Isis's Reviews > Le Ton Beau De Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language

Le Ton Beau De Marot by Douglas R. Hofstadter
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's review
May 07, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites
Recommended for: translators and lovers of language
Read in January, 1999 — I own a copy , read count: a kajillion

(addition 5/12/2010)

I would mark this book six stars, if I could. This was my third (or fourth? Or fifth?) trip through, and I still think it's amazing, brilliant, quirky and fun. Basically, it asks: What should stay constant across translation of a work? Translation is normally thought of as to do with plot, mood, connotations of individual words – but what about rhyming, scansion, lipogrammatic constraints? Is transculturation a thing to avoid, or to work toward? If your various constraints conflict, how do you pick which to follow?

You can dip into it at any random point and find lots and lots of fascinating tidbits about words, history, authors, AI, how humor works, musical analogy, analogous musings, stylistic analysis of writing, and so on. You'll want to play along, too – as I did for this discussion! (Hint: it's in "Anglo-Saxon.")

(Previous review)

This is one of my favorite books ever, and as I just recommended it to someone I thought I'd put it here as well. Hofstadter's examination of translation and transformation taught me that the best translation is not necessarily the most literal one, nor even the one that captures the most exact meaning, and that transformation of text is indeed a creative activity. (Heh - I read this before I even heard of fanfiction!) There are a lot of thoughtful ideas in here about how humans use language - how stories and poems are bigger than just the words in them, how meaning is only one dimension of text. Perhaps it's not as groundbreaking as his "Goedel, Escher, Bach," but it's more approachable for non-computer-science types, I think, and I like it better.
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Reading Progress

04/30/2010 page 139
21.99% "Or 18b... I am in love with this all over again. And kind of want to write a fic with no E and see if people notice."
05/05/2010 page 278
43.99% "This is why I read Seth's Golden Gate. And now I'm reminded I need to read Pushkin. I LOVE THIS BOOK."

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