preloder

Un Hombre de Modo/A Fashionable Man

Enrique Gomez Carrillo (1895)

This 19th-century newspaper diary was a really fun exercise which, as well as providing an insight into a very specific point in European history, demonstrates the amount of research that is often needed in translation. In order to accurately render both the content and the humorous tone of the piece, I needed to know about the Panama corruption scandal of the 1860s; the structure of the French police at this time; legal terms in early 19th-century France; slang terms for policemen that might have been used in this period; the plot of Balzac’s Lost Illusions; and the classical legend of Jupiter.

UN HOMBRE DE MODO

A FASHIONABLE MAN

El hombre del día es Artón. Mis lectores deben acordarse de él, pues durante los tres últimos meses del célebre proceso de Panamá, el cable anunciaba diariamente al mundo entero que la justicia francesa esperaba encontrar mil documentos terribles “en la maleta de Artón”, Y así, la tal maleta adquirió una fama universal, no sólo por lo que contenía sino por escapar a todos los argousins franceses, policemens ingleses y detectives americanos.

The man of the moment is Artón. My readers ought to remember him, because for the last three months of the famous Panama Affair, the newswires persisted in informing the whole world, day after day, that the defenders of justice in France were expecting to find thousands of scandalous documents “in Artón’s suitcase.” And so the aforementioned suitcase rose to global fame, not only for its contents, but for its success in evading capture by the French argousins, the English bobbies and the American gumshoes [1].

Durante tres años el paradero de Artón y de sus papeles fue un misterio lleno de contradicciones. De tarde en tarde un despacho de Turquía, o de Rusia, anunciaba a la prefectura de París que Artón había sido visto, en tal o tal ciudad; pero los agentes no llegaban al sitio indicado, sino cuando la maleta ya no estaba allí. Un inspector de la Seguridad Pública aseguraba, sin embargo, a los periodistas, que el gobierno sabía perfectamente en dónde se escondía el “inencontrable” y que cuando el ministro de la Justicia quisiese prenderle, nada le sería tan fácil. Los diarios de oposición decían: “misterio” y los diarios conservadores: “calumnia”.

For three years, the whereabouts of Artón and of his suitcase was a mystery swathed in contradictions. Night after night, a communiqué from Turkey, or Russia, would inform the Prefecture of Paris that Artón had been sighted, in this city or in that city, but the agents never managed to arrive at the specified location before the suitcase was long gone. An inspector from the uniformed police directorate nevertheless would assure the press that the government knew exactly where “the untraceable” was hiding, and that, when the Minister for Justice was so inclined, nothing would be easier than to seize him. The liberal newspapers called it a “mystery”; the conservative papers called it “calumny”.

Lo cierto es que, una semana después de haber vuelto al ministerio Mr Ricard, organizador del gran proceso de Panamá, Artón y su maleta han caído en poder de la policía inglesa.

The one thing that is certain is that a week after the return to the ministry of Monsieur Ricard, coordinator of the judicial enquiry into the Panama corruption scheme, both Artón and his suitcase had fallen into the hands of the English police.

El proceso que los tribunales del Sena instruirán cuando los jueces de Londres hayan terminado el protocolo de extradición, nos probará si en realidad los papeles tan populares de la tan ilustre maleta valen lo que cuestan.

Legal proceedings in Paris will commence once the judges in London have completed the official extradition process; we will see whether the much-coveted papers of that celebrated suitcase are worth the expense of their recovery.

Porque en Francia todo lo que es abogados y policía, cuesta una fortuna.

Everything that has to do with lawyers and the police, you see, costs a fortune in France.

¿Os acordáis de las Ilusiones perdidas de Balzac y de la ruina del inventor? Luciano de Rubempré había girado por tres mil francos contra su familia. Cuando las letras llegaron de París, su hermano no pudo pagarlas y las devolvió; Luciano tampoco pudo hacer lo que en términos jurídicos de la época se llamaba “rescate de la protesta”; los papeles, pues, regresan a Angulema pero ya no dirigidos a la familia de Rubempré sino a un notario; el notario los pasa al juez; el juez los envía al procurador; el procurador los manda al abogado, el abogado los guarda largo tiempo… Y así cuando un año más tarde Luciano llega a ser el favorito de D. Carlos Herrera, y desea pagar, sus letras se han convertido en una deuda de quince mil francos.

Do you recall Balzac’s Lost Illusions, and the inventor who fell into ruin? Lucien de Rubempré forges bills of exchange to the sum of three thousand francs at the expense of his family. When the bills arrive from Paris, Lucien’s brother David is not in a position to pay them and sends them back; Lucien, in turn, is unable to, in the legal jargon of the time, “extinguish the protest”[3], and the bills are returned to Rubempré’s old home town of Angoulême, this time not addressed to his family but to a notary. The notary passes them to a judge, the judge sends them to the public prosecutor, the public prosecutor sends them to a lawyer, the lawyer holds on to them for some time… and so when one year later Lucien becomes a favourite of Abbé Carlos Herrera, and wants to pay his debts, he finds that the original bills now amount to a debt of fifteen thousand francs.

Para dar caza a la valija de Artón, la policía ha hecho algo por el estilo. Al principio “el inencontrable” ofreció a Mr. Dupas, inspector de la Seguridad Pública, que si alguien quería prestarle cien mil francos, tres días después se presentaba a las autoridades de París. El prefecto, como es natural, no pensó un solo instante en dar un cuarto. Pero comenzó a despachar agentes a Londres, a Roma, a Berlín, a Cristanía, a Estocolmo, a Constantinopla, a Nueva York, etc.; de modo que hace ocho días, cuando Artón cayó entre las manos de sus perseguidores, el Estado francés había ya gastado más de cien mil francos en viajes y procesos.

To hunt down Artón’s suitcase, the police acted along similar lines.  Right at the beginning, Artón “the untraceable” proposed to Monsiour Dupas, superintendent of the uniformed patrol, that if someone were willing to lend him a hundred thousand francs, three days afterwards he would hand himself over to the Parisian authorities. The prefect, naturally, did not even consider giving Artón a penny, but instead began to dispatch agents to London, to Rome, to Christania [2], to Stockholm, to Constantinople, to New York, and so on; with the result that, when Artón finally landed in the clutches of his pursuers eight days ago, the French state had accrued travel and administrative expenses well in excess of one hundred thousand francs.

Ahora bien, ¿valdrán tando dinero los papeles de la maleta? Quizás no.

So, will the papers in the suitcase turn out to be worth that sum? Perhaps not.

Mas Artón, como tipo novelesco de intrigante sin escrúpulos y de banquero sin conciencia, vale mucho más, Vale tanto como Vautrin y parece un héroe de la Comedia Humana.

But Artón himself, as a literary archetype, the brazen schemer and amoral banker, is worth a good deal more – he could be a hero from the Human Comedy, at least as good as Vautrin.

Durante los primeros años de su vida comercial, visitó varios países de la América del Sur. En Río de Janeiro fue durante largo tiempo el empleado más listo de los bancos que tenían poco dinero y muchos negocios.

During his first few years in the world of commerce, Artón visited a number of different countries in South America, and in Rio de Janeiro he was for some time the cleverest employee in the service of those banks with little money but a great deal of business.

Cuando tuvo algún dinero, volvió a Francia, en donde había dejado muchas deudas, y se propuso rivalizar con los grandes servidores parisienses.

When he had put together some money, he returned to France, where he had left behind numerous debts, and he decided that he would join the ranks of the great public servants of Paris.

“Ante todo –se dijo- es necesario pagar lo que se debe”.

“After all,” he said to himself, “one must pay one’s debts.”

Y la primera noche de su estancia en la gran ciudad, fue a comer a un restaurante del bulevar.

On the first evening of his sojourn in the capital, he went to dine at a restaurant on one of the great boulevards.

Al fin de la comida, el mozo le presentó la cuenta; diecisiete francos.

At the end of the meal, the garçon presented him with his bill: seventeen francs.

-¿Diecisiete francés -exclamó Artón- diecisiete francos?… no es posible. Mi cuenta debe de ser mayor… Déme usted mi cuenta completa.

“Seventeen francs?” exclaimed Artón, “Seventeen francs? That is impossible. My bill must be a great deal more than that. Please, let me see the full account.”

El mozo, espantado de ver a un caballero que deseaba pagar más de lo que debía, fue a buscar al mayordomo.

The garçon, stunned to come across a gentleman who wanted to pay more than he had to, went off in search of the maître’d…

…El cual mayordomo para dar gusto a su cliente vino diciéndole que en efecto, la cuenta no era diecisiete sino de veinte y siete francos.

The maître’d, to gratify his customer, ended up telling him that the bill was not in fact seventeen francs, but twenty-seven.

-Usted también se equivoca -respondióle Artón- yo debo cuatro mil diecisiete francos.

“You, sir, are also mistaken,” Artón replied, “I owe you four thousand and seventeen francs.”

-El señor se burla de nosotros.

“My good sir, you are making fun of us.”

-No; llámeme usted al propietario.

“I am not. Will you please call for the owner?”

El propietario llega.

The owner arrives [4].

-¿No me conoce usted? -le pregunta Artón.

“Do you not recognise me?” Artón asks.

–No.

“No.”

-Sí.

“Yes, you do.”

-No señor.

“No sir.”

-No señor.

“No sir.”

-Sí señor, yo me llamo Artón y debo a usted cuatro mil francos desde hace quince años. Tome usted.

“Yes sir, my name is Artón, and for the last fifteen years I have owed you four thousand francs. Please, take it.”

Y al mismo tiempo puso sobre la mesa cinco billetes de mil francos.

As he was talking, Artón placed on the table five thousand-franc notes.

Cuando el mozo le trajo los novecientos veinte francos de la vuelta, el gran señor estaba ya en la puerta y decía:

When the garçon brought him the nine hundred and twenty francs’ change, the great man said:

-Eso guárdeselo, usted, mozo, como propina.

“You keep that, my boy, it’s your tip.”

Al cabo de dos o tres años de vida parisiense, la fortuna brasileña de Artón, se agotó por completo. Pero no importa. Esos treinta o cuarenta meses de lujo, habían bastado al hombre hábil y enérgico, para hacerse uno de los empleados indispensables de la Compañía de la Dinamiata.

After two or three years of Parisian life, Artón’s Brazilian fortune had run dry, but it was of no consequence: those thirty of forty months of luxury were quite enough for an able and energetic man to position himself as one of the most indispensable employees of the Dynamite Trust.

Monsieur de Lesseps tuvo un día necesidad de banqueros para conseguir que la opinión pública y la opinión de los diputados fuese propicia a sus proyectos. Sus amigos le indicaron tres personas: el barón de Reinach, que se suicidó al iniciarse el proceso; Cornelio Hertz, que en estos momentos agoniza en un puerto del extranjero, y Artón.

Monsieur de Lesseps found himself in need one day of bankers who would make sure that public opinion, and the opinion of the deputies of the National Assembly, would be sympathetic to his business ventures. Friends referred him to three men: Baron Reinach, who was to commit suicide right at the start of the bribery trial; Cornelio Hertz, who at that point in time lay dying in a foreign port, and Artón.

Este último fue quien tuvo a su cargo la parte más peligrosa del asunto, pues no sólo estuvo encargado de comprar “almas perdidas de periodistas influyentes”, sino que también fue el embajador de los millones en el parlamento.

It was Artón who was assigned the most dangerous part of the whole affair, because not only was he instructed to buy “the lost souls of influential journalists”, but he was also the ambassador shepherding the millions of francs through parliament.

¿Qué un representante del pueblo creía que el canal de Panamá arruinaría a los suscritores del empréstito? Pues allí estaba Artón con su libro de cheques “para convencerle por completo por medio de trescientos mil francos”.

If a representative of the people of France should believe that the Panama Canal would bring ruin to bond subscribers? Well, along would come Artón with his chequebook, eager to put their minds at rest once and for all, to the tune of three hundred thousand francs.

Si yo fuese profeta de una religión -decía una noche de borrachera el amigo de Lesseps- me transformaría, como Júpiter, en lluvia de oro. ¡No hay nada tan bello como la lluvia de oro!

“If I were a holy prophet,” announced that good friend of de Lessep’s during an evening of drunken revelry, “I would turn myself, like Jupiter, into a shower of gold. There is nothing so exquisite as a shower of gold!”

La lluvia de oro de Panamá terminó al fin y los negocios de la dinamita no formaron sino un riachuelo de plata, en el cual un parisiense lujoso podía apenas nadar burguesamente.

The golden rain of Panama eventually came to an end, and the dynamite business failed to amount to much more than a trickle of silver, in which a fine Parisian gentleman would struggle to swim with even bourgeois respectability.

Artón se propuso, una noche, poner diques al riachuelo. Al día siguiente faltaban tres millones de francos en las cajas de la compañía de fabricantes de explosivos.

One night, Artón decided to put a dam on that trickle, and the next day, three million francs were missing from the coffers of the explosives company.

Dos semanas después los inspectores de la Seguridad encargados de sorprender al ladrón en su lecho, no encontraban en la lujosa vivienda de la rue Godot sino a una de las más bonitas actrices de París, que buscaba tal vez, sus joyas perdidas.

Two weeks later, the chief inspectors charged with surprising the thief in his bed found nothing in his opulent home on the Rue Godot but one of the prettiest actresses in Paris, who, perhaps, was searching for her missing jewels.

Y durante más de dos años nadie volvió a saber ni del domicilio ni del modo de vivir de Su Majestad el rey de los intrigantes.

For the next two years, nothing at all was heard about the whereabouts or movements of his Majesty, the King of Intrigue.

Hoy que la policía francesa le obliga a ser de nuevo, y a pesar suyo, el hombre a la moda de París, los periódicos europeos tratan de averiguar lo que ha descubierto “durante el destierro”.

Now that the French police have turned him, once again, into the talk of Paris, newspapers all over Europe are trying to find out what he might have discovered “in exile”.

En estos últimos meses había hecho una invención industrial que le permitía vivir lujosamente, en Londres, con el pseudónimo de Neuman. Había descubierto una nueva manera de hacer paquetes de té…

In his last few months of freedom, Artón had created some industrial invention which had allowed him to live in luxury in London, under the pseudonym of Newman [5].  He had invented a new method of packaging tea…

Su mejor elogio son las siguientes palabras de un vendedor de comestibles de la capital del Reino Unido.

The finest tribute paid to Artón was spoken by a purveyor of foodstuffs in the British capital:

“Mr Neuman -dice el pobre hortera inglés- era un hombre de genio; aquí venía todos los días, a mi tienda, en su carruaje, y sin que yo pudiese defenderme, me hacía comprarle té y me obligaba a poner en mis vidrieras los anuncios que le interesaban. En menos de dos meses logró que todos los de mi gremio abandonásemos a nuestros antiguos proveedores para abastecernos en su casa…era un hombre de genio”.

“Mr Newman,” attests the humble grocer, “was a man of genius. He would come here to my shop every day in his carriage, and there was no resisting him; he would induce me to buy tea from him, and he would make me display his advertisements in my windows. In two months, he had got everyone in my guild to ditch our old suppliers and buy everything from his establishment instead…he was a man of genius.”

Y en efecto era un hombre de genio que merecía el título de Gran Canciller de la Orden de los Caballeros de Industria.

A man of genius indeed, who surely ought to have been appointed Grand Chancellor of the National Order of Industry.

1 de diciembre de 1896

1 December, 1896

Copyright © 2016 Ruth Grant. Source text published by Biblioteca Ayacucho under a Creative Commons Licence.

CITATION

Gomez Carillo, E. Un Hombre de Modo (1993) La Vida Parisiense [1895]. Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, pp. 87-92. Available at: http://bibliotecayacucho.gob.ve/fba/index.php?id=97&backPID=89&begin_at=8&tt_products=258 [Accessed 10 February 2016].

TRANSLATOR’S NOTES

[1]: The earliest use of the term “gumshoe” to refer to a plain clothes police officer or detective, predominantly in the United States, is actually 1906 –  a decade after the publication of this piece. I have included it in my translation as part of a word system replacing the borrowed, exoticising terms policemens [sic] and detectives with slang words in order to preserve the marked effect that the original text would have had on the source-language reader. However, depending on the purpose of the target text, in the interest of historical accuracy the editor may prefer to retain the original detectives.

[2]: Christiania was the name of the city we now know as Oslo between 1624 and 1877, when the spelling was changed to Kristiania. The city’s original Norwegian name, Oslo, was restored in 1925.

[3]: I arrived at this phrase after some research, consulting both legal dictionaries and the original French text. The phrase used in the source text is a Spanish calque of a French phrase used in a specific legal context in the 19th century, and so a direct translation is impossible. However, the author’s intention here is to convey the general meaning (Rubempré was unable to meet the suddenly inflated cost of the original debt) in an amusingly jargon-laden way, which I think my solution achieves.

[4]: This is a  slightly puzzling tense shift, which perhaps was intended to convey an informal, conversational style. I have respected it in my translation; however this constitutes an editorial decision which, depending on the purpose of the target text, might be open to debate.

[5]: In English texts which mention Artón, the name “Newman” appears rather than the “Neuman” used in the ST. It is unclear whether the original author made an error or if this was an intentional difference, but I have reverted to the standard “Newman” in my translation.

 

 

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