2010 October 10

Translating Le Moribond


Portrait of Jacques Brel

NL-HaNA, ANEFO / neg. stroken, 1945-1989,, item number <914-8399>, license: CC-BY-SA

I’m not fluent in French, but when I heard the original Jacques Brel song on which the 1973 pop hit «Seasons in the Sun» was based, I could tell it was a very different song. I was surprised to discover that the lyrics translation had been done by famous poet Rod McKuen. How could he have gone so far astray in his translation?

The answer, of course, is that McKuen is a poet. He didn’t just slavishly translate Brel word for word. He drew on the original song to create a new work.

Still, I was curious to imagine how a truly slavish translation would sound. So I wrote one myself.