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Translation & Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince

Translation & Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince

A lot of my work consists of editing translated writing. I’ve written before about how different translations of the same text can convey a very different essence and flavour, despite the original subject being the same (see my blog post on Albert Camus’s book, The Stranger).

One of the books most dear to me is Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. Although it’s only in adult life that the profound messages in the book weren’t lost on me.

My favourite passage from the book is the phrase, “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

There are lots of different translations of this famous passage, but this is the one that moves me the most, although there are only very subtle variations in the translations.

Which translation do you prefer? 💫💫💫✨

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12 facts about me

1. I’m a Guardian-reading, left-wing socialist. It’s how my parents raised me, and I thank them for that. I still live in hope that one day we can live in a fair and equal society.

2. I have four-year-old twins called Che (boy) and Rio (girl). They are named after Che Guevara and the Duran Duran song.

3. I’ve been with my husband for 21 years. He’s good, so I kept him. (Dear Zoo book reference)

4. My hobbies are… umm… I think my kids sabotage the potential of having hobbies.
If I were to have hobbies, they would be doing yoga, watching Netflix, sunbathing with a newspaper and drinking coffee in silence.

5. My biggest professional achievements to date have been being interviewed by Zainab Badawi on BBC World News and having my research published in a book (both are in post photos).

6. I only have three fiction books in my bookcase – The Little Prince, Animal Farm and Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I have read others though! I am a SERIOUS non-fiction enthusiast. I’d take a newspaper or journal any day over a novel. Same with my TV choices; real life fascinates me. This is precisely why I specialise in non-fiction in my professional life. 

7. My twins are autistic so I spend a lot of time researching and learning as much as I can about autism.

8. For 12 years I worked as a secondary teacher in London comprehensive schools (and simultaneously as a union representative), with a prior career in academic research and journalism. Teaching in comprehensive schools taught me a lot about society, and it’s injustices.

9. I’m Palestinian and Belgian, have lived in London for over 30 years and speak a handful of languages, badly.

10. I love a quiet, simple life. Less is definitely more. I dream of countryside living and moving out of London one day.

11. I’ve played guitar for almost 30 years. Sadly, this is not reflective of my ability!

12. I really love what I do and still thank my lucky stars daily that I was able to turn my passion into my business. It didn’t come easily, having to retrain while still teaching and raising toddlers, but that makes the fruit even sweeter. 

Why I never judge a person’s grammar and spelling

I cannot emphasise this enough.

I often have people apologise to me for their spelling and grammar, or for mistakes in their text messages and emails (who has the time to proofread a text anyway?). 

Although it’s what I do for a living, I never deem it ok to correct a person’s grammar (unless hired to!) or to judge them for errors. 

Why? Because it’s ableist, it’s classist, it’s potentially racist, and it’s downright rude and naughty. It’s called linguistic prescriptivism. Don’t do it.

I also believe in creativity in language and linguistics, so let’s not be pedants and accept that language, and even punctuation, is fluid. If Merriam-Webster can accept the term ‘irregardless’ into its dictionaries, then we, too, should be more open-minded.

Aujourd’hui, maman est morte

This article from The New Yorker (link below) initially caught my attention because I have loved this existentialist book since my teenage years, but also because it highlights issues in translation. 

I work with a lot of translators and much of my editing work deals with writing that has been translated into English. 

Last week, I received two versions of the same article translated from Arabic into English, and they could not have been more different. 

Both were excellent translations. They conveyed the same message, the facts were identical, but the style, mood and the essence were so contrasting.

There are so many different ways of saying the same thing, and it is these style choices that really differentiate one writer from another. 

Personally, I’ve always loved the starkness of Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce’s writings. They taught me that you don’t need to say a lot, to say so much.

Enjoy the article!

A drop of ink may make a million think. – Lord Byron

A drop of ink may make a million think. – Lord Byron

The Palestinian narrative is too often recounted – and distorted – and not by the actors of the story themselves. 

With the bombing of our cultural centres and the confiscation of our land, to the appropriation of our hummus, the Israeli occupation is making every effort to efface us not only from the map, but also from history. 

But a land without a people, for a people without a land, we are not. Advocating and preserving our culture, heritage and history – while also triggering awareness and altering Western perceptions of the Middle East – is essential, and it is the collective moral duty of all Palestinians. 

Now, with the proliferation of social media as a conduit for democratising and delivering current news globally, transcending and reaching all strata of society, we have a form of direct action. Through words we can achieve dialogue, and through dialogue we can achieve understanding.

The late Yasser Arafat used to say, “The Palestinian National Movement is not only the gun of the freedom fighter, but also the pen of the writer, the brush of the painter, the words of the poet.” 

Now that the Palestinians have abandoned the dialogue by arms and resort to the arms of dialogue, there is now more than ever a need for Palestinians to find a means to chronicle our history and struggle as a vehicle for resistance against negation and extinction; through self-narration, self-definition and self-representation.