Translation 53. English Loanwords in Hindi. Lexical References

Posted 22 February 2016 by Brian Steel
Categories: Hindi Language

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This useful collection of annotated bibliographical information on Hindi/Urdu is posted here both as a further sample of my book English Loanwords in Hindi and (for those who do not need the book) as a further contribution to my blog series on Translation and Interpreting.

The Bibliography of the multi-faceted book is divided into Lexical References and General Bibliography (4 A-4 pages).

Lexical References (annotated)

Agnihotri, Rama Kant, Hindi. An Essential Grammar, Routledge, London & New York, 2006.

Allied’s Hindi-English Dictionary, edited by Henk Wagenaar and Sangeeta S. Parikh (New Delhi, Allied Publishers Pvt., 2002 [1996.] [romanised],1167 pages ISBN 81-7764-357-6 Allied Chambers (India) Limited, Transliterated Hindi-English Dictionary, ed. Henk W. Wagenaar, New Delhi, Allied Chambers,1993 [reprint 2008], 1149 pp. ISBN 81-86062-10-6.
[romanised and alphabeticised, with a Glossary of Hindu Mythology (also romanised, pp. 903-1149)]
Bahri, Hardev, Rajpal Advanced Learner’s Hindi-English Dictionary, 2 vols. Delhi, Rajpal Publishing, ?2006. ISBN 978-81-7028-667-7
This is an excellent (romanised) reference book, possibly the most helpful bilingual romanised dictionary for intermediate and advanced English-speaking learners of Hindi.
It is the only romanised Hindi-English dictionary of those I consulted in which the lexicographer has methodically tried to cover this important aspect of the contemporary Hindi language. (An updated version would be a welcome improvement.)

DK Visual Bilingual Dictionary of Hindi, New York, DK Publishing, 2008. []
Based on a common template of English semantic areas and items (and photographs) for all the languages that the series covers, it is an excellent quick-reference source of many examples of technical anglicisms and everyday borrowings from English. One important caveat is that the Introduction informs readers: “Where no suitable Hindi words exist, or are not commonly used, we have retained the English words, but the romanization has been adapted to show how native Hindi speakers pronounce them” (p. 8).
Hindi/Urdu Flagship Program of the University of Texas (Austin) (Director: Professor Rupert Snell) Although the whole website is free for non-commercial use, this is a University level web-based series of teaching and learning aids for students and teachers who are aiming at an advanced professional competency in Hindi or Urdu. Among the large quantity of materials (including videos and Power Point presentations) is the series of podcasts on Spoken Thesaurus (also directed by Rupert Snell)

Kachru, Yamuna, Hindi, Amsterdam, John Benjamins, 2006.
Kumar, Arvind, Arvind Word Power. English-Hindi. A Dictionary with a Difference, New Delhi, Arvind Linguistics Private Limited, 2015. (1350 pages)
Kumar, Arvind and Kusum, The Penguin English-Hindi / Hindi-English Thesaurus, 3 vols., New Delhi, (Arvind Lingusitics Private Limited), 2007.
McGregor, R.S., Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1993.
McGregor, R.S., Outline of Hindi Grammar, 3rd ed. Revised and Enlarged, Oxford University Press, 1995.
Niladri, Shekhar Dash, Payel Dutta Chowdhury, Abhisek Sarkar (2009). ‘Naturalisation of English Words in Modern Bangla’, Language Forum , Vol. 35, Jul- Dec 2009.
Platts, John T., A Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi and English, London, 1884.
Rahman, Tariq, From Hindi to Urdu: a Social and Political History, Karachi, Oxford University Press, 2011. (Note: Professor Rahman’s website offers many downloads of his writings on this and other related topics.)
Schuermann: Volker Schuermann’s Bollywood Dictionary.
Available online:
Shabdkosh Forums: especially for Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati and Punjabi. (Shabdkosh also offers very useful online dictionaries.)
Snell, Rupert, ‘The Hidden Hand: English Lexis, Syntax and Idiom as Determinants of Modern Hindi Usage’, South Asia Research, 1990, 10, 53-68.
(For some academic institutions, available from
(To see a read-only copy: Google Search: C.L. Anand, The Constitution of India, choose the Google sample Item, which opens on this article (pp. 74-90). Or, Google Search: David Arnold and Peter Robb, Institutions and Ideologies. A SOAS South Asia Reader. Then open the item from “”.)
(This is a very important study, worth re-issuing, in which Snell presents a cornucopia of detailed evidence on the massive influence of English on Hindi. The rapid growth of borrowings and the spread of Hinglish over the followng 20 years was to reinforce his thesis, leading to his equally excellent survey (and Trojan Horse warning) in the edited results of the ‘Chutnefying’ Conference: ‘Hindi: Its Threatened Ecology and Natural Genius’, pp. 22-36, in Rita Kothari and Rupert Snell (eds.) 2011. [q.v.]
Snell, Rupert, Teach Yourself Essential Hindi Dictionary, USA, McGraw-Hill, 2011.
Snell, Rupert and Simon Weightman, Teach Yourself Hindi, [2nd. ed.], London, Hodder education, 2003.[There is a different first ed., Hodder and Stoughton, 1989.]
Snell, Rupert with Simon Weightman, Teach Yourself Complete Hindi, USA, McGraw-Hill, 2010.
Steel, Brian: On WordPress and, pdf/
Suntharesan, V., The Impact of Borrowings from English on Jaffna Tamil. (A Textbook for University Students, Language in India, Vol. 14, 6 June 2014. (A downloadable 125-page book)
Urdulist: Urdu listserv.

English Loanwords in Hindi

Posted 21 February 2016 by Brian Steel
Categories: Hindi Language


This is a presentation of my new book: English Loanwords, Abbreviations, and Acronyms in Hindi. A Romanised Guide to Hindi Media Usage. The 3 documents of this reference book are offered for private study for US$5, payable via Paypal. Delivery is by email.


[Addendum. 1 March: On Scripts and Transliteration]


Hindi is the major official language of India, but it is only spoken or understood by a large minority (perhaps half a billion) of the country’s 1.2 billion citizens. Some of the other major Indian languages spoken are closely related to Hindi, notably its closest sibling Urdu, as well as Punjabi, and Gujarati. Most other major South Asian languages, especially those spoken in South India, like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam come from different language families and use different scripts. Because of this very wide linguistic diversity, English, which was introduced into India at a crucial time in its development, has ended up, 250 years later, as the lingua franca of the whole country, as Indian English. How this came about and with what consequences for the Hindi and Urdu languages is the wider subject of the introductory chapters (Part 1) to what is basically a quick-reference romanised lexicographical aid for learners of Hindi, with lists of English abbreviations, acronyms and loanwords in the Hindi media.

The book consists of 155 A4 pages in .pdf format and lists over 3,000 English loanwords (or borrowings) in contemporary media Hindi as well as 600 Hindi abbreviations and acronyms based phonetically on the letters of the English alphabet. All this is presented as evidence of the prolonged intrusive relationship between English and Hindi (as well as with several major languages of the Indian subcontinent – now South Asia – some of which were listed above).

This abundant harvest of lexical items has been gathered over several years of listening to and reading Hindi media materials as well as a wide reading of books and Internet articles in Hindi and English on contemporary India. Since most of these lexical items are not offered in current bilingual Hindi-English dictionaries, they are presented here as a practical reference supplement for fellow English-speaking students of Hindi as a Second Language (HSL). The book is, therefore, potentially of use to HSL students interested in studying the Indian media (as well as the language of administration, commerce, politics, sciences and social sciences). It might also serve as a stimulus to the present generation of Hindi lexicographers and Machine Translation (MT) researchers that more attention to this substantial (and ever-growing) part of the Hindi lexicon (and other South Asian lexicons) could result in improved bilingual dictionaries and translation aids for: Hindi-English, Hindi-Chinese, Hindi-Czech, Hindi-German, Hindi-Japanese, Hindi-Russian, etc.

To speed up consultation and comprehension, all of the Hindi lexical items are presented in romanised spelling (following a practical transliteration system of the Devanagari script). As a further “shortcut” to students, the items are arranged in the alphabetical order of the English language (a-z).

The secondary aim of this book is to offer brief but necessary background information on the extraordinary 250-year relationship between English and the major South Asian languages, which has produced not only large numbers of English loanwords but a distinctive and flourishing new variant of World English, Indian English (IE), as the ongoing lingua franca of the whole of linguistically complex India, especially in the principal language registers of the media, administration, politics, law, education and science. Not only did this English infiltration and, later, permeation of Indian languages last 200 years during colonial control but, following India’s hard-won political Independence 68 years ago, English has continued to influence native Indian languages (albeit with periodic bouts of regional and national public debate and controversy).

Part 1. Background Information
Chapter 1
When Languages and Power Collide. British English Infiltrates Hindi, Urdu and other Languages of the Indian Subcontinent
History 101
Parenthesis: The Continuing Search for the Origins of Hindi and Urdu:
Some basic bibliographical pointers
The Creation of Modern Hindi and Modern Urdu
The Countdown to Independence and a Confrontation between Languages
Chapter 2
Indian Languages and English. The Postcolonial Period
Historical Background
Hindi, English and other Indian Languages: Current Factors         
Changing Standards: The Question of Postcolonial Bilingualism
Indian English(es)
Introducing Hinglish (etc.)
Notes on other Indian Languages and Indian Englishes
On Scripts and Transliteration

Part 2. Reference Sections. The Romanised Glossaries

Chapter 3
A Sample of English Permeation of Indian Life and Languages: Evidence from Media Hindi
Chapter 4
English-based Initials, Abbreviations and Acronyms in Hindi
Transliteration System
Romanised Hindi to English
Appendix of Abbreviations and Acronyms in English Alphabetical Order
Chapter 5
English Loanwords and Hybrid Forms in the Hindi Media.
A Romanised Glossary of over 3,000 Terms
Transliteration System
Abbreviations used
Romanised Glossary of English Loanwords and Hybrid Forms in the Hindi Media
Bibliography (with some annotations)
Lexical References
General Bibliography

Chapter 1
(page 6) On 31 December, Queen Elizabeth I of England granted a charter to a group of 100 London merchants of the East India Trading Company (EIC) to trade with India and The East. Through the East India Company, England (later Britain) gradually acquired power over large areas of the Indian subcontinent, with relatively few British soldiers and administrators. The expansion of the East India Company was slow but effective. For the first 100 years or so, it was one of four European coastal traders in India, but subject to control by the Muslim rulers.
1640-1696: Three separate trading posts (‘Presidencies’) were set up in Madras (1639), Bombay (1666) and Calcutta (1696).
1700- : Mughal power begins to wane.
(page 11) From 1860 on, activity by protagonists of both Hindi and Urdu (with their respective scripts, Devanagari and Nasta’liq) advocated a return to the “pure” vocabulary of the basic sources: Sanskrit, and Persian and Arabic, respectively.
[R] Stuart McGregor (2003, p. 949-950) further reports: “The use of modern Hindi, and the cultural significance of its Devanagari script in the context of the relative dominance of Urdu in public life, became an issue at Benares [Uttar Pradesh] and elsewhere.” In 1866, “the Muslim leader Sayad Ahmad Khan expressed doubts – usually said to mark the open emergence of the “Hindi language movement” – regarding whether Muslims and Hindus would be able to work together, through Urdu, toward the development of a new India.”

Chapter 2
(page 14) At the end of the British Raj, as a long term result of the enthusiastic adoption and fulfilment of Macaulay’s educational ‘Minute’, the position of English in the administration of the Indian subcontinent and in the running of daily urban life was well entrenched. In fact, Indian English had become the national lingua franca in India and its presence in the extensive Indian print media was becoming a tangible cultural and economic asset for India. English, which was spoken fluently by a large number (if not percentage) of upper middle and middle class Indians, was functioning in partnership with major regional Indian languages (Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, etc.). In the north and northeast, its major partner was Hindi (along with its closest sibling languages, Urdu, Gujarati and Punjabi). As described below, Hindi was declared the first official language of the Republic of India, with provisions for English to be kept as an official national language for official purposes only for 15 years (until 1965). In newly independent Pakistan, English’s partners were Urdu and Punjabi and other important local languages. (See entry below under 1963.)

Chapter 3 Sample Evidence
(p. 31) From the very beginning of the close contact between English and Indian languages, through constant hearing (and, for some, reading) of English titles for East India Company administrators and, later, the terminology related to administration, law enforcement, justice and the army, etc., the English terms have seeped into and permeated Indian life. Even since Indian Independence in 1947, familiarity with the sound and (on public signs) the look of English, as well as the amount of English loanwords used in Hindi and other Indian and subcontinental languages, has greatly increased. Who in India does not know the major terms used in krikaT or films, or those many others dealing with the relve?

In this postcolonial period, and particularly after 1990, with rising prosperity, a boom in consumerism, globalisation and mass communications (most notably with the Internet and the mobile phone, now the smaarT fon), Hindi (like other major Indian languages) has adopted a constant stream of English loanwords and phrases and loan translations (or calques) and a few hundred phonetically English abbreviations. Nowhere is this proliferation more visible than in the visual and audio mass media.
(p. 45) A few early Borrowings and Impositions, IMS (Indian Medical Service)
aaee.pee.see., IPC (Indian Penal Code: 1860-), ICS (Indian Civil Service: 1858-1947) (Replaced by IAS.)

kalekTar, District Officer and Tax Collector (1772)
kaNTooNmeNT, Hist. cantonment (suburban township set aside for military, esp. housing)
abbrev. kaNT. (Hobson-Jobson gives a 1783 reference .)
sivil laains, “the residential neighborhoods developed during the British Raj for its senior officers. These townships were built all over the Indian subcontinent and were allotted to civil officers in the respective countries.”(Wikipedia)
gavarnar janral, Governor General (1773) Replaced in 1858 by vaaisraay, m, Viceroy.
rezideNT, Hist. Resident, Ambassador (British representative to an Indian State or kingdom)
jublee, f, Jubilee; DaaimaND jublee, f, Diamond Jubilee [Queen Victoria]
mejar janral, major general; janral, general; brigaDiyar, brigadier; karnal, m, colonel; kapTaan, captain;
Chapter 4. (37 pages)
(There two separate parts: Hindi to English and an Appendix of English to Hindi.)
This collection of Hindi acronyms, abbreviations and their meaning has been accumulated during several years of reading and listening to Hindi media, consulting a number of reference books and making many Google searches. The result is a sample of 600 acronyms, well over 90% of which are based on the phonetics of the English alphabet and (mostly) refer to the original English words of the entity referred to, e.g. aaee.aaee.Tee(s), IIT(s) (Indian Institute(s) of Technology).

To avoid confusion, it should be emphasised that, while there is no suggestion that the Hindi (or other Indian language) speaker knows the full English “content” of the abbreviation (if seen, read or heard in daily life), he or she is probably able to identify the entity referred to by the abbreviation (i.e. the appropriate “meaning” of the (anglicised) reference). That is precisely why acronyms and abbreviations are so useful in all languages, as a sort of “shorthand”. They obviate the need to know the full and sometimes much longer reference.
(Part 1)
For Hindi acronyms with initial English A [ay as in may], see under e-.
aaee [= English I]

aaee.o., IO (India Office) (Hist.)
aaee.o.e., IOA (Indian Olympic Association)
aaee.o.see., IOC (Indian Olympic Committee)
aaee.pee.e., IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)
aaee.pee.el, IPL (Indian Premier League) (Cricket), IPS (Indian Police Service: 1860-), IPKF (Indian Peace-Keeping Force)
aaaee.pee.pee.e.aaee., IPPAI (Independent Power Producers Association of India)
aaee.pee.see., IPC (Indian Penal Code: 1860-)
aaee.pee.see.see., IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)

(Part 2: Appendix)
IO, India Office (aaee.o.) (Hist.)
IOA, Indian Olympic Association (aaee.o.e.)
IOC, Indian Olympic Committee (aaee.o.see.)
IPA, International Phonetic Alphabet (aaee.pee.e.)
IPC, Indian Penal Code: 1860-) (aaee.pee.see.)
IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (aaee.pee.see.see.)
IPKF, Indian Peace-Keeping Force (
IPL, Indian Premier League) (Cricket) (aaee.pee.el)
IPPAI, Independent Power Producers Association of India (aaaee.pee.pee.aaee.)
IPS (Indian Police Service: 1860-) (
Chapter 5. 3,000 English loanwords and hybrid terms (60 x 2-column pages)
(This includes an Introduction which includes basic information on abbreviations and discussion of the transliteration scheme chosen.)
The previous chapters of this book have given a brief historical and social account of the protracted and enforced relationship between, on the one hand, Hindi, Urdu and other South Asian languages, and English on the other. The eventual consequences were the emergence of Indian English(es) and a Hindi language (and other South Asian languages) permeated by English borrowings (or loanwords), loan translations (or calques) and other hybrid linguistic features. The survival and intensification of this close relationship following Independence and Partition and continued cross-fertilisation on both sides has also been outlined.

Contemporary Hindi, the most widely spoken language in India, is the officially endorsed language of India. It is Constitutionally promoted by the Government’s Department of Official Language (DOL). (See Rashmi Sadana, 2012 for a report on its activities.) Indian English is the associate official language as well as the lingua franca of India.
kameNT, comment
koee kameNT naheeN, No comment.
kameNT deN, Comment. (Int.) (EH)
kameNT karnaa, to comment (Int) (EH)
kameTee, f, committee
selekT kameTee, f, Select Committee
kamishan, comission
kamishan, (euphemism) bribe
kamishnar, commissioner
kamishnaree, f, office and rank of Commissioner (EH)
kamiTee (or kameTee), f, committee
kamiTmaNT, commitment
kaMpaas, m, compass (HB)
kaMpanee, kaMpnee, f? company
bahuraaShTreey kaMpanee, multinational company (EH)
kampanees aikT, Companies Act
kaMpas, campus
kaMpeN, campaign
kampeNseshan, compensation
kampeNseT karnaa, to compensate (EH)
kaMposT, m, compost
kaMpyooTar, computer sp
kamraa: See SiNgal, Dabal and Tvin.
kamyoonalism, communalism
kamyunikeshaNs, communications
kamyunisT, communist

The Bibliography (which includes some annotations) is in two sections:
Lexical References
General Bibliography
I hope that is sufficient for you to decide if this book could be of use to you.
For other earlier items of possible interest to HSL learners, see here.


Translation 52. Are all Translation Howlers Accidents?

Posted 17 July 2015 by Brian Steel
Categories: Translation

Tags: , , ,

Charlie Croker’s Lost in Translation. Misadventures in English Abroad  is a new discovery for me (UK, Michael O’Mara Books, 2006). It was followed by Still More … in 2008 AND, apparently, a new collection is due on 1 October 2015: Utterly Lost in Translation: Even More Misadventures in English Abroad. London: Metro Books.

Over a few decades I have come across many Translation howlers involving English abroad (and at home!) and have seen many more on the Internet, and in friends’ emails, but for me this little volume is the fullest and the FUNNIEST.

Laughs are guaranteed in Croker’s editions, especially since his avid readers feed him with their own widely-based travel discoveries. Here is a selection of short examples from his original edition to whet your appetite and leave you marvelling at the infinite possibilities – including perhaps the potential for deliberately composing eye-catching “howlers” in order to attract the attention of foreign visitors and shoppers – or Internet celebrity. In other words, the possible use of deliberate translation errors as an income or ego boost! Most of these specimens selected from Croker’s book seem quite unconscious, but are there any which you feel may not be spontaneous? A closer examination of the book (or the forthcoming edition), which contains pages of longer examples, may reveal other suspects to the professional eye.

France, metal detector scanner:  People with peace-maker do not pass.

Bucharest: The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.

Korea: Choose twin bed or marriage size; we regret no King Kong size.

Indonesia: Someday laundry service.

Taipei: If there is anything we can do to assist and help you, please do not contact us.

Sri Lanka: Please do not bathe outside the bathtub.

Vietnam: Toilet was cleaned and spayed.

Thailand: Please do not bring solicitors into your room.

Brazil: Visit the hairdresser in the Sub Soil of this Hotel.

London: All fire extinguishers must be examined at least five days before any fire.

French Riviera car event: Competitors will defile themselves on the promenade at 11 a.m., and each car will have 2 drivers who will relieve themselves at each other’s convenience.

Japan, on van: Brain Location Service.

Japan, on medicine bottle: Adults: 1 tablet 3 times a day until passing away.


Japan: Buttered saucepans and fried hormones.

India: Children soup

Macao: Utmost of chicken fried in bother.

Thailand: Chicken gordon blue, pork shops, eggs scrambling.

Egypt: Muscles of marine / Lobster thermos.

Hong Kong: (in cheese list): Roguefart

Signs and instructions:

London: Open 24 hours except 2 a.m. – 8 a.m.

India: Seven days a week and weekends too.

Chinese exercise balls: Instructions: Three types of ball are offered. They are one. two. three.

Kolkata, on fire extinguisher: Cease Fire.

Barcelona Travel agency: Go away.

Mexican disco: Members and non-members only.

Israeli butcher’s shop: I slaughter myself twice daily.

Shanghai Museum: Be careful to butt head on wall.

Chinese Temple: Please take one step forward and crap twice.


Surely you must have laughed out loud at SOME of those!

If so, why not indulge yourself further by buying Charlie Croker’s new collection in October!

Thanks, Charlie. I can’t wait.

Translation 51. Arvind Kumar’s Word Power: English-Hindi

Posted 27 March 2015 by Brian Steel
Categories: Hindi Language

Tags: , , , , , ,

Two and a half years ago, I celebrated my belated discovery of Dr Arvind Kumar’s highly acclaimed 3-volume Penguin English-Hindi / Hindi-English Thesaurus and Dictionary.

Now Arvind Kumar (and his supporting family team) have published the first of a new series of reference works.
Arvind Kumar, Arvind Word Power. ENGLISH-HINDI. (A Dictionary with a Difference),
New Delhi, Arvind Linguistics Private, 2015. ISBN 978-81-924966-2-7 [1350 pages]

Based on the eminent lexicographer’s Thesaurus, this lengthy new work is the first of an innovative series of reference works for those interested in English, or Hindi, or both (in relation to one another). Forthcoming volumes of Arvind Word Power will deal with Hindi-English, English-English, and Hindi-Hindi versions.

In the online introduction to this new work, Kumar states:
” Meanings in English & Hindi
Synonyms in English & Hindi
Linkages to similar & opposite concepts
670,000 words
Arvind Word Power: English-Hindi is a tailor-made tool for all who use English and Hindi. It combines the usefulness of a dictionary, thesaurus and encyclopedia. It helps users to express their ideas, emotions and thoughts – correctly, completely and comfortably.
Arvind Word Power: English-Hindi is useful for those who are well-versed in English but are stuck, at times, for the correct Hindi equivalent of an English word.
It is equally useful for those who are not so well-versed in English and are often unable to understand the meaning or implication of a given English word.”

The following excerpt from the Introduction to this new volume (recently purchased) adds a further clarification for prospective readers:
Arvind Word Power: English-Hindi seamlessly juxtaposes English and Hindi vocabularies and helps the user find the correct Hindi equivalent for English words [… providing] synonyms as well as links to similar and opposite concepts in both English and Hindi side by side[…].”

” The scope of Arvind Word Power: English-Hindi goes beyond any existing bilingual dictionary […] [It] is totally India-centric. Our customs, ceremonies, rites and rituals as well as philosophies, doctrines, legends and folklore are all included to provide a complete understanding of Indian culture […] [It] also includes people, incidents and happenings important to India and Indians. For example: Indian freedom movement agitation […] ”
That heading is followed by 3 lines of 20 associated terms (boycott, hunger strike, khadi, nonviolent movement, etc.) and immediately below that the same heading in Hindi accompanied by 3 lines of equivalent terms in Hindi.

There are no less than 1350 pages of such encyclopedic material to consult. The topics are in English alphabetical order. The next volume, Arvind Word Power: Hindi- English will obviously be in the usual Devanagari order. (I can’t wait!)

Having only had time to skim through this huge book, I am both impressed and excited at its wide coverage and the benefit it will bring to my research on Hindi lexicography and Hindi to English translation. I simply wished to announce its arrival and availability to fellow students and lovers of the Hindi and English languages. I may add further comments in a few months.

A pertinent financial observation.
Indian commodity prices are quite low for people from many other economies (West, East, as well as North and South – in Australasia).
Indian book prices are especially low for us. On the other hand, because of the distance involved, Airmail postage (or, more likely, Courier service) from India is fairly high. However, IMHO, the combined low Indian book price plus the Courier price – for a 2-kilogram blockbuster – still makes it an attractive proposition. 1350 pages of knowledge for about $35.

Translation 50. Michel Houellebecq. Soumission. Background to the Triple Publication of his latest Novel

Posted 15 February 2015 by Brian Steel
Categories: Translation

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Soumission, published by Flammarion, 7 January 2015. (250,000 copies printed)
Sottomissione, published by Bompiani, 15 January 2015.
(Translator: V.Vega) 200,000 sales claimed in first week.
Unterwerfung, published by DUMONT Buchverlag, 16 January 2015.
(2 translators: Norma Cassau and Bernd Wilczek) (250,000 copies printed)
An English translation, Submission, is announced for September 2015.

Having read and enjoyed this latest (futuristic) novel by bestselling and perennially polemical French author Michel Houellebecq, I understand why hundreds of thousands of readers of the French original and the German and Italian translations have purchased the novel in the past month. In view of the flood of vigorous media attention (literary and journalistic) devoted to the novel, inevitably magnified by the tragic coincidence of the publication date with the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and also in view of the distant date given for the English translation, I have selected a small range of articles (mainly in English) which chronicle the novel’s first month of sales. (In view of the embarras du choix, I have tried to avoid the work of hacks and “churnalists” (journalists who do not consider a careful and fair reading of the novel as a sine qua non for robust reporting on literary works of this kind).

The articles are all linked for direct reading, but, for those who do not have time, I have added short quotations in order to present many of the aspects of Houellebecq’s work which have been discussed by critics and other commentators.

Background reading on Michel Houellebecq and Soumission

For background information on Houellebecq’s life, ideas and previous work, see The Fall 2010 issue of The Paris Review for the interview, ‘Michel Houellebecq. The Art of Fiction, No. 206’, by Susannah Hunnewell.
A few snippets.
“Michel Houellebecq was born on the French island of La Réunion, near Madagascar, in 1958. As his official Web site states, his bohemian parents, an anesthesiologist and a mountain guide, “soon lost all interest in his existence.” He has no pictures of himself as a child. After a brief stay with his maternal grandparents in Algeria, he was raised from the age of six by his paternal grandmother in northern France.”
The Elementary Particles is also the novel that made critics focus on your biography because the characters seem to have many points in common with you. But it seems you find it irritating, that people reduce everything to biography. ”
“Yes, it’s annoying because it denies what is the essential trait of fiction writing, namely, that the characters develop by themselves. In other words, you start with a few real facts and then you let the thing roll with its own momentum. And the further along you get, the more likely you are to leave reality behind altogether. You can’t tell your own story in fact. You can use elements of it ̶ but don’t imagine that you can control what a character is going to do a hundred pages later. The only thing you can do is, for example, give the character your literary tastes.”
“What about your critics? Can you just sum up briefly what you hold against the French press?”
“First of all, they hate me more than I hate them. What I do reproach them for isn’t bad reviews. It is that they talk about things having nothing to do with my books my mother or my tax exile ̶ and that they caricature me so that I’ve become a symbol of so many unpleasant things ̶ cynicism, nihilism, misogyny. People have stopped reading my books because they’ve already got their idea about me. To some degree of course, that’s true for everyone. After two or three novels, a writer can’t expect to be read. The critics have made up their minds.”
“Like the comedian, you compulsively take the politically sensitive subjects of the moment and then are irreverent to the point of insult. And it’s funny. It makes you laugh out of shock.”
“You laugh because the insult claims merely to state the obvious. This may be unusual in literature but it isn’t in private life.”
“I want to be loved despite my faults. It isn’t exactly true that I’m a provocateur. A real provocateur is someone who says things he doesn’t think, just to shock. I try to say what I think. And when I sense that what I think is going to cause displeasure, I rush to say it with real enthusiasm. And deep down, I want to be loved despite that.”
On Soumission, see the 2 January 2015 Paris Review Interview by Sylvain Bourmeau (translated by Lorin Stein): Scare Tactics: Michel Houellebecq Defends His Controversial New Book.
“I don’t think we are witnessing a French suicide. I think we are seeing practically the opposite. Europe is committing suicide and, in the middle of Europe, France is struggling desperately to survive. It is almost the only country that is fighting to survive, the only country whose demographics allow it to survive.”
” My book describes the destruction of the philosophy handed down by the Enlightenment, which no longer makes sense to anyone, or to very few people. Catholicism, by contrast, is doing rather well. I would maintain that an alliance between Catholics and Muslims is possible. We’ve seen it happen before, it could happen again.”

The Tragedy of Book Launch Day, 7 January 2015

Given Houellebecq’s fame and reputation as well as the advance publicity from the publishers of the three versions of Soumission, and the intense media interest which had already been in evidence for two weeks, huge sales had been expected and were prepared for by the publication of about 250,000 copies in each of the three countries. Normally, therefore, the Charlie Hebdo coverage (a caricature of Michel Houellebecq and a caustic remark on the Cover and satirical remarks on the novel) would have been a tiny part of the media contributions (with a modest but influential audience). However, the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices on the morning of 7 January and the shockwaves around Europe and other parts of the world dealt Houellebecq a devastating blow (and a close personal one as well, since one of his friends had been executed by the terrorists).

One of the journalists present at the fateful Charlie Hebdo staff meeting that morning was Philippe Lançon. This journalist, along with many others, had published a satirical and teasing (but good-natured Gallic) review of Soumission in the left-wing newspaper Libération in the pre-publication days.
“Ceci est un roman, plutôt comique : comme toujours avec Houellebecq, mais peut-être plus encore qu’à l’ordinaire, l’humour est la politesse ̶ ou l’impolitesse, comme on voudra ̶ du désespoir. Avec un goût de potache froid. Soumission n’est donc ni un essai sur Huysmans, ni un discours sur la montée de l’islam en France et en Europe, ni un rapport sur l’université déclinante, […] même si ces sujets de causerie occupent le livre, le font dériver avec une légèreté, une perversité et une ambiguïté assez efficaces pour permettre à tous de faire ce dont chacun raffole dès qu’il s’agit de Houellebecq : répandre son avis sur lui à propos de n’importe quoi.”
[… to allow readers to do what they are longing to do whenever Houellebecq’s name crops up: to spread their opinions about him on absolutely any topic.]

” Son style est là: neutralité féroce, phrases nettes, coups de pattes, sens du dialogue et de ’absurde, dégagements philosophiques, italiques à l’ironie sociologique, points virgule à la presque Flaubert.”
(See also John Vinocur’s useful comment below.)

Five days later, Lançon, who also works for the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, was present at the massacre and was extremely lucky to survive, albeit with serious injuries. On 13 January, he dictated his account of the atrocity from his hospital bed.
“Journaliste à Libération et chroniqueur à Charlie Hebdo, Philippe Lançon a réchappé au massacre, mercredi 7 janvier. Blessé, il entame une longue guérison. ”
“Chers amis de Charlie et Libération, […]

[He reflects on why he is a writer, and gives an idea of the lively but friendly debates with his colleagues, some now murdered.]
“… j’y pensais en regardant le corps le plus proche, celui de mon ami et ce jour-là voisin de tablée Bernard Maris, qui n’a jamais laissé ses fonctions limiter l’expression de ses enthousiasmes et de ses curiosités. Il venait de parler du roman de Michel Houellebecq, que nous aimons, et je l’avais engueulé… pour ce qu’il avait écrit du traitement de Libération. Puis nous nous étions aussitôt réconciliés sur les passages de Soumission qui, bien entendu, nous avaient fait rire. […] Et nous étions tous là parce que nous étions libres, ou voulions l’être le plus possible, parce qu’on voulait rire et nous affronter sur tout, à propos de tout, une petite équipe homérique et carnassière, et c’est justement cela que les hommes en noir, ces sinistres ninjas, ont voulu tuer. ”
Selected reviews of Soumission in English (with sample quotations)

John Vinocur, The Wall Street Journal (USA), 5 January
‘A Novel Approach to France’s Future, and Present’
“In Soumission, the author goes after French lethargy, observing through the eyes of a 44-year-old professor the country’s contempt for its existing political parties. Their rejection in 2022 leads to a coalition, headed by the Muslim Fraternity party, against Marine Le Pen’s nativists; the election of a slick Muslim president; and, soon enough, his soft-sell version of Shariah law.”
“My goodness. The sky is falling. Heart rates quicken.
At least Libération’s literary critic, Philippe Lançon [see above], appearing in the same edition as his boss, took a deep breath. In his review of Soumission he said the writer handled his “rather comic” novel “[w]ith a lightness of touch, perversity, and ambiguity sufficiently effective to allow everybody to do what they love to when it comes to Houellebecq: state their opinion on him regardless. Encouraging discussion is, after all, a social virtue of a good novelist.”
“The fact is, the Houellebecq hullabaloo demonstrates the distance in France ̶ perhaps greater than in any other European democracy ̶ between the political correctness of the left, the bigotry and discrimination of the extreme right, and any kind of reasonable discussion of how France can be accommodated (not just vice versa) by its six to eight million Arab Muslims.”

Naben Ruthnum, National Post (Canada), 4 February.
“Michel Houellebecq ̶ the French novelist caricatured on the January 7th cover of Charlie Hebdo as a drunken, smoking Nostradamus ̶ wrote a novel doomed, both by its capsule summary and the author’s notorious reputation, to be viewed by those who haven’t read it as a racist, fear-mongering text.” [italics added]
“In interviews spanning his long career, Houellebecq has referred to nationalists as “primates,” a sentiment that rings through the pages of Soumission: the “identitaires,” (nativist, France-for-French nationalists) are buffoons or aristocratically rich schemers […]”
Soumission’s narrator, François, is a middle-aged academic, and the book begins as a slow reflection on his most significant relationship: that with the subject of his long-finished dissertation, J.K. Huysmans. This friendship, with the long-dead, decadent author of Against Nature and a whole series of novels detailing, among other things, the turn of their author toward Catholicism, suggest both the isolated, disengaged loneliness of François, and the narrative that will come to unfold for him: like Huysmans, his is a story of conversion.”
Steven Poole, The Guardian, 9 January
Soumission by Michel Houellebecq: Much more than a satire on Islamism’
“But is France’s most celebrated controversialist offering a splenetic vision of the Muslim threat to Europe or a spineless “submission” to gradual Islamic takeover? Actually, neither. It’s much more interesting than that.”

“Those riffling impatiently through the opening for controversy will be disappointed, as we are introduced slowly to the narrator, François, a middle-aged literary academic who teaches at the Sorbonne. He is an expert on Huysmans, the cultish 19th-century anatomist of decadence, and he sleeps hungrily with his students. But he is bored. The narration is enjoyably sardonic, a pungent mixture of deadpan jokes about sexual politics and close reading.”

Gaby Wood, Daily Telegraph, 15 January
‘Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission: More prescient than provocative’
“The narrator of Soumission (or “Submission”), François, continues the tradition of the Houellebecquian hero made infamous by previous novels such as Atomised and Platform. He’s solipsistic, disillusioned, excruciatingly cruel. The rhythm of his sentences is almost incantatory in its distaste for life, and his comic timing is irresistibly gloomy […]”

“François is dismissive of everything […]”
“He teaches 19th-century French literature at the Sorbonne and his specialism is JK Huysmans, a writer who changed tack halfway through his career – from naturalism to decadence, then from decadence to monasticism. Huysmans’s most famous work might as well be the title of all of Houellebecq’s: A rebours (“Against the Grain”).”
Gilles Rozier, Haaretz (Israel) 22 January
“The French language has even been enriched thanks to a new adjective, “houellebecquian” – a privilege granted to few authors, some French, such as Rabelais and Balzac […].
“But it seems that this adjective refers to the awakening from illusions in an ultra-liberal world, which celebrates the victory of money as the object of desire, and presents consumerism as an answer to frustration of whatever kind. The houellebecqian novel describes a world from which love is absent, where the males are reduced to satisfying their urges via prostitution […]”
Soumission is a houellebecqian novel in every sense of the term. All of the author’s preferred topics are here: a person suffering from ennui, a criticism of liberalism, of the god of wealth, of the objectification of women.”
David Sexton, The Spectator, 17 January
‘The Really Shocking Thing about Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission: He rather likes Islam’
Soumission will be published in translation here by Heinemann, but not until the autumn at the earliest. A pity ̶ it’s electrifying; no recent English-language novel compares. Early on François explains why Huysmans, as a representative of literature, the major art of the West, matters to him so much:
“Only literature can give you this sensation of contact with another human mind, with the whole of this mind, its weaknesses and grandeurs, its limitations, its pettinesses, its fixed ideas, its beliefs; with all that moves it, interests it, excites it or repels it… A book that one loves is above all a book whose author one loves…
There it is, j’adore Michel, myself.”

Anthony Daniels, New Criterion, February 2015

France’s “Submission”–Submission–8075/

“Houellebecq is a writer with a single underlying theme: the emptiness of human existence in a consumer society devoid of religious belief, political project, or cultural continuity in which, moreover, thanks to material abundance and social security, there is no real struggle for existence that might give meaning to the life of millions. Such a society will not allow you to go hungry or to live in the abject poverty that would once have been the reward of idleness, whether voluntary or involuntary. This, in Houellebecq’s vision of the world, lends an inspissated pointlessness to all human activity, which becomes nothing more than a scramble for unnecessary consumer goods that confer no happiness or (at best) a distraction from that very emptiness.”

“The very success of the Enlightenment project is the root of its failure. Having eliminated myth and magic from human life, it has crushed belief even in itself out of society.”

Christopher de Bellaigue, The Guardian, 6 February
‘Soumission by Michel Houellebecq. Review – France in 2022’
“Houellebecq is France’s best-known writer internationally, his stock-in-trade being satires on various distortions in contemporary life seen through bibulous, chauvinistic, highly sexed men – men like François, the Sorbonne literature professor whose flirtation with the new Islamic regime is the main narrative thread in Soumission.”
“Here, from Europe’s premier literary misanthrope, is an enthralling, stunningly pessimistic view of human nature, which argues that when ideologies are being weighed it is the perks that tip the scales […].”

“Houellebecq’s plot seems totally unrealisable, and yet there is truth in his moral tableau.”
On 12 January the outspoken independent commentator Mark Steyn reminded us on his website that he had suggested a similar general 2020s scenario for France in 2006

“I saw someone on Twitter ̶ was it Mehdi Hasan? ̶ fretting that this sounded like a mere literary gloss on a Mark Steyn polemic. He doesn’t know the half of it. From page 119 of my 2006 book, America Alone:
“Picture a French election circa 2020: the Islamic Republican Coalition wins the most seats in the National Assembly. The Chiraquiste crowd give a fatalistic shrug and M de Villepin starts including crowd-pleasing suras from the Koran at his poetry recitals. But would Jean-Marie Le Pen or (by then) his daughter take it so well?”

Reviews of the Italian and German translations: Sottomissione and Unterwerfung.
If full translations are needed, this is surely an excellent chance to check the present quality of Google Translate and Microsoft Translate (BING).
(More on that subject in my next Translation blog, perhaps.)

Davide Barile, Cronache Internazionale, 7 February.
Michel Houellebecq, ‘Sottomissione’
Nessuna islamofobia nel nuovo romanzo di Houellebecq, che invece si interroga sui destini di una Francia (ed un’Europa) incapace di gestire la propria libertà.
(Google Translate)
No Islamophobia in the new novel by Houellebecq, who instead is pondering the destinies of France (and Europe), unable to manage their own freedom.

“In conclusione, col suo nuovo romanzo Houellebecq denuncia in realtà la mancanza di prospettive della cultura europea e, se l’immagine che ci dà dell’islam può essere opinabile per la superficialità che a tratti la caratterizza, non si può certo dire che essa sia negativa.”

(Google Translate, with light Post Editing of Machine Translation: PEMT)
In conclusion, with his new novel, Houellebecq is really complaining about the lack of prospects of European culture and, although the image of Islam that is presented may be debatable for the superficiality that sometimes characterizes it, you certainly cannot say that it is negative.

Christoph Vormweg, Deutschlandfunk, 18 January.
‘Rezension von Unterwerfung
An interesting 2,000 word essay. (2 excerpts, with a hybrid English version from Google Translate, Microsoft Translate, and some personal PEMT)

“Provozieren ist und bleibt Michel Houellebecqs liebster Sport. Er pfeift auf jede Form der “political correctness”. Aber um es gleich vorweg zu sagen: Sein Roman “Unterwerfung” schildert zwar die Machtübernahme eines muslimischen Präsidenten in Frankreich. Doch verbirgt sich hinter seiner aufstörenden Zukunftsvision keine Attacke gegen die islamische Religion oder ihre Gläubigen. Mit keiner Zeile liefert Michel Houellebecq den extremen Rechten antiislamische Argumente oder gar Parolen. Der Goncourt-Preisträger von 2010 imaginiert lediglich, wie sich ein solcher Wandel in Frankreich vollziehen könnte. Und deshalb ist der Roman “Unterwerfung” vor allem eine herbe Abrechnung mit der heute herrschenden politischen Kaste – Fernsehmedien inklusive.”

Provocation is and remains Michel Houellebecq’s favorite sport. He does not care about any form of “political correctness”. But to come straight to the point: Although his novel Submission describes the takeover of power by a Muslim President in France, behind his startling vision of the future there is no hidden attack against the Islamic religion and its adherents. In no line does Michel Houellebecq provide the extreme right with anti-Islamic arguments or even slogans. The Goncourt Prize winner in 2010 imagined just how such a change could take place in France. And that is why the novel Submission is mainly a bitter reckoning with the prevailing political caste – TV media included.
“Literatur ist nicht die Wirklichkeit. Aber sie erlaubt es, Versuchsanordnungen mit Blick auf die Zukunft durchzuspielen. Michel Houellebecq bleibt in diesem Sinne ein Aufstörer, ein Querdenker. Und das ist gut so.”

Literature is not reality. But it makes it possible to play with experimental arrangements with a view to the future. Michel Houellebecq is in this sense a troublemaker [? stirrer], a lateral thinker. And that’s a good thing.

Translation 49. French loanwords in English. Pronunciation Guide for Hindi speakers. Introduction

Posted 23 December 2014 by Brian Steel
Categories: Hindi Language

Tags: , , , ,

The bi- and trilingual abilities of Indians are well-known and greatly admired or envied, especially by monolinguals. Another established fact is that those who are proficient in Hindi and English also tend to use (or understand) a large number of English loanwords even when speaking, writing, or listening to Hindi. (The rise of Hinglish, although obviously related, is a separate issue.)

Although these English loanwords in Hindi (my latest count is 3,000) are adapted to the phonology of Hindi and the Devanagari script, their English origin is still quite clear in a majority of cases. That in itself I find quite remarkable  ̶  perhaps unique. (As instant proof, listen to any news bulletin in Hindi.) (For more examples, see here.

English is also the depository of loanwords from many languages, including, for almost 1,000 years, French, which has had a major influence in the development of the English lexicon. Bilingual speakers of Hindi and English will be well aware of many of these French borrowings but I wonder to what extent they transfer these French borrowings into their use of Hindi. Having tested the phonetic adaptability of many French loanwords into Hindi, I have found the results to be almost as satisfactory as the English loanwords. Therefore, where relevant, they could be inserted into bilingual English and Hindi dictionaries. (The same applies, of course, to the vast number of English loanwords in Hindi, but that is not relevant to my point here.)

The rest of this introductory article is an attempt to show how a romanised transliteration of French loanwords can help Hindi speakers to pronounce the words in the (more or less) French way that they are pronounced in contemporary English, whether they are using them in their English or in their Hindi.

Possible further articles may enlarge on these preliminary findings and underline the usefulness of transliterating more of the French borrowings in teaching materials for courses on English as a second Language for speakers of Hindi.

French loanwords are present in large numbers in English dictionaries, but they are particularly noticeable in those areas in which France has excelled, like diplomacy, politics and military affairs, the arts, sports, fashion and perfumes, gastronomy (and kweezeen – cuisine) and oenology. Some brief specific and other general lists follow.

This is merely a Daybyoo for this topic. début डेब्यू

bauNzhoor! [zh reflects more accurately the ‘s‘ sound of the English words vision and treasure] Bonjour बॉन्जूर

auNshauNTe! Enchanté! ऑनशॉन्टे

bauN vwaayaazh! [w is the ‘soft’ pronunciation variant of Hindi v.] Bon voyage! बॉन व्वायाज

bauN shaaNs! Bonne chance! बॉन शौंस


Preliminary examples

Eating and drinking

kweezeeN, cuisine

noovail kweezeen, nouvelle cuisine [A bit passé, thank goodness!]

bauN aapayTee, Bon appétit.

kafé, café

raisTaurauN, restaurant

keesh, quiche

kaanaape, canapé

krooDiTe, crudité

paaTay duh fwaa gras, pâté de foie gras

pyooray, purée

raaTaaTooee, ratatouille

vaaN aurDeenair, vin ordinaire

pruhmyay Kroo, premier cru

krem duh mauNth, crème de menthe

Fashion (faishaN)

aa laa mauD, à la mode

Daykaulte, décolleté (and DaykaulTazh)

kaursaajh, corsage [very different from kaurTaizh – cortège]

laaNzhuhree, lingerie

o duh kaloN, eau de Cologne

oT kooTyoor, haute couture

preTaa paurte, prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear)


baalay, ballet

paa duh dur, pas de deux

Diplomacy and politics

auNsyaaN rayzheem, ancien régime

aunTauNT kaurDeeyal, Entente Cordiale

Deereezheezma, dirigisme

DeereezheesT, dirigiste

faurs maazhur, force majeure


aazhauN prauvaukaTur, agent provocateur

aide duh kauM, aide-de-camp

aispree duh kaur, esprit de corps

aur duh kaumbaa, hors de combat

kaurDauN saaneeTair, cordon sanitaire

koo daytaa, coup d’état

koo duh graas, coup de grâce


ayshalauN, échelon


baiT nwaar, bête noire

boorzhwaa, bourgeois

boorzhwaazee, bourgeoisie

Doobla auNTaunDra, double-entendre

kauNfeeDauN (m), confidant

kaunfeedaunT (f), confidante

maynaazh aa Trwaa, ménage à trois

pyais duh rayzeestauNs, pièce de résistance

shay Durvra, chef-d’oeuvre


aamoor praupra, amour-propre

ahplaum, aplomb

DeesTray, distrait

naaeevtay, naiveté

panaash, panache

saNg frwaa, sangfroid

zhwaa Duh veevra, joie de vivre


aypay, épée

kauNkoor daylegauNs, concours d’élégance


Dayzhaa vyoo, déjà vu

Duh Tro, de trop [superfluous]

kree Duh kur, cri de coeur

raizauN DaiTra, raison d’être


auNTruhprunur, entrepreneur

Nouns in -é

aymeegray, émigré

feeauNsay, fiancé, m, and fiancée, f.

prauTayzhay, protégé

rayzyoomay, résumé

Adjectives in -é

blaazay, blasé

deesTaNgay, distingué

reeskay, risqué

ruhTroosay, retroussé (turned up – esp. nose)


plyoo saa shaaNzh (plyoo se laa maiM shoz). Plus ça change, (plus c’est la même chose.) (Nothing really changes.)

aapre mwaa luh Daylyoozh. Après moi, le déluge. (Who cares what happens when I go?)

auNee swaa kee maal ee pauNs. Honi soit qui mal y pense. (Evil be to he who thinks evil of it. [The motto of the British Order of the Garter.]

veev laa DeefayrauNs! Vive la différence! [Long may the difference continue to exist!]

reeyaaN na vaa plyoo. Rien ne va plus. (No more bets!)


o ruhvwaar.


Translation 48. Bizarre Adaptation of Octavio Paz’s El Cántaro Roto

Posted 30 September 2014 by Brian Steel
Categories: 1

Tags: , , , ,

One of the best known poems of world famous Mexican poet and Nobel Prize laureate Octavio Paz is an epic of 1170 words, El Cántaro Roto (The Broken Pot). It is a complex and passionate evocation of Mexican history and landscape.

Useful References:

An English translation, followed by the full poem in Spanish and a quotation from Octavio Paz:

A You Tube rendering:


The Paz epic begins:

La mirada interior se despliega y un mundo de vértigo y llama nace bajo la frente del que sueña: soles azules, verdes remolinos, picos de luz que abren astros como granadas,
tornasol solitario, ojo de oro girando en el centro de una explanada calcinada,
bosques de cristal de sonido, bosques de ecos y respuestas y ondas, diálogo de transparencias,
¡viento, galope de agua entre los muros interminables de una garganta de azabache,
caballo, cometa, cohete que se clava justo en el corazón de la noche, plumas, surtidores,
plumas, súbito florecer de las antorchas, velas, alas, invasión de lo blanco,
pájaros de las islas cantando bajo la frente del que sueña!

Abrí los ojos, los alcé hasta el cielo y vi cómo la noche se cubría de estrellas.
¡Islas vivas, brazaletes de islas llameantes, piedras ardiendo, respirando, racimos de piedras vivas,
cuánta fuente, qué claridades, qué cabelleras sobre una espalda oscura,
cuánto río allá arriba, y ese sonar remoto de agua junto al fuego, de luz contra la sombra!
Harpas, jardines de harpas.

Pero a mi lado no había nadie.
Sólo el llano: cactus, huizaches, piedras enormes que estallan bajo el sol.
No cantaba el grillo,
había un vago olor a cal y semillas quemadas,
las calles del poblado eran arroyos secos
y el aire se habría roto en mil pedazos si alguien hubiese gritado: ¿quién vive?
Cerros pelados, volcán frío, piedra y jadeo bajo tanto esplendor, sequía, sabor de polvo,
rumor de pies descalzos sobre el polvo, ¡y el pirú en medio del llano como un surtidor petrificado!

Dime, sequía, dime, tierra quemada, tierra de huesos remolidos, dime, luna agónica,
¿no hay agua, hay sólo sangre, sólo hay polvo, sólo pisadas de pies desnudos sobre la espina,
sólo andrajos y comida de insectos y sopor bajo el mediodía impío como un cacique de oro?
¿No hay relinchos de caballos a la orilla del río, entre las grandes piedras redondas y relucientes,
en el remanso, bajo la luz verde de las hojas y los gritos de los hombres y las mujeres bahándose al alba?
El dios-maíz, el dios-flor, el dios-agua, el dios-sangre, la Virgen,
¿todos se han muerto, se han ido, cántaros rotos al borde de la fuente cegada?
¿Sólo está vivo el sapo,
sólo reluce y brilla en la noche de México el sapo verduzco,
sólo el cacique gordo de Cempoala es inmortal?


As this first third of the poem shows visibly and audibly, it is a brilliant and characteristic Paz creation.


One of musical composer Eric Whitacre’s famous choral pieces is called Cloudburst. He cites Octavio Paz’s ‘El Cántaro Roto’, as the inspiration for his composition. However, his work contains only 109 words of the Paz poem, including the 39 words in bold type above, plus these wonderfully sonorous words from another poem by Paz (Agua nocturna):
ojos de agua de sombra,
ojos de agua de pozo,
ojos de agua de sueño

To which, for his Cloudburst theme, Whitacre has added:

La lluvia, and La lluvia despierta.

In choral circles, this piece has been widely acclaimed as a mass choral piece.

Whitacre’s full lyrics are as follows:

♪ La lluvia… ♪ ♪ Ojos de sombra de agua ♪ ♪ ojos de agua de pozo ♪ ♪ ojos de agua de sueño. ♪ ♪ Soles azules, verdes remolinos, ♪ ♪ picos de luz que abren ♪ ♪ astros como granadas. ♪ ♪ Dime, tierra quemada, ¿no hay agua? ♪ ♪ ¿Sólo sangre, sólo polvo? ♪ ♪ ¿Sólo pisadas desnudas sobre la espina? ♪ ♪ La lluvia despierta… ♪ Hay que dormir con los ojos abiertos, hay que soñar con las manos, soñemos sueños activos de ríos buscando su cauce, sueños de sol soñando sus mundos. ♪ Hay que soñar… soñar… ♪ ♪ Hay que cantar hasta que el canto eche raíces, ♪ ♪ tronco, ramas, pájaros, astros… ♪ ♪ hay que desenterrar la palabra perdida, ♪ ♪ recordar lo que dicen la sangre ♪ ♪ y la marea, la tierra y el cuerpo, ♪ ♪ volver al punto de partida ♪


Question: What do you think of the adaptation?