I started translating some Jacques Prévert poems yesterday, for no good reason really, but was at the Youngest's flute lesson, and the teacher had a copy of Paroles. I've loved these poems since I first discovered them, I think for two main reasons. Number one, your French doesn't have to be that great to understand them. Number two, neither do you need to have read (or understood) Lacan, Foucault, et al.
But also because they are beautiful, simple, and slightly surreal poems.
These were published in 1946. Are they free game for translation? I was thinking of sending one off to the Stephen Spender prize. Alas, it is open only to UK residents or citizens.
Anyway, here's one I did earlier... Rough, mind you -- very rough.
(Note -- idea! -- one day I might run one of them through an on-line translator. Just to see what happens.)
In a square, on a bench, is a man who calls to you as you pass. He wears glasses and an old grey suit. He is smoking small cigars and he calls out to you or else he waves but you must pretend not to see him. You can't look at him, or listen to him, you must carry on, go quickly -- because if you look, if you listen, if you give him a little wave, then nothing and nobody can stop you from going to sit next to him. And he will look at you and smile and it is horrible. And he will keep on smiling until you smile that same smile, and you are the same as he is, exactly. The more you smile, the more horrible it gets. And the worse it gets, of course, the more you smile. There is absolutely nothing you can do. You are stuck there, smiling on the bench, with children playing around you and other people passing by you so peacefully. Birds fly out of one tree and into another. And you, on the bench, and you know that you will never play like that again, you will never be one of those people again, passing by so peacefully; and never again will you leave one tree for another, like those birds.