Thursday, June 22, 2006


Så, iuvenes, lyssnade ni på den sötaste av de Aderton, Göran Malmqvist, nu i eftermiddags?
Om inte, så missade ni hur han låter sig trors vara en latintalande amerikansk andre-pilot. Till och med i mörkast Asien kommer latinet till nytta!

Episoden han beskrev fick mig att tänka på detta, ett stycke ur väldens bästa bok, En världsomsegling under havet av Jules Verne.
Den hetlevrade harpunisten Ned Land, Professor Aronnax (bokens berättare)och hans betjänt Conseil har precis blivit inplockade i den mystisk U-båten Nautilus och försöker nu kommunicera med de tystlåtna män som bevakar dem (på engelska då det var lättast att hitta):

"The other replied with a shake of the head and added two or three utterly incomprehensible words. Then he seemed to question me directly with a long stare.
I replied in clear French that I wasn't familiar with his language; but he didn't seem to understand me, and the situation grew rather baffling.
"Still, master should tell our story," Conseil said to me. "Perhaps these gentlemen will grasp a few words of it!"

I tried again, telling the tale of our adventures, clearly articulating my every syllable, and not leaving out a single detail. I stated our names and titles; then, in order, I introduced Professor Aronnax, his manservant Conseil, and Mr. Ned Land, harpooner.
The man with calm, gentle eyes listened to me serenely, even courteously, and paid remarkable attention. But nothing in his facial expression indicated that he understood my story. When I finished, he didn't pronounce a single word.

One resource still left was to speak English. Perhaps they would be familiar with this nearly universal language. But I only knew it, as I did the German language, well enough to read it fluently, not well enough to speak it correctly. Here, however, our overriding need was to make ourselves understood.

"Come on, it's your turn," I told the harpooner. "Over to you, Mr. Land. Pull out of your bag of tricks the best English ever spoken by an Anglo-Saxon, and try for a more favorable result than mine."
Ned needed no persuading and started our story all over again, most of which I could follow. Its content was the same, but the form differed. Carried away by his volatile temperament, the Canadian put great animation into it. He complained vehemently about being imprisoned in defiance of his civil rights, asked by virtue of which law he was hereby detained, invoked writs of habeas corpus, threatened to press charges against anyone holding him in illegal custody, ranted, gesticulated, shouted, and finally conveyed by an expressive gesture that we were dying of hunger.
This was perfectly true, but we had nearly forgotten the fact.

Much to his amazement, the harpooner seemed no more intelligible than I had been. Our visitors didn't bat an eye. Apparently they were engineers who understood the languages of neither the French physicist Arago nor the English physicist Faraday.
Thoroughly baffled after vainly exhausting our philological resources, I no longer knew what tactic to pursue, when Conseil told me:
"If master will authorize me, I'll tell the whole business in German."
"What! You know German?" I exclaimed.
"Like most Flemish people, with all due respect to master."
"On the contrary, my respect is due you. Go to it, my boy."

And Conseil, in his serene voice, described for the third time the various vicissitudes of our story. But despite our narrator's fine accent and stylish turns of phrase, the German language met with no success.
Finally, as a last resort, I hauled out everything I could remember from my early schooldays, and I tried to narrate our adventures in Latin.
Cicero would have plugged his ears and sent me to the scullery, but somehow I managed to pull through. With the same negative result.

This last attempt ultimately misfiring, the two strangers exchanged a few words in their incomprehensible language and withdrew, not even favoring us with one of those encouraging gestures that are used in every country in the world. The door closed again.
"This is outrageous!" Ned Land shouted, exploding for the twentieth time. "I ask you! We speak French, English, German, and Latin to these rogues, and neither of them has the decency to even answer back!"

Efter mat, sömn och diverse turer kommer äntligen kapten Nemo (och vad betyder hans namn på latin, iuvenes?):

"Gentlemen," he said in a calm, penetrating voice, "I speak French, English, German, and Latin with equal fluency. Hence I could have answered you as early as our initial interview, but first I wanted to make your acquaintance and then think things over. Your four versions of the same narrative, perfectly consistent by and large, established your personal identities for me."

Jag är djupt övertygad om att de inte fått stanna om inte professorn visat upp sina latinkunskaper.
Tänk, det är nog så att denna passage som fick mig att ge mig in på latinbanan, övertygad om att detta var det enda sättet att överleva om man lidit skeppsbrott och förts ombord på en mystisk U-båt.


dbd said...

Oh stackars ditt kära huvud! Ser så fram emot att ses!

Fasces said...

Och för att briljera med mina högst begränsade latinkunskaper (men man bör passa på när man kan, inte sant?): Kapten Nemo översätts ungefär till Kapten Ingen. Personligen tycker jag det hade varit roligare (och mer filosofiskt) om han hade kallats Kapten Nihil. Även om det måhända inte är lika snyggt.

ChW said...

Har jag berättat att kapten Nemo är anledningen till att jag inte separerar böcker på olika språk i min bokhylla? I hans fall tyder det ju på att han behärskar alla språken lika bra, så cool ville jag också vara.

SDIL said...

DBD: Likaså jag, carissima!

Fasces: Egregie Laudatur!

ChW: Nix, det har du aldrig berättat, do tell.

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This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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