9 November 2021

GAINED IN TRANSLATION

Recent years have seen the appearance of a number of book exchanges, many of them at the entrances to London Underground stations. Anyone can take a book for free, with the request that in return they leave any of their own unwanted volumes. The one in the concourse of Fulham Broadway tube, for instance, has a high turnover, though staff have to seal it off whenever Chelsea are playing at home.
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Not long ago, at one such on Warwick Road in Earls Court, I picked up a copy of Des Signes dans le Ciel, (1967), by Paul Misraki, a French popular musician. This was a newer version of his 1962 Les Extraterrestres, which he had written under the nom-de-plume Paul Thomas. (Perhaps he used a pen name for fear that his interest in UFOs, if it became known, might harm his musical career.) This had been translated into English by Gavin Gibbons (himself the author of The Coming of the Spaceships, (1956), and They Rode in Spaceships, (1957); he had also translated a book about Nostradamus from Italian) under the title Flying Saucers Through the Ages. It so happens that it was the first book I ever read on the subject.

There is much that could be said about these items, but here I wish to address just one point. Misraki gave an account of an entity encounter, taken from AimĂ© Michel's Mysterieux Objets CĂ©lestes, which was reported in September 1954. According to Gavin Gibbons's rendering, a woman who was picking mulberries near a maize field, a few miles east of Valence, saw a “fan-shaped object”, which seems rather odd. Going up to it, she perceived a diving suit, and inside it something looking at her with “three large eyes”. This detail, so far as I know, was unique in UFO annals. 

Turning as I was now able to Misraki's original, I found that he actually said that the being had deux très gros yeux, “two very large eyes”. Evidently, Gibbons had misread très, “very” as trois, “three”. Likewise, the sighting was at first of an Ă©pouvantail, which literally means a scarecrow, but can also signify anything unnatural or frightening. Gibbons had taken it to be Ă©ventail, “a fan”. John Harney once bemoaned the tendency of UFO writers to ignore anything not in English. This example suggests that, even if something has been put into English, it should be treated with caution.
  • Gareth J. Medway

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