I desired myself towards her

rusalka_bg

Senior Member
Serbian
Please rephrase or explain the underlined part.

"How did she hold this story about me [her ex lover], pariah to the group after some scene or other where I had disgraced myself. ...The conversation perhaps moved to other sightings. ... But did she climb down into the well we helped dig together and hold herself, the way I desired myself towards her with my hand?"

It is from The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje.

Thank you!
 
  • RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I agree that the omitted portions aren't necessary -- but I have no idea what the underlined portion is supposed to mean.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Yes, I think you know all the words, they're simple words, so you can make as much sense of it as we can. 'Desired myself towards' suggests something, but it's not clear what. It's like reading poetry: the words sound good together, and give you an impression.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    At the risk of sounding as though I have a dirtier mind than the other members who have posted here, I can only imagine he's talking about her going down the well and touching herself, just as he used to masturbate when he was thinking of her.

    I imagine that "the well we helped dig together" is metaphorical and refers to their love affair. Or perhaps it's a real well?
     

    rusalka_bg

    Senior Member
    Serbian
    Yes, I think you know all the words, they're simple words, so you can make as much sense of it as we can. 'Desired myself towards' suggests something, but it's not clear what. It's like reading poetry: the words sound good together, and give you an impression.
    That is actually the worst nightmare of every translator - to understand every word, but not the full sentence. :)
    It's often the case with the poetic language.

    I always think that the meaning eludes me since English is not my native tongue, so I come here hoping that native speakers might help me.
     

    rusalka_bg

    Senior Member
    Serbian
    At the risk of sounding as though I have a dirtier mind than the other members who have posted here, I can only imagine he's talking about her going down the well and touching herself, just as he used to masturbate when he was thinking of her.

    I imagine that "the well we helped dig together" is metaphorical and refers to their love affair. Or perhaps it's a real well?
    Having a dirty mind makes ordinary conversations much more interesting. :D

    The well is indeed metaphorical and it refers to their love affair. At least, that's how I understand it.
    But I don't think it has anything to do with the masturbation. Perhaps with the yearning.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    Strange image, but I can imagine that it meant 'the situation/the relationship we made with each other", and doesn't mean masturbation. Which sex was the speaker? There was a novel about lesbianism called Well of Loneliness, by the pseudonymous "Radclyffe Hall". Radcliffe Hall is one of the "Seven Sisters", women's colleges connected to the (then-) all male Ivy League universities, in this case Harvard.
     
    Last edited:

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I was also mystified, but I think Velisarius has got it. Looks like a completely discreet way of alluding to masturbation. He masturbated thinking about her. What about 'hold herself' then? Probably he is wondering if she also masturbated thinking about him. :)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Does this speaker tend to mince his words, or is he not a native speaker of English? He certinly expresses his thought here in an odd way, so I expect you will want that to be reflected in your own translation.
     

    rusalka_bg

    Senior Member
    Serbian
    I am certainly trying to stay true to the original as much as I can (not literal, of course). I can make it sound odd, but it's hard to do it when the meaning eludes you.
    Ondaatje was born in Ceylon, but he moved to England as a child, and later emigrated to Canada.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I'm sure Ondaatje has a perfect command of English.

    I meant "what kind of English does this particular character in the novel speak?" I find it hard to believe that the rest of his thought/speech is perfectly straightforward. (?) I haven't read the book, and remember little of the film.
     

    rusalka_bg

    Senior Member
    Serbian
    Oh, silly me! :D

    The speaker is Count Almasy, a Hungarian educated in England. His speech is anything but straightforward, throughout the book.
    It's a wonderful novel, but full of strangely worded passages. It gives me headache. :)
     
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