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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Knife Fight

Beckett fact no. 6.

Beckett's first full-length play was Eleutheria, written in French in 1947 but not published or performed in the author's lifetime.

The first English translation by Michael Brodsky contains a number of amusing howlers, of which my favourite involves a knife-wielding boatman. In French (note similarities to boating episodes in Krapp's Last Tape and That Time):

M. Krap: Nous étions sur l’eau. Ton canotier avait un couteau. Je ne ramais plus. L’onde nous berçait. (Pause.) Lui aussi l’onde le berçait. (Pause.)

Brodsky translates:

M. Krap: We were on the water. Your oarsman had a knife.

What?! A canotier is a straw hat. The couteau is not a knife but an osprey feather.

'Your boater had an osprey', as Barbara Wright puts it in her subsequent and much better version.

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