Monday, June 20, 2011

Bad Translation

In a thousand years I'll never be able to find this reference, but I swear up and down that the excellent New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast drew a cartoon titled thusly once long ago.  I saw it in a book, and it made me laugh every time I thought of it for years afterward, and the text even became a running joke which my old friend Bob and I used to repeat to each other at opportune moments.  That text follows here, as closely as I can remember it, panel by panel; just picture the matching illustrations: 

Peter Pan -- what is?

Is pan with personality what flies around.

Is likened by children.

And then another panel that I no longer remember.

All of this is to say that I'm on blogging lockdown for a few days because of an extremely demoralizing translation from the Italian that I'm working on for a forthcoming scholarly anthology.  I've already missed several deadlines, so must buckle down.  Oh, and I've learned a lesson that I will pass on to you here:  if you ever do any freelance work of any kind whatsoever, even if the work you're doing is, for, say, the friend of a friend, draw up a contract and have it signed by both parties.


mrsdarwin said...

The contract thing is true even if you're, say, teaching violin lessons to the daughter of a friend and your only qualification is that you play violin better than the girl (that is to say, at all). A contract might state, for instance, a target amount of lateness beyond which the lessons are cancelled, or number of lessons skipped before the whole thing is called off. Could have saved myself three years of frustrating Sunday afternoons that way.

Just venting here, thanks.

Pentimento said...

I feel you, sister.

Rodak said...

"Peter Pan -- what is?"

I can't tell you how many times I've asked myself that very question...

Pentimento said...

I wish I could find the cartoon, Rodak, because it's very freaking funny.

Martha Silano said...

I love Roz Chast and have since I was in high school. I wonder about this cartoon, though. It sounds more like a poem to me...? Did you say it was in a book? Is there a book of her complete cartoons? Perhaps you could track it down on the New Yorker website--don't they have an archive or something?

Sorry about the freelancing snafu.

Love your blog, btw. You sound like a very cool lady. Am adding you to my blog roll asap!

Pentimento said...

Well, I'm extremely flattered, since I love your poetry. In fact, The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception is sitting right here on my desk as I type this.

I searched the New Yorker archive, but didn't find it. It's possible that the cartoon was written for inclusion in a book, and, if I'm recalling correctly, it's this book:

A friend of mine had it, and (I admit) we used to act out the cartoons in it.

Pentimento said...

Well, I wrote to Roz Chast at the address on her website, asking if she could tell me which book "Bad Translation" was in. Her reply:

"I'm sorry to say I don't remember which books it's in. But I do remember
the cartoon!


Charlie Hills said...

My memory of it (including Peter Pan's thoughts):

Peter Pan, what is?

Is little pan with personality what flies around.

Is little pan with not grow up desire feeling. ("Not want to go to school")

Is likened by children. ("the Peter Pan is friend.")

Pentimento said...

Yes. Oh, yes. That is it.

Thank you, thank you, Charlie Hills!

Do you know what book it's in?

Charlie Hills said...

"Parallel Universes". Looks like you can still get is used from Amazon and others.

I'm just happy there's one other person on the planet who really properly enjoyed "Peter Pan, What is?"

(Your blog was the sole Google hit on it, which is how I got here, oddly (or not so oddly) enough.)

Charlie Hills said...

Wow, 1984. But yeah, now that I think about it, a friend of mine loaned it to me around 1988. I don't think I gave it back.

Pentimento said...

Great minds think alike, I guess. ; )

You, and the interwebs, have improved my life immeasurably.

Galoux said...

This is so weird. I looked this cartoon up on Google just to see if anyone had ever posted about it. It's right here on my wall, above my desk, and has been for years and years. I'm so glad you found what book it's in, because the cartoon copy I have is undated, so all the help I would have been would be to tell you that you have an amazingly clear memory of the text!

Pentimento said...

We are clearly members of some secret and elite club. : )

Unknown said...

If you have not yet gotten a copy of this cartoon, I will send you a scan.

My wife and I have been laughing about it for thirty years. We saw it in the New Yorker when it first appeared.

Email me and I'll send you a copy.

David Derbes
loki brioche uchicago full stop edu

Pentimento said...

David, thank you! I actually found a used copy of Parallel Universes, so I can look at the cartoon whenever I want. I'm with you and your wife. It's one of the funniest things ever.

writenroll said...

I AM HAVING A EUREKA MOMENT. This cartoon has been haunting my brain since I saw it while browsing the stacks at Portland's Powell Books. That was 10 years ago. Naturally, on my next return, I couldn't find the book again; on each subsequent visit, I'd search high and low in the cavernous humor section. I still instinctively search humor sections at any bookstore hoping to jar my memory.
So, thanks all. Just ordered Parallel Universes. All will soon be well in the universe(s).