1. dratman New Member

    USA - English
    Sartre's play is called "Huis Clos" and is usually rendered as "No Exit" in English.

    I found the expression "a huis clos" or "behind closed doors," and I figured out that "clos" is the passe compose of the verb "clore," which seems to be "to close (eg., a door)"

    But what is "huis"?

    I cannot seem to locate it anywhere.

    I suppose it is "doors," but from what root? I cannot seem to locate any "hui".

    Shouldn't the name of the play be translated as "closed doors"?

    Thank you. I would much appreciate an emailed reply.


  2. valerie Senior Member

    France, French & Spanish
    Huis clos is a term used in the justice administration when a process is not public (for example when the person accused is not over 18). It means nobody can have access to the content of the debate.

    Huis is effectively door, you can probably find more about this word in
  3. dratman New Member

    USA - English
    Thank you, Valerie. That is enormously helpful. You got me to a definition, the first I have been able to find.

    I do have a couple of additional questions about "huis" if you would indulge me.

    1) From the reference you kindly provided, (specifically at http://atilf.atilf.fr/Dendien/scripts/tlfiv5/advanced.exe?8;s=484693290;) I gather that this word form is uninflected with regard to number (that is, singular and plural seem to be identical). Is that correct? Are there other such words in French? I cannot seem to think of any, but my vocabulary is not very great and also probably I will feel silly when you give me some obvious examples.

    2) How would you characterize the difference between "le huis" and "la porte"? Could "le huis" now be used conversationally in the same context as "la porte"? Could it have been so used in the past, and if so, in what period of time?

    3) Do you think "No Exit" is a good translation of "Huis Clos"?

    Thank you once again for your time.


  4. fetchezlavache

    fetchezlavache Senior Member

    metz, france
    'huis' is not used anymore dratman :) http://portail.atilf.fr/cgi-bin/dic...=ACAD1932&articletype=ALL&image.x=5&image.y=5. i don't have much time to search for the exact period of use, i'm sorry...

    there are several words that are 'invariables au pluriel' in french. souris is another example. printemps. corps. there are many :)

    'no exit' means 'no way out'. it can't mean huis clos. the definition of huis clos provided by valérie is correct, i don't know how you call in english these kinds of trials.
  5. valerie Senior Member

    France, French & Spanish
    huis with the meaning of porte is not used any more. You can only find this word in: huis clos, or huissier. In Atilf, you can find indications of the history of the word:

    Étymol. et Hist. Ca 1050 us (S. Alexis, éd. C. Storey, 178); 1549 a huis clos (EST.); 1549 a huis ouvert (ibid.); 1835 demander le huis clos (Ac.). Du b. lat. (ERN.-MEILLET; cf. FEW t. 7, p. 439b), class. « entrée, ouverture »; pour l'h-, v. huile. A presque complètement évincé le lat. janua « porte » en protorom. mais a cédé à son tour la place en fr. devant porte*, évolution amorcée dès le Moy. Âge.

    As for the translation, 'no way out' could be OK for the theaterwork (figurative use of huis clos)
  6. valerie Senior Member

    France, French & Spanish

    Could you tell me if such a lawsuit à huis clos would be called 'proceedings in camera'? Or how would it be called?

    I would like to add this in the dictionnary, thanks
  7. Elisabeth Senior Member

    England and English
    Huis clos is what I would describe as a video trial. The best my dictionary has is ordonner le huis clos - to order proceedings to be held in camera. However the use of "in camera" sounds unnatural to me. What does anyone else think?
  8. fetchezlavache

    fetchezlavache Senior Member

    metz, france
    maybe 'in camera' comes from latin, and means 'in the chambers', ie not public ?
  9. Spencer New Member

    UK, English
    You are quite right, "in camera" in this case is from the Latin and means as you and Valerie suggest. "Proceedings in camera" is a perfectly good phrase in a legal context (eg "the proceedings are to be held in camera"), but sadly would confuse many Brits who don't know what "in camera" means (nothing to do with cameras, or video, or anything...) :) "Behind closed doors" is my best try at an idiomatic translation of the title of the play.
  10. dex Member

    uk english
    "In camera "is the correct term in this context,it means:-
    procceedings are in private with a judge,rather than in an open court!.(ie in secret)
  11. dratman New Member

    USA - English
    Thanks to everyone who replied.

    "In camera" is a most interesting suggestion, which I hadn't thought of. I personally like that for the title of the play, too, although it's realistically far too esoteric, as Spencer pointed out.

    "Behind Closed Doors" bothers me a bit because that should be "à huis clos" rather than just "huis clos." I still have the goal of getting some kind of "feel" (a sense of the idiomatic "sound") for "huis clos" without the preposition.

    "No Way Out" is good but without insight into the matter mentioned in the previous paragraph, I have no way to evaluate it. Would "huis clos" ever be used on a sign indicating that one cannot, in fact, leave the building by going down the hallway so designated?

    I feel as though I should apologize for asking these obviously kind of dumb and persistent questions.

    I would like to get the full usage spectrum into my head for "huis clos" without the "à" - and I cannot imagine, from what people have kindly written, that it's a very broad spectrum now that "porte" has so thoroughly taken over.

    To put the matter more succinctly, when would we ever hear or read that phrase without the preposition (other than in the title of J-P Sartre's play)?
  12. OlivierG

    OlivierG Senior Member

    Toulouse, France
    France / Français
    "à huis clos" is used for trials in which audience is not allowed.
    "un huis clos" is used both for the above meaning, and for a play or a movie that takes place in a single location (a room or a house).
  13. dratman New Member

    USA - English
    M. Olivier:

    Aha! Now we are getting somewhere. Could you possibly point me to some context for the usage having to do with a play or movie? I will try to search for same, as well.

    And (maybe an unreasonable question) what is the implication -- or the tone -- of using the noun phrase "huis clos" without either "à" or "un"?

    Thank you so very much.
  14. dratman New Member

    USA - English
  15. OlivierG

    OlivierG Senior Member

    Toulouse, France
    France / Français
    Here are some samples:
    When used for the title of a paper, the "un" in often omitted.
    For example, you'll read "Accident tragique sur l'autoroute : neuf victimes" instead of "Un accident tragique sur l'autoroute a fait neuf victimes".
  16. dratman New Member

    USA - English
    Thank you very much for the examples. Your last comment, coupled with some experience listening to Radio France, makes me think of "telegraphic" speech, in which the speaker or writer wants to inject a note of urgency or importance into the title.

    I have not been able to find an English equivalent of "huis clos" when used (as you describe) for a play or movie. Maybe there isn't any special way of referring to such a work in English -- unless it's perhaps some technical term among theatre people which I haven't heard.

    Chekhov (or Tchekhov) is familiar to me, although I have not read his "Three Sisters." But "Trois soeurs dans le huis clos d'une demeure russe" is certainly an interesting sentence. In this case the phrase "huis clos," judging from the review, seems to imply a sense of claustrophobia, a shut-in quality, emotionally if not physically.

    I once saw a production of the Chekhov play "Uncle Vanya," and perceived a sense of almost frantic rattling around in one place, as in "stir crazy," or like someone with "cabin fever." Perhaps it's the same in "Three Sisters."

    The phrase "huis clos mental" from your second example seems to denote what in English might be called an "inner drama," -- perhaps with the edge of the claustrophobia mentioned above? I'm guessing, really (but guessing is how one sometimes has to learn new vocabulary).

    From your examples it seems as if the two uses (three, counting the "mental" one) of the phrase "huis clos" are related in that they refer to something taking place in a confined setting: the secret proceedings of a court, a drama in which the characters stay in one place, and perhaps a restricted mental landscape.

    These considerations lead me to think about "Closed In" or simply "Closed Door" as possible alternate translations for the title "Huis Clos."

    I still don't care for "No Exit," as it seems both too narrow and too specific by comparison with the original French.

    Any comments?
  17. amcclung New Member

    USA English
    Actually, "in camera" doesn't mean secret. It means in chamb ers or out of the presence and hearing of the public or jury. A record is made of "in camera" proceedings, so it's not secret. I was just trying to find out the meaning of the name of a wine, Clos de Bois when I ran into this.
  18. zippermonkeyboy

    zippermonkeyboy Member

    Taylorsville, Utah, USA
    United States-English
  19. Homer Member

    Sydney, Australia
    Maurice: English, French & Creole
    I have concerns with that definition. Giving evidence in camera means giving the evidence behind closed doors, ie. confidentially. I understand why it can be thought of as "secret" evidence, but in practise it is not strictly the case. The evidence is given to a committee, panel or court, members of which are aware of and witnesses to it. A record of the evidence is made, used in deliberations and may be released at a later stage.

    Before I get too carried away with matters in camera.... "camera" was the word of the day on the ABC's Classic FM last year, which may be of interest to the forum.
  20. fetchezlavache

    fetchezlavache Senior Member

    metz, france
    homer, you say 'confidentially'. there is a very flimsy difference between 'confidentially' and 'in secret' don't you think ?;););) anyway, our point wasn't to translate 'in camera' literally, but to find out about 'huis clos' in english...
  21. Homer Member

    Sydney, Australia
    Maurice: English, French & Creole
    my comments followed directly from posts 16, 17 & 18 supporting the "behind closed doors" thesis over "secret". apologies if i am deemed to have drifted off topic.
    i think there is a subtle but important difference between secret and confidential in the context in which "huis clos" is employed in a democratic (political and legal) system, mainly pertaining to accountability. in a general sense the difference would be minimal, suggesting a difference only in the restriction to the level of access in information to parties concerned.
  22. dratman New Member

    USA - English
    I'd like to know at this point if anyone who's been reading this thread wishes to offer, or to support, a translation for the title of Sartre's play.

    My goal here is not so much to find a dramatically effective title - though that would be a good result too - but rather to express what Sartre really meant when he titled the play "Huis Clos."

    That is what I still don't think I really understand. The most interesting thing I've learned here is that "huis clos" can also refer to a play (!) performed in a single room. That particular description of a play does not seem to have any fixed counterpart in English ... "there's not a word for that."

    Still, the fact that it pertains to a play is most intriguing.

    Here are the titles I've considered or which have been suggested. If I've missed one that was proposed, my apologies:

    No Exit (this is, of course the standard title)
    In Camera (play has also been published under this name)
    No Way Out (this is a variation on "No Exit")
    Closed Doors
    Doors Are Shut
    Behind Closed Doors
    In a Private Room

    or any other suggestions!

    Thank you.
  23. Lucas Senior Member

    France, français
    The legal meaning of Huis clos implies a setup with few people arguing. This, I think, is well rendered by « In camera » (legal stuff so same meanings implied).

    Now there is the adjective clos which means closed, implying an oppressive atmosphere. The phrase un huis clos is used to designated such a kind of play or movie, where people are oppressed and locked in some place. But I wonder whether this use of un huis clos existed before Sartre's play or derives from it. Anyway, to describe that situation, which takes place in Sartre's play, I think « No Exit » is pretty good. L'Enfer, c'est les autres, and you cannot escape from living with other people !
  24. quehuong Senior Member

    Vietnam, Vietnamese
    I still think that No Exit is currently the best English title for the play Huis Clos. No Way Out comes in second. In Camera is the worst. Closed Doors, Doors Are Shut, Behind Closed Doors, and In a Private Room are not that great. There is only one door in Huis Clos, and it opens 4 times for 4 purposes, and I remember that at least one of the characters says something like they are watching us, know what we're doing etc...I think it is Ines who says that, but I'm not certain. Let me reread the play and come back with a certain answer. Besides, that room is anything BUT private.

    Even though No Exit is not the best literal translation of Huis Clos, it embodies Existentialism rather well. Don't you think so?

    <<Closed Door>> would be alright, but it's not as profound as <<No Exit>>. <<== This is my personal opinion only.
  25. dratman New Member

    USA - English
    From Lucas: The phrase un huis clos is used to designate such a kind of play or movie, where people are oppressed and locked in some place. But I wonder whether this use of un huis clos existed before Sartre's play or derives from it.

    Can anyone answer that? Did the phrase un huis clos, referring to some kind of scenario with people locked in, exist before Sartre?

    If that usage did exist before, how would one translate just that phrase, used in that sense, ignoring for a moment the content of Sartre's play?
  26. fetchezlavache

    fetchezlavache Senior Member

    metz, france

    je ne comprends pas le rapport avec sartre dans votre discussion. what's it matter to us whether sartre made a 'première' of using 'huis clos' to describe a situation with people enclosed in a secluded place ? if he did 'invent' it, well, good for him, it was very appropriate i think.

    the definition of 'huis clos' remains. and if you guys are looking for the translation of sartre's play, 'behind closed doors' seems perfectly adequate to me. le huis-clos.

    if one is looking for the legal transcript, then it's, without a doubt, 'in camera'. à huis clos.

    i think... <insert doubtful smilie here>
  27. dratman New Member

    USA - English
    Merci à M. fetchezlavache pour son information.

    Why I wanted to know if Sartre a fait une 'première': just trying to catch the flavor of the phrase avant qu'il l'a touché. If his usage has become a firm part of the language, so much the better. My problem is with the English title "No Exit," which I think is a poor translation. Maybe I'm wrong.

    I do like "Behind Closed Doors" much better, merci, personellement.
  28. dratman New Member

    USA - English
    Excusez-moi, s'il vous plait. J'ai du ecrire: M./Mme./Mlle. fetchezlavache
  29. lauranazario

    lauranazario Moderatrix

    Puerto Rico
    Español puertorriqueño & US English
    I stumbled upon this thread by accident and I must confess I'm delighted by the discussion that's taking place here. :)

    I read Huis Clos while in college... and as a matter of fact I had to write an undergraduate 'thesis' or 'paper' on it (specifically, the concept of L'enfer c'est les autres as seen in Sartre's Huis Clos and Camus' Caligula.)

    Therefore I must say I lean more towards the interpretation of the title as being more closely related to the legal concept of "In Chambers", which is a meeting between a 'judge', a prosecuting attorney and a defense attorney, who are 'undisturbed' in the privacy of the chamber and who are engaged in presenting facts, discussing arguments and postulates.

    What's fascinating in Huis Clos is to see the characters switch between the three roles... and the fact that no matter how much they argue and disclose, they will be unable to escape Chambers, as it is a scenario that in and of itself cannot provide final resolution to any given matter.

    Chambers is a place that's closed off to the public, not a secret place. Just as it was no secret that these people were in hell... they just happened to be in a particular 'area' of it. Just as Chambers is just a particular area within any Court building.

    Now, whether Sartre was making social commentary on France's or any other country's legal system as being akin to hell could be debatable... and hence another instance of people engaged in presenting facts, discussing arguments and postulates. Sort of a never-ending circle that began with the characters in Huis Clos and may extend to "us".

    Now don't go stealing my ideas in an attempt to present them in your own thesis... I have copyrighted my material! :D :D

    Joking... and best regards,

    PS. Have YOU read Huis Clos... or No Exit? Which version?
  30. dratman New Member

    USA - English

    Thanks for your comments. I've read the usual "No Exit" translation, which has become the sort-of official version, and I've also read the play in French - it's written in rather simple declarative sentences, and easy to read.

    I find it to be quite an interesting play. I've been thinking about Sartre recently because of his positions about the morality of opposing war and acting on one's convictions. It seems worthwhile to revisit the best thinking about war now that the U.S. has embarked on a war which I find unacceptable from every point of view. Sorry to bring politics into this, but it seemed necessary to explain the nature of my interest at this point.

    I don't much like the "standard" translation of Huis Clos, starting with the translation of the title. I should say that I am entirely prepared to be proved mistaken on the title.

    With respect to the actual translation of the text, I think it's difficult to argue that the usual English translation is any good, once you've looked at the original French.

    Since you wrote a thesis on the play, would you care to comment further, especially on my points above?
  31. dratman New Member

    USA - English
    "lorsque la publicité serait dangereuse pour l'ordre public ou les bonnes mœurs."

    Sounds like the Bush administration's policy, all right.
  32. lauranazario

    lauranazario Moderatrix

    Puerto Rico
    Español puertorriqueño & US English
    My undergraduate thesis was not focused on translation, it was done as a comparative work between Sartre's Huis Clos and Albert Camus' Caligula (in French) and focused on the premise of L'enfer c'est les autres.

    But.... the other day I was killing some time in a bookstore, and I searched to see if they had a copy of Huis Clos. They sure did... right next to No Exit, a book I had never laid my hands on before. I opened both books side by side and began reading in English... and all of a sudden I had the weird feeling I was not reading the same book as Huis Clos. There was something just not quite right... in the sense that I felt the translation was not as precise as it could have been.

    Mind you, I am not a literary translator (I acknowledge that as being a field of expertise into which I have not ventured), but something seemed a bit off. Now that I found this thread and someone to talk about the quality of the translation, I may just have to go out and buy me No Exit for holiday reading! :)

  33. fetchezlavache

    fetchezlavache Senior Member

    metz, france
    it's not surprising, all books lose something when being translated, i know no exception... it's such a hassle though, that we have to trust translated versions for all the languages that we don't know.. :(
  34. lauranazario

    lauranazario Moderatrix

    Puerto Rico
    Español puertorriqueño & US English
    I guess a certain 'loss of nuance' factor is inevitable when you cross over from one language to the next. I know literary translation is not as easy as people think it is.... but then again, translation is not an exact science like chemistry whose outcome is easily and effectively 'reproducible'. Sad in a sense, I know. :(
  35. valerie Senior Member

    France, French & Spanish
    As I do not know every language, I am so grateful to translators that allow me to access literature I would never have been able to approach. I would not have been able to read anything from Dostoievski, or Boulgakov, o Mishima, and I probably would not have read anything either in English or German, so THANK YOU to all literature translators
  36. John Wyclif New Member

    England, English
    You're welcome
  37. Lance B. New Member

    United States, English
    I never knew that "No Exit" was the common English translation for Sartre's "Huit Clos." I don't get it; the most important feature of a hearing or trial "in camera," or "huit clos," is that outsiders can't get in, not that participants (other than the accused, perhaps) can't exit. Wouldn't "No admittance" have made more sense?

    --just thinking
  38. AndrewLivingston New Member

    UK English
    In cameraThe Latin term "In camera" means, in a UK legal context: "in private."

    I think the only really proper way of translating "huis clos" into English to retain the legal sense would be with "in camera". I guess the unfortunate thing is that, unlike the French "huis clos", "in camera" is not a phrase generally recognised by a wide English-speaking public, but, hey, that's not Sartre's fault, is it?

    I did a translation of Michael Scharang's Harry. Eine Abrechnung and firmly subscribed to translation for meaning, over literal translation, but was conservative, in that I tried to keep the flow of the German where possible, but I would not spare meaning for literality.

    "Huis clos" could be translated as no exit, closed-door, behind closed doors, but it conveys not only a literal meaning, but also a figurative, socio-cultural meaning as well. I would argue that this figurative, socio-cultural meaning heavily favours translating "huis clos" as "in camera".

    Sartre's book is normally translated as "Geschlossene Gesellschaft" in German. I thought this was a bit lumbered and unnatural, but research showed that that phrase has the same figurative, socio-cultural meaning as "in camera" and "huis clos" and also a wider meaning of a closed group of people, a private quango with far-reaching powers.

    I think "in camera" conveys these meanings succinctly and clearly. "No exit" does not.
  39. vidyalicious New Member

    English, USA
    I started reading this and was kind of ticked off at dratman's dogged persistence in understanding "huis clos", but I now surrender to you, dratman, as you have sparked a marvelous exploration of the topic. At first, I felt the title should convey the legal idea that the gathering is off-limits to outsiders. Thinking more about the play shows me, however, that even when the door was open, those on the inside could not bring themselves to actually leave. So, while "No Exit," itself may not be the best title, the idea is perfectly acceptable. I like "Behind Closed Doors." Maybe a title that reflects the idea that there is no way in or out?
  40. AndrewLivingston New Member

    UK English
    I must admit I do also like "Behind Closed Doors". I still feel it does not quite convey the same meaning as "In Camera", but it is arguably close enough.

    Good post, mate!
  41. viera Senior Member

    Paris suburb
    "No Exit" is an excellent title. It gives just the right sense of a confined setting, with a hint of claustrophobia.

    "Closed Door" is no good - you don't know which side of the door you are on. It rather suggests you're on the outside, locked out.

    "Closed in" is too literal, hinting at prison or even an avalanche.
  42. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    I've read the posts in this thread with great interest. It's great fun to eavesdrop on intelligent people discussing great ideas!

    At this point, I'll just throw in my two cents.

    In deciding which title best fits the work, I think one has to take into consideration the mundane, but not insignificant) fact mentioned above that there is only ONE door in the play (and so any title alluding to more than one--such as Behind Closed Doors or Closed Doors--just won't work, in my humble opinion).

    But more important is the fact that, in the play, HELL is NOT A PLACE at all! It is a condition or situation and, of course, ultimately, a state of suffering. So I don't think that titles with names of places, such as In Camera or In a Private Room in them really work. In a Private Room really doesn't fit the play at all, because one of the points made several times in the play is that there is no privacy in hell (which is one, but not the only, reason L'enfer, c'est les autres.)

    Quite a while back, I did see one translation entitled No Way Out; I liked that one a lot, but basically doesn't No Exit say the same thing?
    I admit that I'm used to No Exit and that that is a factor in my preference, but I also think it fits the play the best--so far at least. ;)
  43. tamanoir

    tamanoir Senior Member

    Paris IVème
    French France
    Pour revenir à l'origine du débat je signale l'existance dans le diocèse de Coutance dans la Manche de l'église "Notre Dame de l'huis ouvert" qui aurait acquis ce nom à la Révolution. La légende rapporte qu'alors un paysan voulut transformer la chapelle en grenier. Mais il avait beau verrouiller la porte chaque soir, il la retrouvait ouverte le lendemain.
  44. alili81 Senior Member

    French (France)
    Bonjour !

    J'exhume brièvement ce fil très intéressant... Il en ressort qu'il n'y a pas vraiment d'équivalent en anglais pour l'expression "huis clos" quand elle désigne une pièce/un film qui se déroule dans un lieu clos. Quelqu'un aurait-il/elle tout de même une idée pour traduire cette idée ? Faut-il forcément utiliser une périphrase ? Ma phrase est la suivante :

    "Grâce à une mise en scène minimaliste et efficace, les deux réalisateurs installent une tension imperceptible. Dans ce huis clos étonnant, les manifestations du temps qui passe se multiplient..."

    D'avance, merci pour toute idée. J'ai du mal à voir comment modifier la phrase pour rendre cette idée (peut-être avec une expression du type "in a tightly enclosed space"
  45. alisonp Senior Member

    English - UK
    There is, but I can't think what at present. The only thing which comes to mind is a television term "bottle show", which isn't precisely the same: it's a case where a whole episode takes place on-set, rather than including any exterior filming, and is usually done for budgetary reasons. I know it was used for several episodes of Star Trek in its various forms, but I think even there they would use various locations on the ship, rather than, say, just the bridge, so it's not nearly so narrow a concept.
  46. Pierre Qui Roule New Member

    Bon jour à tous! Fascinating discussion, if sometimes circular! "Huis clos", well before Sartre, does indeed mean "closed door". In Randle Cotgrave's A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1st edition, 1611, reprinted in 1950 by the University of South Carolina Press), which we used as a bible in philology studies under Urban Tigner Holmes at Chapel Hill in the 1960s: "Huis" = "m. A doore". In usage: "A huis clos" = Privily, secretly, in bugger mugger". And "clos" is indeed the past participle of "clorre", meaning "To close, inclose, hedge in, shut up", among other things. Just thought I would throw my deux centimes' worth in!
  47. dixie french New Member

    I have recently run across the expression "huis clos feutré". Could someone please help me with this expression?
  48. ce que est est Senior Member

    United States, English
  49. JayUSA Banned

    United States
    >>"Sartre's play is called "Huis Clos" and is usually rendered as "No Exit" in English."

    FYI -- I believe it was Paul Bowles, author of "The Sheltering Sky", who originally translated "Huis Clos" into English, and chose "No Exit" as the title.

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