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Le Ton Beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Languageby Douglas Hofstadter
Synopses & Reviews
Lost in an art—the art of translation. Thus, in an elegant anagram (translation = lost in an art), Pulitzer Prize-winning author and pioneering cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter hints at what led him to pen a deep personal homage to the witty sixteenth-century French poet Clément Marot.”Le ton beau de Marot” literally means ”The sweet tone of Marot”, but to a French ear it suggests ”Le tombeau de Marot”—that is, ”The tomb of Marot”. That double entendre foreshadows the linguistic exuberance of this book, which was sparked a decade ago when Hofstadter, under the spell of an exquisite French miniature by Marot, got hooked on the challenge of recreating both its sweet message and its tight rhymes in English—jumping through two tough hoops at once.In the next few years, he not only did many of his own translations of Marots poem, but also enlisted friends, students, colleagues, family, noted poets, and translators—even three state-of-the-art translation programs!—to try their hand at this subtle challenge.The rich harvest is represented here by 88 wildly diverse variations on Marots little theme. Yet this barely scratches the surface of Le Ton beau de Marot, for small groups of these poems alternate with chapters that run all over the map of language and thought.Not merely a set of translations of one poem, Le Ton beau de Marot is an autobiographical essay, a love letter to the French language, a series of musings on life, loss, and death, a sweet bouquet of stirring poetry—but most of all, it celebrates the limitless creativity fired by a passion for the music of words.Dozens of literary themes and creations are woven into the picture, including Pushkins Eugene Onegin, Dantes Inferno, Salingers Catcher in the Rye, Villons Ballades, Nabokovs essays, Georges Perecs La Disparition, Vikram Seths Golden Gate, Horaces odes, and more.Rife with stunning form-content interplay, crammed with creative linguistic experiments yet always crystal-clear, this book is meant not only for lovers of literature, but also for people who wish to be brought into contact with current ideas about how creativity works, and who wish to see how todays computational models of language and thought stack up next to the human mind.Le Ton beau de Marot is a sparkling, personal, and poetic exploration aimed at both the literary and the scientific world, and is sure to provoke great excitement and heated controversy among poets and translators, critics and writers, and those involved in the study of creativity and its elusive wellsprings.
"Douglas R. Hofstadter, author of the widely celebrated Gödel, Escher, Bach, has produced a quirky, personal, sometimes touching and often exasperating book about the mysteries of translation. Le Ton Beau de Marot does not offer a continuous argument — Hofstadter himself refers to it as 'my ruminations on the art of translation' — but rather a long sequence of sundry reflections parceled out in packages of a page or two under boldface rubrics that are usually whimsical and often punning." New York Times Book Review
"What Douglas Hofstadter is, quite simply, is a phenomenologist, a practicing phenomenologist, and he does it better than anyone else. Ever. For years he has been studying the processes of his own consciousness, relentlessly, unflinchingly, imaginatively, but undeludedly — he watches his own mind work the way a stage magician watches another stage magician's show, not in slack-jawed awe at the 'magic' of it all, but full of intense and informed curiosity about how on earth the effects might be achieved." Daniel Dennett
"Douglas Hofstadter has triumphantly returned with a companion volume to his youthful masterwork, an inquiry into the nature of language and translation, an exhilarating blend of autobiography, analysis, wordplay and elegy — a source of myriad delights." Washington Post
"Not even Hofstadter's brilliant Gödel, Escher, Bach prepared me for this new book, which takes a spirited lyric by a little-known poet of the Renaissance and uses it as a launching pad for one of the most thought-provoking discussions of literary translation I have read. More than a scholarly study, the text is also an autobiographical work, helping the author do the work of bereavement for his late wife and producing a book that, though written in prose, has poetic qualities. He has demonstrated that deep humanity and the magic of form are wonderfully compatible, by composing a 'translation' of his beloved spouse into an enduring verbal icon." Alfred Corn
Douglas Hofstadter—author of the Pulitzer Prizewinner Gödel, Escher, Bach—and a select group of translators, as well as three computer programs, translate a short poem by sixteenth-century French poet Clément Marot from its native tongue into English. In analyzing these translations, each distinct and delightful in its own right, translation becomes the perfect metaphor for exploring the nature of human intelligence.
About the Author
Douglas R. Hofstadter is College Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. His previous books are the Pulitzer Prizewinning Gödel, Escher, Bach; Metamagical Themas, The Minds I, Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies, Le Ton Beau de Marot, and Eugene Onegin.
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