Category Archives: Land of Oz

Qui veut lire

Qui veut lire, disait mon Prof?

Qui veut dire, dit-je?

Qui voit comme moi?

Parfois aucun qu’un.


Why translate?

My daughter asked me what’s up with the translation, why the fascination? The answer lies in the complexity of communication and the difficulty of understanding.

Qui veut lire?

“Qui veut lire?” said my French professor. His question was generally answered with a deafening silence.

Translation, my French professor said, is a conversation first with the author, then with one’s self, and finally with the reader. Along the way, the translator struggles with a dictionary, looking up various interpretations and readings.

What was intended, what was meant, and what is understood, may vary like the parlor game where the party forms a circle. Someone starts by whispering a phrase into the next person’s ear, and this continues to go down the line, until it comes back to the original speaker, who hears something  differentl.

That is a lot to handle and quite amusing.



Nous savons comment l’histoire va.


In a far, far away, long, long ago kingdom, Cinderella lived happily with her mother and father until her mother died. When Cinderella’s father remarries a cold, cruel woman who has two daughters, Drizella and Anastasia, Cinderella becomes a servant suffering in her own house.

One day the King announces that there will be a fancy dress ball…

WW I black and white video of an American soldier, a little girl and her French village.

Tout bien ou rien

“Tout bien ou rien.”

I think I got this from John Muir in his dedication of the book On National Parks, 1901. He got it elsewhere, though where, I don’t know. The sentiment is surely an old one.

I translate it as all is well or nothing. That is literal. Somewhat like the English, All or nothing, but not quite.

Some translations give it as, Do your best or not at all. That works too. If that is the case it is like the Flemish, Als Ik Kan, literally, as I can, and figuratively, to the best of my abilities.

The French phrase, tout bien ou rien, contains opposites, all or nothing, polar extremes, it is good or it is not. Shakespeare likde this form of “simplespeak”. It is ambiguous and clear, depending on the intended purpose of the speaker. One is afraid to argue for seeming the fool.

Ambiguity is a fact of life. It puts one in trouble and keeps us out of trouble. Just ask any politician, who has to explain contrary positions to opposing sides.

Tout bien ou rien, c’est bien fait, c’est tout.

Now, quick, try this – Vite fait bien fait.


hands forming a heart encircling the sun

Happy Valentine’s Day

Being a card player, I liked this quote.

Like a game of cards, determinism is the hand you are dealt and free will, how you play it.

The quote is by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. When and where he wrote this is unknown, and truly, even if he said it. But it has become widely quoted and so, accepted as fact.

This fits in nicely with another thought I had, that there are lies, damned lies, half lies, lies you want to believe, and do.

Whether Nehru spoke of determinism and free will is irrelevant (Nehru wrote an autobiography and one would expect to find something to this effect in it), the underlying statement is so appealing that we want to believe it and do.

What has love got to do with this?

Love is one of those mysterious things beyond human understanding. We fall in love at first sight or love is a gradual emotion that wins the heart; we love forever or we fall in and out of love. Scientists and poets agree, there is no figuring out this thing called love.

My daughter, a television reporter, and I had a discussion the other day about the emotion of love. She was doing a story about a couple who had been married over 50 years and now she was suffering from severe Alzheimer’s. My daughter’s story tried to express in words what their love meant. But love is not just a word, it is how we act, and that was the beauty of her story, watching how a husband shows his love for his bride, up and until the end.

Or should I say the beginning?

Love happens and life becomes meaningful.

You don’t determine who you are going to love and who is going to love you. But you can help the cause by being loving and caring and considerate this Valentine’s Day.

Good luck!

hands forming a heart encircling the sun
love is more than just a word


Nothing could be further from the truth

It is a fact, strange and universal, that each of us believes that everyone should think and feel as one, but nothing could be further from the truth.

C’est un fait étrange et universelle, que nous croyons que tout le monde devrait penser et se sentir comme un, mais rien ne serait être plus éloigné de la vérité.

Ihr sagt, “Jeder als Einer denken und fühlen sollte, aber nichts ist weiter von die Wahrheit.”


The act of translation proves the impossibility of becoming one with either the author or the reader. Still, we try. The search for truth draws us near, but never quite there.

Jamais la vérité, mais près.

Faith should not conquer, it should console.

Portia, I love thee for who thou art.

Regarde! Jusqu’où cette petite bougie jette sa lumière, brille une bonne action dans un monde méchant.
Marchand de Venise, Acte 5, Scène 1, William Shakespeare

Rich, beautiful, gracious, and smart, if a suitor had to choose only one quality in his fair Portia, which would it be?


The Merchant of Venice is a play in which the women clearly outsmart the men. In considering what love is, one is reminded of Elizabeth Barret Browning, How do I love thee, let me count the ways…

Love should not come down to a choice, but if it did what would your choice be?

C’est l’amour un choix?


The woods are not quiet. It seems still and quiet because the sounds are different from the noise of the city. Listen and you will hear the rambling creek as it chatters with the stones, the birds up above darting in and out the branches, the squirrels in the leaves, all talking about the strange being:

Who shouldn’t be where he is but is.

1-path-2There is no reason
I stopped
My car to walk
Down a shady path
Do I need a reason to walk?
Underneath the trees
And talk to the babbling brook
It could be spring or fall
It matters not at all
But to get away
And look and listen
For nothing at all
And everything
For birds that sing
For squirrels that scamper
And announce the coming
Of a strange being
Who doesn’t belong
Out in the woods

Look at the beauty
Of a path in the woods
Meandering left and right
Lit by the light of the sun
Through the towering trees
On a dusty old path of memories
Like my scatterbrained thoughts
That go nowhere
But straight to my heart


“Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t you think?
The Scarecrow from Oz”

In the Land of Oz, silence is the most misunderstood art of conversation, and loneliness the most steadfast companion.

Silence c’est le mot le plus mal compris, et la solitude le compagnon le plus ferme. Je trouve, Certaines personnes sans cerveaux parlent souvent beaucoup trop, tu ne penses pas ?


Dans la terre d’Oz on cherche la sagesse.

Oz is a mythical place where one goes to seek wisdom. I say “goes”, but I do not reply that one “finds” the answer. For that one must be willing to listen. More than that, one must know to whom and where to listen.