tout autant révéler quelque chose que le masquer

michaelhenchard100

Senior Member
English (Ireland)
Something I've wondered about before, the autant faire X que faire Y and French's seeming inversion of the logic of the words.

This is the line in French:
L'extrême clarté de l'image ne nous suffisait pas, parce qu'elle semblait tout autant révéler quelque chose que le masquer .

In English, I've seen two versions:
1. Even the brightest clarity of the image was not enough for us, for this seemed to conceal something as much as it revealed it;

and

2. The brightest clarity of the image did not suffice us, for this seemed to wish just as much to reveal something as to conceal something;

Which of these English sentences is the correct translation of the French? I think it's sentence 1, though that seems to invert the French.
Thanks.

[I know that the phrase was in German originally, but let's leave that aside for now]
 
  • Yendred

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    As the relation is symmetrical (as much as, tout autant), both versions match.

    In French, if you say "J'aime tout autant aller à la piscine qu'au cinéma" or "J'aime tout autant aller au cinéma qu'à la piscine", both mean the same.
     

    michaelhenchard100

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    Yendred.
    Thanks for your reply; I appreciate it. But I don't think that what you say is correct, in either English or French.

    To go back to the Nietzsche above, "as much to reveal something as to conceal something " emphasizes the fact that it reveals as well as conceals (or when one might think that it would in fact only conceal.)
    Vice versa for to conceal something as much as it revealed it;

    re the pool and cinema.
    "I like the pool as much as I like the cinema" has as its basis, "I like the cinema a certain amount" and then, "now let me judge the pool on that measure"
    My question is whether "J'aime tout autant aller à la piscine qu'au cinéma" is the same, or is its basis rather, "j'aime la piscine, et maintenant jugeons le cinéma par comparaison."
     

    Yendred

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    I'm afraid you push the logic a bit too far. If a friend of mine offers me a choice: "Tu préfères aller à la piscine ou au cinéma ?", I'll answer him interchangeably "J'aime tout autant aller à la piscine qu'au cinéma" or "J'aime tout autant aller au cinéma qu'à la piscine". Both mean the same for me, obviously.
     

    lentulax

    Senior Member
    UK English
    If a friend of mine offers me a choice: "Tu préfères aller à la piscine ou au cinéma ?", I'll answer him interchangeably "J'aime tout autant aller à la piscine qu'au cinéma" or "J'aime tout autant aller au cinéma qu'à la piscine"
    But the difference between this and the OP's quotation is that your question creates no strong implication in favour of one option rather than the other; however, if you shine a bright light on something, there is a strong predisposition to suppose that it will reveal more than it conceals; just as if you said 'His explanation raises as many questions as it solves,' explanation being designed to solve rather than create puzzles; You tell us (I'm not challenging this ; it's your language!) that 'tout autant X que Y' and 'tout autant Y que X' are both equally possible in such situations , and mean the same ; but that doesn't mean that both the proffered English versions are correct (the original question) , or even either. Surely 2 is not correct, since 'as much X as Y' is, in such circumstances, not interchangeable in English with 'as much Y as X' (as the OP suggests in preferring 1). One might suggest, possibly, that 1 isn't wholly correct, either, since it lacks the 'neutrality' of the French original, and a different formulation should be used - e.g. , 'It seemed both to reveal and also to conceal something .'
    Edited after reading the reminder in #6 , to remove from the last sentence suggestions of equality of extent.
     
    Last edited:

    michaelhenchard100

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    But the difference between this and the OP's quotation is that your question creates no strong implication in favour of one option rather than the other; however, if you shine a bright light on something, there is a strong predisposition to suppose that it will reveal more than it conceals; just as if you said 'His explanation raises as many questions as it solves,' explanation being designed to solve rather than create puzzles; You tell us (I'm not challenging this ; it's your language!) that 'tout autant X que Y' and 'tout autant Y que X' are both equally possible in such situations , and mean the same ; but that doesn't mean that both the proffered English versions are correct (the original question) , or even either; surely 2 is not correct, since 'as much X as Y' is, in such circumstances, not interchangeable in English with 'as much Y as X' (as the OP suggests in preferring 1); one might suggest, possibly, that 1 isn't wholly correct, either, since it lacks the 'neutrality' of the French original, and a different formulation should be used - e.g. 'it seemed in equal measure to reveal and to conceal /to conceal and to reveal', 'It seemed to both reveal and conceal something /to both conceal and reveal something equally'.
    Lentulax, thanks. I'm with you on the English, but are we sure that the French is really neutral? Isn't tout autant révéler quelque chose que le masquer also saying "I expect it to conceal but in fact it reveals"?

    Or - and here's the rub! - that's what it seems to say, but French usage is actually the inverse - and tout autant révéler quelque chose que le masquer in fact says - as currently used - "I expected it to reveal but it in fact conceals"

    The fact that it's clarity of image that has this surprising effect (of concealing) also goes to suggest that this latter is what is understood here.
    french usage seems to go against the logic of the words
     

    Metrop

    Senior Member
    English - US
    To nitpick:

    1. Even the brightest clarity of the image was not enough for us, for this seemed to conceal something as much as it revealed it;

    and

    2. The brightest clarity of the image did not suffice us, for this seemed to wish just as much to reveal something as to conceal something;

    For 1. - I don't like the "Even" - there is no "even" in the original. (Unless it has to do with missing context).
    For 2. - I think "The brightest clarity of the image did not suffice us" flows and sounds better than " the brightest clarity of the image was not enough for us" - "was not enough for us" means they needed something more, whereas "ne nous suffisait pas" seems to imply they were not satisfied even if it was not enough as well. It's two different things.
    For 2. I don't like "to wish" - there is no such declaration in the original.
    I also don't understand why they used brightest for extreme.
    So, in my humble opinion, I prefer:
    The extreme clarity of the image did not suffice us, for it seemed just as much to reveal something as to conceal it;
     

    Itisi

    Senior Member
    English UK/French
    The fact that the image/picture was so very clear was not enough for us, because it seemed that just as it revealed something it also concealed it.
     
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