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Looking for an Oscar Wilde expert

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 20, 2005

In Reply to: Looking for an Oscar Wilde expert posted by Bob on February 20, 2005

: : : I'm editing a translation for "The picture of Dorian Gray"/Oscar Wilde, and there are some words/phrases that Wilde uses and may have a different meaning than the usual one. I would like to make sure that they were translated correctly. If any of you are familiar with his writing, I'd truely appreciate your help

: : : The first one is the word "trivial", such as in the sentence "Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love: it is the faithless who know love's tragedies. Does it mean simple?

: : : Wilde describes the main characters' way of talking as "languid". Does this mean tired?

: : : I have some more questions, but will send them separately. Many thanks!

: : I am by no means an expert, but I am familiar with the works of my countryman Oscar Wilde, so I will try my best.

: : 'Trivial' I think means 'uncomplicated', 'superficial' rather than 'simple' here.

: : 'Languid' does mean tired, but not, I think in its usual sense. It is closer to the modern usage 'laid back' - as in relaxed, cool, full of ennui. The whole aesthetic movement of the late 19th Century laid great store by being 'languid', just as modern youth does in being 'cool'.

: : Hope this is of some help, and I am sure others will be better informed than I.

: : DFG

: In large part I agree, but to preserve Wilde's irony, I'd translate "trivial" as "unimportant." "Superficial" comes closer than "uncomplicated," which sounds positive and'or virtuous.

As for languid, yes, ennui is certainly good. I would go for listless, lacking energy, sluggish, unhurried, slow. Coming from Wilde, one expects that a languid way of talking would be a cultivated, deliberate listlessness, with an obvious lack of hurry or energy, perhaps punctuated with sighs. But Wilde is full of nuance, and translating nuance is always difficult. SS