Date sent: Sun, 18 Mar 2001 03:12:26 EST
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Subject: Dans le Restaurant and the Commedia
I'm reading an interesting article on "Dans le Restaurant" that
passage in French and Italian that I hope the list can help me evaluate.
The passage in the article that I'm referring to is concerned with the
lines in Dans after the waiter has told the diner about his sexual
experience with a little girl when the waiter was also a child. The diner
responds with (translation) "But then, old lecher, at that age..." to
which the waiter says,
'Monsieur, le fait est dur.
Il est venu nous peloter, un gros chien;
Moi j'avais peur, je l'ai quittee a mi-chemin.
'Sir, it's a hard truth.
He came and petted us, a big dog;
I was afraid, I left her half-way there.
It's a pity.'
[Translation by Raphael J. Ingelbien to the TSE list in a post from May
1997. In the post, Raphael added the comment, " 'le fait est dur' sounds
artificial in French. Literally, it means 'it's a hard fact'. "]
The article claims that the waiters' speech is an allusion to the
lines of the Commedia. Since I don't know French or Italian, I'm having
trouble determining if the language nuances support this claim, which is
where I'm hoping the list will come in.
The opening seven lines of the Commedia are:
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita,
mi ritrovia per una selva oscura,
che la diritta via era smarrita.
Ahi, quanto a dir qual era e cosa dura
esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
che nel pensier rinova la paura!
Tant' e amara che poco e piu morte;
which Singleton translates as:
"Midway in the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood, for the
straight way was lost. Ah, how hard it is to tell what that wood was,
wild, rugged, harsh; the very thought of it renews the fear! It is so
bitter that death is hardly more so."
In the article, the evidence of the allusion is given as this:
Dans: Monsieur, le fait est dur.
[it's a hard fact]
Commedia: Ahi, quanto a dir qual era e cosa dura
[Ah, how hard it is to tell what that wood was]
Dans: Moi j'avais peur
[I was afraid]
Commedia: rinova la paura!
[the very thought of it renews the fear!]
Dans: je l'ai quittee a mi-chemin.
[I left her half-way there.]
Commedia: Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita,
[Midway in the journey of our life,]
Dans: C'est dommage.
[It's a pity]
Commedia: Tant' e amara
[It is so bitter]
The article continues, "Eliot intends no travesty of Dante here. Dante's
words don't mock this poor Sweeneyesque waiter, but tell us who he is --
one of the damned and dead -- with the dignity, if not the eloquence, of
real damnation, however unconscious. Seedy, shabby, tiresome, but his pain
OK, List -- Is this a credible thesis?
-- Steve --