LATELY — 17 May 2012

Translating Proust, by Man and Machine

The first two sentences of Proust’s Swann’s Way, as translated by man and machine.

Proust’s Original

Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure. Parfois, à peine ma bougie éteinte, mes yeux se fermaient si vite que je n’avais pas le temps de me dire: “Je m’endors.”

Man

Quite a lot of variation!

Moncrieff (Project Gutenberg):

For a long time I used to go to bed early. Sometimes, when I had put out my candle, my eyes would close so quickly that I had not even time to say: “I’m going to sleep.”

Moncrieff, as updated by Kilmartin and then Enright (ISBN 9780099362210):

For a long time I would go to bed early. Sometimes, the candle barely out, my eyes closed so quickly that I did not have time to tell myself: “I’m falling asleep.”

Lydia Davis (US ISBN 9780142437964, UK ISBN 9780141180311):

For a long time, I went to bed early. Sometimes, my candle scarcely out, my eyes would close so quickly that I did not have time to say to myself: “I’m falling asleep.”

Machine

Was expecting better–Google is the best by far, but they’re all pretty awful, especially considering how well they do on non-literary text.

Google Translate:

Long time, I went to bed early. Sometimes just my candle extinguished, my eyes would close so quickly that I did not have time to tell me: “I fall asleep.”

Bing Translate:

Long, am coated me early. Sometimes, just my candle hydrated, my eyes closed so quickly that I didn’t have time to tell me: “I sleep.”

Systran:

A long time, I lay down early. Sometimes, hardly my extinct candle, my eyes were closed so quickly that I had time to tell me: “I fall asleep.”