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How Does the “Nuance” of French Make “50 Shades of Grey” More Palatable?

October 27, 2012

It’s now called 50 Nuance de Grey. 

When it was in English only, British author E. L. James’s erotic bestseller was publicly denounced by some French readers as “Fifty Shades of Boredom.”

It’s now reportedly the “fastest selling book in French history.”

(And on the other side of the Atlantic, North American readers of English and of French are making James and her publisher even richer.)

Chacun voit midi à sa porte.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2012 10:23 am

    “I have read French novels before, and you gave them to me. Not many to be sure, but the best; so I think I know what is good, and shouldn’t like this if it was harmful.”

    Her uncle’s answer was to reopen the volumne and turn the leaves an instant as if to find a particular place; then he put it into her hand, saying quietly,”Read a page or two aloud, translating as you go. You used to like that: try it again.”

    Rose obeyed, and went glibly down a page, doing her best to give the sense in her purest English. Presently she went more slowly, then skipped a sentence here and there, and finally stopped short, looking as if she needed a screen again.

    “What’s the matter?” asked her uncle, who had been watching her with a serious eye.

    “Some phrases are unstranslatable, and it only spoils them to try. They are not amiss in Frnech, but sound coarse and bad in our blunt English,” she said a little pettishly; for she felt annoyed by her failure to prove the contested point.

    “Ah, my dear! if the fine phrases won’t bear putting into honest English, the thoughts they express won’t bear putting into your innocent mind. That chapter is the key to the whole book; and if you had been led up, or rather down, to it artfully and artistically, you might have red it to yourself without seeing how bad it is. ”

    from Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott.

    Not entirely apropos to this particular case, because there seems to be little artful concealment of the material both Rose and Uncle Alec would consider to be “coarse and bad” in the Fifty Shades books; but I was reminded of this scene by the question posed in the post title.

  2. October 27, 2012 2:10 pm

    Appropriée et parfaite, Victoria! Merci!

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