Le malayalam entre le sanskrit et l'anglais
Figures de style sanskrites,
realia malayalis et poncifs anglais

Séminaire du Jeudi 29 mars 2012

L'originalité de O. Chandu Menon, écrivain, est minimale dans les descriptions et l'emploi des images. Il se nourrit des figures de style, par exemple la conglobation (voir ci-dessous), et des lieux communs de la rhétorique sanskrite: par exemple, le bleu-noir des yeux de l'héroïne semblables au lotus. Il fait fonds sur les spécificités du répertoire local: la bordure brodée de fils d'or du tissu de coton blanc dont se vêtent les Nayar; les dents de l'héroïne précieuses comme des rubis parce qu'elles sont teintées par la chique de bétel. C'est aussi dans les descriptions que les traducteurs commettent les faux-sens les plus choquants, parce qu'ils résultent de l'introduction dans une langue exotique des poncifs de la langue anglaise. Chandu Menon, dans ce roman à thèse sur l'importance de l'anglais dans l'éducation malayalie, multiplie les comparaisons, parfois filées sur tout un paragraphe, entre les images inspirées des trois langues, des trois cultures, des trois sensibilités collectives: malayalam, sanskrit, anglais.

Chapitre II, La beauté d'Indulekha

(Devasia, 5) To me it seems easier to say something about the overall radiance of her form than to present in detail individual features. The various qualities which constitute beauty cannot be listed easily. In different situations, different combinations of features make a form beautiful.
(Dumergue, 7) At the time when this story opens, Indulekha was about eighteen years of age, and it is far easier to describe briefly and in general terms the radiance of her form and features than to depict in detail the individual charms and graces of her figure.


(Devasia, 5) A dark complexion (kaṟuppuniṟam > kaṟuppu black , niṟam colour) is generally associated with lack of beauty in a person. All the same, alongside a combination of other attractive features, a dark complexion (kaṟuppuniṟam) can produce a radiant glow (bahuśōbha). (My readers (eṉṯe vāyanakkārụ) should not presume (śaṅkiccu > śaṅkikka to suspect) from this that Indulekha is dark skinned (kaṟuttiṭṭāṇennụ > kaṟutta black).) Traditionally (sādhāraṇe), a fair or golden-hued complexion [ whiteness (dhāvaḷyam), otherwise (alleṅkil) a golden hue (svarṇṇavarṇṇam) ] is considered beautiful (bhaṅgiyuḷḷatāṇennu > bhaṅgi beauty). Yet, even with a fair complexion some people do not appear beautiful (bhaṅgiyillennu). In my opinion (eṉṯe abhiprāyattil), beauty (saundaryam) is the result of an inner glow, of an inner radiance, ennatụ śōbhāniṣṭhamāya sādhanamāṇennākunnu [ is (ākunnu) that (ennatụ) which is (āṇụ ennụ) the result (sādhanam) depending upon (niṣṭhamāya) radiance (śōbha) ]. In traditional Indian literature (ī inḍyā rājyattuḷḷa saṃskṛtagranthaṅṅaḷil , in Sanskrit texts), jet-black hair and blue-black eyes [ eyes which compare with the blue-black lotus ] (kacaṅṅaḷkkụ tikṛṣṇavarṇṇatvavuṃ nētraṅṅalkku nīlābjasadṛśyatayuṃ) are considered to be an important aspect of beauty. Yet while describing the quality of beauty in a woman, English poets (iṅklīṣụ kavikal) generally speak of golden hair and light blue eyes — precisely what we in raw Malayalam speech derisively term 'cat-eyed', alleṅkil paṭubhāṣayil nummal paṟayunnatupōle śuddha pūccakkaṇṇụ [ otherwise (alleṅkil) in common (paṭu) language (bhāṣa), like (pōle) we (nummal = nōm) say (paṟayunnatu > paṟayuka), pure (śuddha) cat (pūcca) eyes (kaṇṇụ) ]. It seems to me that both precepts, saṃskṛtakavikaḷuṭēyuṃ iṅglīṣụ kavikaḷuṭēyuṃ siddhāntaṅṅal raṇṭum [ the two theses, of Sanskrit poets and of English poets ] are valid. I am of the opinion that just as black hair suits our own women and appears attractive on them, golden hair suits some European women. Light eyes can be very becoming and indeed lend a glow to people from Europe. I have found some European women with light blue eyes very beautiful.

(Dumergue, 7) Thus it is generally considered that comeliness of person is incompatible with a jet black hue, but (though my readers must not conclude from this that Indulekha was "black and swart") there are undoubtedly instances where this colour, united with other attributes, possesses life and lustre. So likewise it is usually held that a fair or golden complexion confers beauty on its owner, but experience shows us that this rule is not of universal application. My own opinion is that the essence of true beauty lies in brightness and splendour, and that wherever these qualities are found, beauty also will be found there. In Sanskrit literature which is so venerated in Hindustan, raven tresses and orbs which rival the blue-black lotus (cf. note 1), bear off the palm among the constituents of beauty, whereas with English poets the favourite type of loveliness is a maid with golden hair and soft blue eyes irradiated by a tender light. Now to my mind it seems that the canons of beauty as laid down by both Sanskrit and English writers are correct, for just as, in our appreciation of things, black hair is a glory to a woman, so there are to be seen, among European ladies, those in whom a wealth of golden hair, combined with blue eyes which enliven and beautify the countenance, is a most appropriate and harmonious characteristic of their race.

(1) Dumergue — traduction "à la française" (domesticating) c'est-à-dire qui approprie la langue à la sensibilité du lecteur européen — supprime une image malayalie (les yeux de chat) mais conserve l'image sanskrite (des yeux qui rivalisent avec le lotus bleu-noir) que Devasia passe sous silence.


(Devasia, 6) Let me (ñān) make just one (onnu mātram) observation (paṟayām let me say > paṟayuka) about Indulekha's complexion. Only by touch could one distinguish between her skin and the brocade border of the mundu (cf. note 1) which normally covered her midriff. It was impossible to tell by mere sight where the gold-threaded border of the mundu she normally wore ended and where her body began (śarīraṃ eviṭe tuṭaṅṅi).

(Dumergue, 9) A few words descriptive of Indulekha's complexion will not be thought out of place here. Her skin resembled so closely in colour the golden border of the embroidered robe, which, fastened round her waist, draped her limbs in the usual Malayalee fashion, that it was impossible to distinguish the one from the other by sight.

(1) Mundu : (in southern India) a long piece of white cloth worn around the waist with a separate cloth covering the upper part of the body. Devasia emploie à tort ce mot anglo-indien, car le texte original dit seulement kasavutuṇi, "embroidered cloth". Dans mon expérience, au Kerala et en anglo-indien pour désigner cette pièce de coton blanc, on parle d'un Dhoti. De plus, Devasia omet de traduire une grande partie de ce paragraphe:

arayil nēmaṃ uṭukkunna kasavutuṇiyuṭe vakkinuḷḷa pon-kasavukara maddhyapradēśattu paṭṭayuṭe mātiri āvaraṇamāyi nilkkunnatu kasavāṇennu tiriccaṟiyaṇameṅkil kaikoṇṭu toṭṭunōkkaṇam ; śarīrattiṉṯe varṇṇaṃ pon-kasaviṉṯe savarṇṇamākayāl kasavụ eviṭe avasāniccu , śarīraṃ eviṭe tuṭaṅṅi , ennu kāḻcayil paṟavān oruvanuṃ kēvalaṃ sādhikkayiḷḷa.

A la taille (arayil > ara waist), selon la coutume (nēmam rule, custom), elle était habillée (uṭukkunna > uṭukkuka s'habiller, revêtir) d'un kasavutuṇi (tuṇi cloth > kasavutuṇi embroidered cloth), [ dhoti ou pièce de coton blanc tuṇi brodé de fils d'or kasavụ ] dont le bord (kara) était brodé de fils d'or (pon "made of gold" > pon-kasavu-kara) avec une frange (vakkinuḷḷa > vakkụ edge, fringe). Il était drapé (nilkkunnatu > nilkkuka to stand), la recouvrant (āvaraṇamāyi), autour de la taille (maddhyapradēśam waist) à la façon (mātiri manner, way, style) d'une ceinture (paṭṭa). Si l'on voulait (eṅkil) savoir (aṟiyaṇameṅkil > aṟiyuka savoir) faire la distinction (tiriccu > tirikka séparer, distinguer) entre ce qui était (āṇụ ennụ) la broderie dorée (kasavụ) [ et la peau de l'héroïne, il fallait toucher ] avec (koṇṭu) la main (kai) après (toṭṭu) [ avoir essayé en vain par ] la vue (nōkkaṇam). La couleur du corps [ c'est-à-dire de la peau ] (śarīrattiṉṯe varṇṇaṃ) était celle des fils d'or de la broderie (pon-kasaviṉṯe savarṇṇam), c'est pourquoi (ākayāl) personne ne pouvait dire seulement (paṟavān oruvanuṃ kēvalaṃ sādhikkayiḷḷa) à simple vue (kāḻcayil > kāḻca eyesight) où finissait (eviṭe avasāniccu … ennu) la broderie dorée, où commençait (eviṭe tuṭaṅṅi … ennu) la peau.

(Devasia, 6) The deep black of her locks (kacaṅṅaḷuṭe nīlimayuṃ), its strength [ their length (dairgghyavuṃ) ], abundance, and softness was most alluring (atimanōharamennē). As for her lips, I wonder (saṃśayam doubt) whether it is possible to see their likeness in women who are not Europeans [ except (allāte) in European ladies (yūṟōpyanstrīkaḷil) ]. Her eyes — their length (dairgghyam), their triple tone (trivarṇṇatvam), their sparkle [ a soul in them (atukaḷuṭe oru jīvanum , jīvan soul) ], the way she uses them on occasion, and the immense fire [ the sharpness of the fire (vahniyuṭe taikṣṇyavuṃ) ] in them — can be described only by young men who have been subjected to their effect. In addition, she was at an age when her bosom (stanaṅṅal) was filling out. Is there a man invulnerable to the power of those growing breasts? Can anyone describe the bewitching (atimanōhariyāya) beauty of this Indulekha! I admit that it is impossible for me to relate the happiness, joy, excitement, confusion, devotion, ardent attachment, and pain that must have filled the minds of men as they beheld Indulekha's golden complexion, sparkling teeth stained delicately by chewing betel leaves (? cf. note 1) glowing lotus-like face, deep black hair, full bosom, slender waist, and so on.

(1) Sparkling teeth stained delicately by chewing betel leaves : C'est une glose où se télescopent le rubis des dents et le corail des lèvres. Devasia ajoute une explication, mais trahit la concision des images (fondée sur l'iconicité des realia, ici le rubis et le corail). De plus elle supprime une partie des images. Texte original:

kuruvindasamaṅṅaḷāya radanaṅṅaḷuṃ vidrumaṃpōle cuvanna adharaṅṅaḷuṃ kariṅkuvalayaṅṅaḷkku dāsyaṃ koṭutta nētraṅṅaḷuṃ centāmarappūvupōle śōbhayuḷḷa mukhavuṃ nīla kuntaḷaṅṅaḷuṃ stanabhāravuṃ atikṛśamāyamaddhyavuṃ maṯṯuṃ

Ses dents semblables au rubis (kuruvinda), ses lèvres rougies (cuvanna > cuvakkuka to become red) comme le corail (vidrumam), ses yeux qui imposaient leur loi (dāsyaṃ koṭutta > koṭukka) aux lotus bleus (kariṅkuvalayaṅṅaḷkku), ce (ā)visage (mukhavuṃ) rayonnant (śōbhayuḷḷa)comme la fleur de lotus (tāmara) rouge (cen), centāmarappūvupōle, ses cheveux noirs (nīla), la lourdeur (bhāram) de ses seins (stanabhāravuṃ), sa taille (maddhyam) très fine (atikṛśamāya), et cetera (maṯṯuṃ).

Autre conglobation (figure de style sanskrite):

ākappāṭe kāṇumpōl puruṣanmāruṭe manassinnụ uṇṭāya ānandavuṃ santōṣavuṃ paritāpavuṃ bhrāntiyuṃ āsaktiyuṃ vyathayuṃ

La félicité (ānandavuṃ), la joie (santōṣavuṃ), la soif dévorante (paritāpavuṃ), le délire (bhrāntiyuṃ), la dévotion (āsaktiyuṃ), la douleur (vyathayuṃ), qui remplissaient (uṇṭāya) l'esprit des hommes (puruṣanmāruṭe manassinnụ) toujours quand ils voyaient (ākappāṭe kāṇumpōl) … (ses dents, ses lèvres, etc.).

(Dumergue, 9) Her hair, black as the raven's wing, was soft, long and luxuriant and, except possibly among the fair ladies of Europe, rich red lips like hers were never seen. Her eyes were long and the colours therein were clearly defined, while only those who had felt the lightning of her glance could know how deeply they burned into the hearts of men. At the time of which I write, she was most alluringly developed and her bosom rivalled the purest gold, but it be would impossible for any pen to do justice to the countless charms which united in making Indulekha a peerless beauty. I am fain [= compelled] here to confess that none can describe the joy, the ecstasy, the raptures of those who, spell-bound with delight, beheld her golden complexion, pearly teeth (? cf. note 1) and coral lips, her eyes that shamed the blue-black waterlily, her glossy black hair and slender waist.

(1) Pearly teeth: Exemple typique des poncifs de l'anglais. Là où l'anglais admire des dents blanches comme des perles, le malayali admire des dents rouges comme des rubis.