Friday, September 22, 2006


I was so proud of it; it was full, lightly frosted, and curly-headed like a younger version of František Langer; but suddenly out of God knows where came the caterpillars of the white cabbage butterfly, which, should have gone and eaten some white cabbage over in Strašnice and left my Savoyards in peace if their name were accurate; they devoured everything down to a filigree of veins.

Before that disaster I had been inclined to reorder my system of values and deem cabbage as the queen of the flowers. Well, it's not true, the queen of the flowers remains the rose, by the obvious fact that it cannot be eaten.

Presumably man too must be distasteful, if he is to become the king of all creation.

--From Philemon, or On Gardening, by Karel Čapek.

I'm pleased with this, even if I had to wrestle a bit about the fact that Czech has two remarkably different words (zelí and kapusta) to refer to "regular" and Savoy cabbage, respectably. Well, with various modifiers zelí can also refer to red cabbage and kapusta can also reference Brussels sprouts, but...yeah. The brassicas are inbred and complicated. Čapek was growing kapusta, they were white zelí caterpillars, hence his frustration. I'm more concerned with the rambling in the first paragraph than anything.

I enjoyed throwing in "Savoyard," though, and in a lighter, shorter work of Čapek I feel no harm in doing so. Langer was a contemporary of his at the Lidové noviny, a newspaper where much of his shorter writings appeared.

[edit 8 pm. Some wording in the first, longest sentence (suddenly, laced, etc.); change to "deem" in the second. edit edit: changed my literalism at the end of the first para to "filigree of veins." I like that a lot better]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wanted so badly to buy the Capek books over there, but they were too expensive. It's cool that you're translating Mr. Robot. I would love to see more posts of it.

- Jesse

P.S. Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all ze week (a take on the dryness of this post)