the translator

the translator

i found the institut francais and it looked empty. no sign of life through the wall of glass windows. it was easy to find, since it was attached to the cinema paris. a fitting location. i’m not sure what possessed me to go to a reading of a book i’d never heard of by an author from algeria i had never heard of either. when i learned it was going to cost me 4 bucks, it didn’t seem like the best plan in the world.

it wasn’t. the reading was taking place upstairs. a room half full of people. the writer, the moderator, and then there was the translator, dressed in an academic cordoroy ensemble, accesorizing with black rectangular shaped glasses. he was there on stage when suddenly his function was taken away. the "moderator" decided that one person’s wishes weren’t enough to warrant a german translation. that would be so tiresome, he said. besides her boyfriend looked like he wanted to translate for her. it would add to the whole seduction of their evening, he added. i felt sorry for the woman. maybe that wasn’t even her boyfriend.

so the evening went on in french. the translator seemed to register every speck of boredom in the room on his face. he crossed his arms, put his head in his hands, scratched an itch, adjusted and readjusted in his seat. he searched in his pocket, assumed the thinker pose, closed and opened his eyes. he straightened his back and reawakened.

finally he was called to duty. the author read a short passage. the translator dramatically rearranged his papers, changed to his reading glasses, and hesitated. then, he spoke. i looked around. no one else seemed bothered that he was seemingly reading a completely different passage. he narrated and dialogued and read and read on. did the moderator think translating the same passage was tiresome too? why was his passage so freaking long? was the translator secretly reading his own work? at the end, the translator’s reading got a rousing round of applause from the audience. it seemed to be the highlight of the event. maybe the translator will be the headline act the next time around.



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