The Stranger by Albert Camus (Duh!)

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I want to get a copy of 'The Stranger' but I don't know which translation is more faithful to the material. Which one is better ? Supposedly the right answer falls between, Stuart Gilbert and Matthew Ward, or is it Sandra Smith ? Maybe it is Joseph Laredo. Can I get some help ?

Thank you in advance for the answer(s). Much appreciate your time.
 
Camus may be my favorite writer next to one Henry Charles Bukowski and I have the Gilbert and Ward translations. They both exhibit the flaws and choices that characterize the difficulties in translating from any language to another language (even one so simple as French to English): colloquialism vs. literalness. Here are the introductory lines from both. On the surface, I prefer the Gilbert translation as it's much more natural to my eyes and ears (even if it is a bit out-dated):

Gilbert:

Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure. The telegram from the home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY. Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday.

The home for aged persons is at Marengo some fifty miles from Algiers. With the two-o'clock bus I should get there well before nightfall.

Ward:

Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know. I got a telegram from the home: 'Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.' That doesn't mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday.

The old people's home is at Marengo, about eighty kilometers from Algiers. I'll take the two o'clock bus and get there in the afternoon.

Now, here's the original text in French from the 1957 Gallimard publication (minus the accents that aren't simple to include):

Aujourd'hui, maman est morte. Ou Peut-etre hier, je ne sais pas. J'ai recu un telegramme de l'aisle: "Mere decedee. Enterrement demain. Sentiments distingues. Cela ne veut rien dire. C'etait peut-etre hier.

L'aisle de vieillards est a Marengo, a quatre-vingts kilometres d'Alger. Je prendrai l'autobus a duex heures et j'arriverai dans l'apres-midi.

Bottom line:

Typos aside, the Ward version is clearly more faithful to the original text, but to me, it's stilted and awkward to read. Especially the line "That doesn't mean anything." Umm, sure it does, it means your mother is dead. I much prefer Gilbert's stretch of "Which leaves the matter doubtful..." but that's a literary addition.

But Camus' intent was to focus the reader on the fixation on details that don't relate to the matter at hand. So perhaps Ward's translation does a better job of being literal and necessarily awkward. The Stranger describes an awkward series of events.

Gilbert is the more natural read; Ward is the more literal rendering. Read both; they're short.

Sorry, I haven't seen the Smith or Laredo translations.
 
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hoochmonkey9

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I always took the "That doesn't mean anything" line to mean that the telegram only says when the funeral is, not the day of her death. The telegram doesn't help Meursault pin down the day she died. So it doesn't mean anything. Just my take.

Laredo:

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How is the Laredo's version compared to Gilbert and Ward ? I mean, judging by the page, seems like a mix of the two (in a way). Is that right to assume ? How is his version in general ?
 
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hoochmonkey9

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The Laredo and Ward came out around the same time. The Ward was for American audiences, the Laredo for UK and Commonwealth countries. 1983ish. So, a more contemporary take over Gilbert.

I haven't read he Smith translation, which is the latest, but here's an article discussing its merits.
 
I always took the "That doesn't mean anything" line to mean that the telegram only says when the funeral is, not the day of her death. The telegram doesn't help Meursault pin down the day she died. So it doesn't mean anything. Just my take.
You're absolutely correct - and I think Camus' point there is that Meursault is fixated on a completely unimportant detail that he can't get resolution of (so the "not meaning anything" is very much in context of the sentence prior to it). When you boil it down, it doesn't really matter if your mother died today or yesterday; what matters is that she is dead, but Meursault is more concerned with resolving a trivial detail than he is with grasping the significance of the bigger picture. And Camus' intent was never to make the reader feel comfortable, so in thinking about this a bit more, while the Gilbert translation is a smoother read to me, the Ward translation probably adheres more closely to Camus' sparse style.

Having read the Laredo translation fragment you posted, I like what I'm reading.
 
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