Céline of Naked Translations has a post beginning “Frequent commenter bathrobe has a site on the translations of Saint Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince“; since Bathrobe (who now, to avoid excessive identification with that item of clothing, sometimes signs himself 小王子 ‘the Little Prince’) is also a frequent commenter here, I should really have pointed you before now to his excellent site cjvlang, “an armchair excursion into three fascinating languages of the Orient: Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese (CJV).” Besides the Little Prince section, he discusses days of the week, birds, Harry Potter translations (which has subsections on Those Magical Books and Their Titles, Translation of Puns and Word Play, Names of People and Places, Mistranslations, Names of Shops, serious translation errors, and Names of Owl Species, inter alia), and the writing systems. From the Little Prince section, his page on “the fox’s secret” compares the versions of a short passage of three sentences (“Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux”) in 45 Chinese translations, four Vietnamese translations, and 16 Japanese translations (not to mention four English ones). Here are Shī 1991:

Zhè jiù shì wǒ de mìmì, yīge hěn jiǎndān de mìmì: Zhǐ yǒu yòng xīnlíng, yīge rén cái néng zhēnzhèng kàn de míngbái; dān shì tòuguò shuāngyǎn kàn-bu-jiàn shìqíng de zhēnxiàng.
‘This is my secret, a very simple secret: only with the spirit, a person can truly understand; just looking through the two eyes cannot see the true image of things.’

And Mǎ 2006:

Xiànzài gàosu nǐ wǒ de mìmì, yīge fēicháng jiǎndān de mìmì: Zhǐ yǒu yòng xīn qù guānchá, cái néng kàn de zhēnqiè; zuì gēnběn de dōngxi yòng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-jiàn de.
‘Now I will tell you my secret, a very simple secret: Only observing with the heart, can see distinctly; the most basic thing with the eyes cannot see.’

If you like comparing translations, you’ll want to spend some time chez the Blogger Formerly Known as Bathrobe.


  1. Hey, Language Hat, thanks for the plug!
    As a lover of poetry, I thought you might also have mentioned “Allusions to Classical Chinese Poetry in the Lyrics of Pink Floyd”! (What? Roger Waters doesn’t qualify as a poet? Fair enough, but Li Ho and Li Shang-yin are both pretty good!)

  2. Siganus Sutor says

    Up to now I had thought that under the bathrobe there was a she…

  3. David Marjanovi? says

    Me too. I wonder why. Influence from French robe (f.)?

  4. Siganus Sutor says

    Your comment could not be submitted due to questionable content: ■■■
    Mamma mia! discussing the gender of angels is forbidden here…
    > David*
    Funny, isn’t it, especially since English is more gender neutral then some other languages. How at least two persons — two men — got to think of Bathrobe as a woman?
    And if one of them speaks primarily German and the other one French, shouldn’t they have had opposite feelings, mostly due to the strong celestial influence of the moon (male in German, female in French) and the sun?
    But isn’t Language Hat using “he” as a generic pronoun meant to be neutral?
    Anyway, it doesn’t really matter as it has been proven that le petit Prince was some kind of angel — you know, these ■■■less [read: a■■■ué] creatures that are said to float halfway between divinity and humanity.
    * For some time now something has been wrong with the diacritic above the -c in your name: “Posted by: David Marjanovi?” (at least for me).

  5. David Marjanovi? says

    So much for celestial influence then. (BTW, the sun, too: die Sonne, le soleil; and death, and so on…)
    The accent is screwed up because I’m writing this in a French university lab on a Mac. I’m using Safari, the best available browser for the Mac*, which correctly displays all special characters it can (almost never in the correct font, but then, unlike MSIE, that means it even displays them when the font in question doesn’t have them), but does not let me choose the encoding of any site. It’s always “default”. I’ll soon be home in Vienna, and sometime in January (back in Paris) I should get Internet access on my laptop, which is a PC.
    * Honestly. Netscape is worse, even Mozilla is worse. MSIE for Mac, like all MS products for Mac, is shit, quite unlike MSIE for Windows.

  6. If you are using a Mac, you should use Firefox to post to Languagehat.
    All the Chinese characters I post to Languagehat using Safari get garbled. Firefox: no problems.
    Bathrobe (definitely male)

  7. David Marjanovi? says

    Ah. Interesting.

  8. One of the ways I’ve been trying to improve my Chinese reading ability is to work my way through all the Harry Potter books in the Traditional Chinese versions. So far I’ve read the first five books. Needless to say, many of the words in these books are not in my dictionary – and there are many times where I had wished for a resource like this one. I’m sure I’ll be relying upon it when I start volume 6 next summer.

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