they're not.
Most of the book consists of discussions of some of the dilemmas of literary translation, with examples drawn from various literary works.Read more ›
Please don't bug
Us with rhyme
One more time.
Poems built on
Is real tough.
And no line
For Will Quine
When you ask
If the task
Can be done?
It's no fun,
Of his game.
All the same,
We can see
This is not.
Thanks a lot!
Much of what is most intriguing about the book is its strong individuality. H. knows what he wants to say, he knows how he wants to say it, he has intensely precise ideas of how the book should look. For example, it matters painfully to him that the pages come out just so, with just the right number of lines so that every word comes out on the right place on its page. He takes this to extremes -- when he can't get permission to quote from Catcher in the Rye, he is forced to improvise a passage of EXACTLY the same length in order to keep everything perfect.
Incidentally, it's sort of surprising, given his feelings about the importance of all these details of presentation, that he can't understand Nabokov's insistence that translators, by paraphrasing and padding lines, inevitably alter dramatically the effects of the originals. H. would find his own book unacceptably altered if a linebreak was wrong, but he refuses to accept that someone might find something essential lacking when Pushkin's stanzas are rendered into English approximations.
I'll confess to being somewhat biased in favor of Nabokov -- and I can't help but wonder if Hofstadter has ever read Pale Fire.
[in several places, H. plays upon the titles of Nabokov's works, but not in a way that gives any sense that he has read anything other than his essays on translation and his literal translation of Eugene Onegin]
Anyway, back to *this* book -- it's a very personal book in content, too, the details of Hofstadter's life intertwine with the poem, all the translations, and the commentaries.Read more ›
At times I felt like I was reading "The Making of Godel, Escher, Bach" as the author describes for us how he saved the various translation efforts of his magnum opus from the clutches of incompetent translators. His impatience with those of lesser genius contrasts with the nice-guy persona he's trying hard to project.
The book is mostly about translation, using a simple poem, which was translated in several different ways by the author and his friends and colleagues to illustrate many important and interesting points. After awhile, though, I started to get tired of reading about what is wrong with everyone else's translations, and how no one gets it in quite the same way that Dr. Hofstadter does. In addition, the author's own poems are among the least interesting of the collection, and he repeatedly "corrects" translations of other contributors (even his mom!), producing results that are usually awful.
If you've read his previous work, you're not going to find a lot new here, and you might be disappointed at how flat this seems.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Sometimes a bit long winded in a few chapters going over the same point. concept very interesting.Published 6 months ago by IT Setup Guy for Small Company
Even with its imperfections (hey, the author is human) this work remains every bit a favorite as its prequel, GEB. A more detailed review is posted on the Leonardo website ... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Richard K.
I am stll busy reading it, but it is a very interesting book, full of wonderful ideas...I do recommend it to whoever is interested in the subject.Published on September 13, 2013 by Noemia
I find this a terrific text to use to make a point about translations in class - a point that also reflects on the meaning of a text or utterance in one's own language as well. Read morePublished on November 30, 2012 by Amazon Customer
Once again, Pulitzer Prize winner Douglas Hofstadter treats his readers to a playful, thought-provoking romp through the human mind. Read morePublished on November 27, 2011 by Jerry Cosyn
Hofstadter doesn't stay in the bleachers commenting on things - he gets out on the field and plays. When he writes about the challenges of writing without the letter "E", he of... Read morePublished on March 25, 2011 by Paul Rippey
Having read GEB first, I had hoped I would learn more new things in Le Ton. Unfortunately this second book by the same author is very much a "stream-of consciousness" relating of... Read morePublished on November 2, 2009 by Mark Thrice