The Barber Institute and La Patrie

The Barber Institute

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Edgbaston Park Road outside Birmingham, with its outstanding Gwen John (Mère Poussepin), Degas, Claude, Redon (Crucifixion), Hals, Van Dyck, Sickert and many others, is I think the finest small picture gallery I have ever visited. But in the main it is pathetically monolingual. The university's language department is quite close, and the detailed and helpful leaflets for each bay all need translating. I do not know why Magritte's amazing Saveur des Larmes ('The Savour of Tears'?) has been anaesthetized into the bland 'Taste of Sorrow' (Le Goût de la Tristesse - yuck), given that English is said (of course!) to be the more concrete language.

La Patrie

In the Birmingham City Museum (which needs no puff) C. W. R. Nevinson's picture of the wounded and dying soldiers in the barn, to which the description, 'they are crying for their mothers' is an organic complement, is not as profound as The Third of May, but it as as moving. In English, the title, La Patrie, a grim instance of dramatic irony, stands (compare Wilfred Owen's Pro Patria Mori); in some other languages (das Vaterland), it could be translated literally with the same 'equivalent effect'.


Peter Newmark (1998) More Paragraphs On Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, p. 58.