Translating Bossuet was Really Worth It After All

With Holy Week behind us, I’d like to stop and note an interesting email dialogue.  My persistent (well, sometimes) Canadian commenter took a catty swipe at my translations of Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, which is an ongoing project of mine.

Evidently someone else thinks highly of the effort.  I received this from Dr. Mitchell Ginsburg of the University of California at San Diego re my translation of Bossuet’s Sermon on the Profession of Mlle de la Vallière:

I have come across the rendering from the French at the above cite. It strikes me as the most accurate rendering of the original sermon by ‘Abbé Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet that I have been able to find (even more so than in some old texts giving an English version, from the 1800s!) and would like to give the source…

I am fairly fluent in French (my wife is French and we’ve also lived in France in the past and I am a dual national, so I can vote in the upcoming French elections, as well as in California and US elections of course), so I was surprised by some of the “translations” and “excerpts” from Bossuet that I could download online that had no corresponding text in the French (parts of the “sermon” being sheer inventions on the part of the English-language editor, I’d say). I only ran across Bossuet when I was doing research on Hafiz, and found some essays by the man who became the very first professor of Sanskrit at Cambridge Univ.—I hadn’t heard of him but in reading about him I recognized some of his colleagues and even students.
(He apparently was fluent in Western languages including Latin and Greek–the old school of Classical education) as well as Arabic, Farsi, Sanskrit, Hindi, and so forth, and in one essay, in passing to set the stage for a discussion of Rumi, he spoke highly of Bossuet… the winding path of curiosity and linked ideas! ;o)

For someone whose fluency in French certainly exceeds mine, that’s a high compliment.  And an inspection of his website will show that he looks at things differently than I do.  That’s not a novelty with me; that was also the case with Ron Krumpos.

More on my Bossuet translation project is here.  There’s something universal in his appeal, and that makes the project worthwhile.

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