There are two translations of The Little Prince into Latin, one by Auguste Haury and one by Franz Schlosser. I'm trying to get a sense of the relative merits of their Latin.

Here's the dedication of The Little Prince in English:


I ask the indulgence of the children who may read this book for dedicating it to a grown-up. I have a serious reason: he is the best friend I have in the world. I have another reason: this grown-up understands everything, even books about children. I have a third reason: he lives in France where he is hungry and cold. He needs cheering up. If all these reasons are not enough, I will dedicate the book to the child from whom this grown-up grew. All grown-ups were once children—although few of them remember it. And so I correct my dedication:


In the original French:


Je demande pardon aux enfants d'avoir dédié ce livre à une grande personne. J'ai une excuse sérieuse: cette grande personne est le meilleur ami que j'ai au monde. J'ai une autre excuse: cette grande personne peut tout comprendre, même les livres pour enfants. J'ai une troisième excuse: cette grande personne habite la France où elle a faim et froid. Elle a besoin d'être consolée. Si toutes ces excuses ne suffisent pas, je veux bien dédier ce livre à l'enfant qu'a été autrefois cette grande personne. Toutes les grandes personnes ont d'abord été des enfants. (Mais peux d'entre elles s'en souviennent.) Je corrige donc ma dédicace:


Here is Haury's translation into Latin (in the book he calls Regulus). I assume, since he was French, that he was translating from the French:


Pueros oro ut mihi ignoscant quod librum hunc ad adultum hominem inscripserim. Hanc probabilem excusationem habeo, quod adultus ille homo mihi unus omnium amicissimus est. Secundam excusationem habeo, quod adultus ille homo eo ingenio est ut omnia intellegat, etiam ea quæ puerorum causa scripta sunt. Jam vero tertiam excusationem habeo, quod adultus ille homo in Gallia habitat, ubi et esurit et alget. Itaque consolatione magnopere eget. Quod si omnes hæ excusationes non satis valebunt, morem eis geram et librum hunc ad puerum illum inscribam ex quo ad hanc ætatem adolevit. Omnes enim qui adoleverunt puerili primum ætate fuerunt (sed pauci recordantur). Quæ igitur inscripsi sic corrigo:


And here's Schlosser's version (from Principulus). I believe German is his first language, but I know he also teaches French and English, so I'm not sure what language he was working from:


Rogo mihi ignoscatis, pueruli puellæque, quod hunc librum ad hominem adultum inscripsi. Hoc autem excusatione deprecor: Homo adultus ille mihi omnium gratissimus et amicissimus est. Alteram excusationem habeo: adultus ille homo omnia intellegit, et libros intellegit liberorum causa scriptos. Tertiam excusationem habeo: Homo adultus ille in Francogallia habitat, ubi friget fameque urgetur. Quam ob rem puto eum consolandum esse. Nisi quidem hæ omnes excusationes sufficient, hunc libellum puero dedicabo, qui olim fuit homo ille adultus. Omnes enim homines adulti primum pueri fuerunt. (Cujus rei pauci autem memores sunt.) Qua de causa, quæ dedicavi, ita corrigo:


Is one of these better Latin than the other? If so, which one? Why? What are some particularly felicitous or infelicitous choices in each?

Three things occur to me that suggest Haury's is the better translation, but I'm not confident that my analysis of any of them is correct:

  1. Haury uses alget where Schlosser uses friget to translate "he is cold." I believe that "alget" is used of feeling cold, and friget is used impersonally to say that it is cold. Now, Schlosser could be using friget to mean "it is cold," in which case it's a question not of the quality of the Latin but of the accuracy of the translation.

  2. Haury uses sic to indicate the correction he's about to make, where Schlosser uses ita. My understanding is that sic points to what follows it, where ita points to what precedes it.

  3. Schlosser writes "Adultus ille homo omnia intellegit, et libros intellegit liberorum causa scriptos." The repetition of intellegit seems particularly unLatinate to me.

However, those are all small things, and obviously there's a lot more going on in each one.

Note that I'm asking less about the quality of the translation than the quality of the Latinity.

What are people's thoughts?


Both translations are excellent Latin. The difference is that Haury's is literal, while Schlosser's takes many liberties (this is extremely apparent since the first sentence).

To my taste, Haury's sounds a bit too schoolish, while Schlosser's is very elegant and pleasantly flowing... but this is just my taste.

For example: Schlosser's "Hoc autem excusatione deprecor" omits the french "serieuse", but Haury's "Hanc probabilem excusationem habeo" is really ugly (also, "probabilem" doesn't seem to me a fit translation of "serieuse").

About the repeated "intellegit", I think the goal is to render the French "meme"; it's intentional, and very Latin. It's just not a literal translation. Latin had not our taboo (which grade school teachers inflict to promote lexical fluency) towards repetition.


Regarding the issue of repetition of intellegit in your third point:

There are several terms in Rhetoric for word repetition known to the ancients; the most general is Anaphora. Epizeuxis refers to single word repetition for emphasis, as in, "Listen, friends, Listen." Epanadiplosis is when the repeated word bookends a phrase tying off the point you are making. This repetition of intellegit might possibly be listed as Antanaclasis: giving a modified meaning of the word a second time for contrast.

Some feel that poor translations can ruin your own Latin style. But so long as the latinist's composition skills are better than the reader's, fluency should improve. Often you can't really work out why a choice was made until you read it aloud and find its rhythm. These sorts of books, like Winnie Ille Pu or the Asterix series are good for extensive reading, not translating in the head and hunting and pecking for main verb subject but enjoying a good story well told in another language following the imagery the rhthym the poetic devices, alliteration, assonance and things like anaphora.

  • 2
    Welcome to the site, and thanks for the response! – Joel Derfner Nov 21 '18 at 3:25
  • The "alget"/"friget" issue is frequently mentioned as one of very few serious issues in Ørberg's Familia Romana (Ch. 14). Ørberg's "Marcus friget" is widely criticized for basically meaning the poor kid (though admittedly "improbus") is cold, i.e. dead. The suggested correction is "alget." Ørberg (RIP) is said to have defended himself by pointing out that, on the one hand, friget CAN in fact mean the kid is "freezing" and on the other "friget" is supposedly more frequent than "alget." As for "sic" and "ita," in my mind they're synonymous in practice. – Batavulus Mar 13 at 17:19

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