Alors que les adversaires de Donald Trump comparent celui - ci au capitaine Achab, et que ses supporters le présentent au contraire comme la baleine blanche*, un journal américain évoque la traduction de "MOBY DICK" par Jean Giono (publiée en 1941 à la NRF) comme une ode à ce roman et au pouvoir de la littérature d'induire l'empathie.
New Republic, hier. Ryu Spaeth. "Why Melville matters."
En 2006, le traducteur Philippe Jaworsky rappelait par ailleurs que : "Quand Jean Giono découvrait Moby-Dick au milieu des années 1930 et décidait de le traduire, en collaboration avec Lucien Jacques et Joan Smith, la stature de Melville était encore mal appréciée des deux côtés de l’Atlantique. Cette traduction publiée à la NRF. en 1941 assura à l’écrivain américain, de manière décisive en France, le statut de grand auteur étranger."
Actualisation au 12 mars 2018. La Revue "Leviathan" de la Melville Society consacre un article à Jean Giono dans son n° 20 (1) de mars 2018, 55 - 60, sous la plume de Kevin Hayes, qui a consacré un livre au sujet en 2017. jean giono Melville: A Novel Trans. paul eprile. New York: New York Review Books, 2017. xvi + 108 pp.
Following the British Melville revival in the early 1920s, countless readers across Europe discovered Melville for themselves. Jean Giono, for one, came across Moby-Dick around 1930. By the time he encountered Melville, Giono had already established a reputation as an author of challenging novels that read like prose poems. He recognized the greatness of MobyDick and frequently encountered the American sailor-poet in its pages. As he says in his preface to Melville: A Novel or, to use the original French title, Pour saluer Melville:
For at least five or six years, Melville's book was my foreign companion. I took it with me regularly on my hikes across the hills. As soon as I entered those vast, wavelike but motionless solitudes, I'd sit down under a pine and lean against its trunk. All I needed was to pull out this book, which was already flapping in the wind, to sense the manifold life of the seas swell up below and all around me.(3; trans. Paul Eprile)
We Melville enthusiasts enjoy sharing our passion for Moby-Dick with friends. Giono was no exception. He shared Moby-Dick with Lucien Jacques, a painter-friend whom he mentions in the preface to Melville: A Novel: "A few evenings spent pulling away on our pipes by the fire while I translated certain passages, clumsily but with enthusiasm, were enough to convince him. From this point onward, the book became our mutual dream, one we soon wanted to share with others" (5). Together Jacques and Giono decided to translate MobyDick into French.
Like so much of Giono's autobiographical writing, his account of how he sparked Jacques's interest in Melville is a romantic exaggeration. In "The Translation of Moby Dick," an essay Pierre Citron appended to his edition of the Giono-Jacques correspondence, Jacques explains that he had learned about Moby-Dick long before Giono read it to him. After being wounded during World War I, Jacques went to a military camp in Brittany, where he met some American volunteers from Harvard University. The Harvard boys were the first [End Page 55] to tell him about Moby-Dick. After beginning their translation, Jacques and Giono realized they needed help from a native English speaker. They recruited Joan Smith, an English antiques dealer, to co-translate. The three began their collaboration in 1936, completing their work three years later.
Giono had intended to publish an appreciative essay as part of the translation, but with the outbreak of World War II he was imprisoned after refusing to cooperate with the French war effort. Friends intervened and sprung him after two months behind bars. Upon his release, Giono transformed his critical appreciation of Melville into a stand-alone work. The result was Pour saluer Melville. This short novel served to promote the French translation of MobyDick, but it also deserves recognition on its own. Pour saluer Melville appeared serially in three installments in the April, May, and June 1940 issues of Nouvelle revue française. Also in the April issue Gallimard announced the forthcoming publication of the French Moby-Dick in its distinguished NRF series. Both the translation of Moby-Dick and the separate edition of Pour saluer Melville appeared in 1941. The French Moby-Dick met instant acclaim upon its release, receiving notice from such distinguished figures as Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Blanchot.
Pour saluer Melville met with modest contemporary acclaim and has continued to attract sensitive readers since its initial appearance. In The Books in My Life, Henry Miller offers a capsule summary of Pour saluer Melville, calling it "a poet's interpretation of a poet." The work was reprinted several times during the 1940s, after which it fell out of print until the 1970s. Additional reprints followed in the ensuing decades. The work also appeared as part of Giono's collected fiction in 1974. It has attracted attention in other parts of Europe as well, being translated into Swedish in 1942, German in 1944, and Spanish in 2008...