25 August 2015

How the French think

Award-winning historian and fellow in politics at Balliol College, Oxford, Sudhir Hazareesingh has written and is actively promoting a book entitled How the French think: An affectionate portrait of an intellectual people and subtitled Why the life of the mind is so important in France.

Virtually every point made by Hazareesingh can have an impact on the way the French write a novel or draft technical journalism. Translators working from French need to understand why the French typically take a top-down or deductive approach, why they seek the highest possible level of synthèse, why they prefer generic terms to more precise ones and why even the chapô of an eminently technical article often seek to express both an overarching framework and a high-level synthèse in just one or two lofty sentences.

Each of these traits presents the translator — and more specifically the translator with a mandate to convince or influence on the client's behalf — with a range of challenges, the first being to maintain (and if so, in what form) or discard?

You can listen to Sudhir Hazareesingh discussing How the French think on Australia's Radio National program Big Ideas. The program blurb reads:
In an affectionate portrait of an intellectual people, Sudhir Hazareesingh explores the rich history of French thought from the enlightenment through to modern times. He also examines some of the social and cultural constructs that characterise it and offers his thoughts on how this perceived downturn might be reversed.
On 14 July 2015, the London-based RSA wrote:
A nation renowned for its central ideals of citizenship, progress and social justice, and with a history of confident and often brazen optimism, has now been seized by a mood of introspection and doubt.
Award-winning author and academic Sudhir Hazareesingh explores the reasons behind the recent loss of confidence in the creativity of French public thinkers, and asks how might this nation’s once globally influential intellectual heritage be revived?
The Economist's review, dated 13 June 2015, was entitled They think, therefore they are.
The FT's review can be found here.

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