Lost in [PT] Translation (#2): Casablanca, to tell, and the many meanings of “contar”

Casablanca is one of my favourite films; it has everything I like in a motion picture: a good story, mixing both the personal and the social; strong performances, a great score, and a really strong sense of self – the assured direction doesn’t waste any time setting the table for the story, from the first frames about the escape route from occupied France to Casablanca (and onwards onto Lisbon, which was used by refugees as an escape route into America; even though Portugal was ruled by an authoritarian, fascist leader – António de Oliveira Salazar – the country remained neutral in World War IIto the last shot of the plane flying above and Rick’s famous “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

A few weeks ago, while I was re-watching it (I recorded it a few years ago in my TV cable box during a rerun on RTP2, the culturally-inclined channel of Portugal’s national public television and radio provider, RTP, so I can watch it whenever I want) I noticed a particularly interesting line which felt perfect for this segment!

It comes at a very sensitive time in the film, during which (SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT) Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and Rick (Humphrey Bogart) have an argument about why she didn’t leave with him from occupied Paris. She starts explaining him her life when she started living in Paris, including how she met Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), a member of the Czechoslovak Resistance, and fell in love with him. Rick cuts the conversation short, ending it on a very sour note with the following lines:

Snippet of the Casablanca script (source: Vincent’s Casablanca).

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Lost in [PT] Translation (#1): Star Wars: The Plurals Strike Back

Today I’m inaugurating a new blog section, delving in matters of translation into and/or from Portuguese. It will serve as an opportunity to discuss matters of translation and comparative translation, especially in the realms of media and culture (get ready for a lot of geeky posts about my favourite TV shows/films)!

For today’s installment, I couldn’t think of a better topic than the hype surrounding the new Star Wars film, The Last JediWhen the film’s title was first announced, on January 23rd last [1], I immediately assumed that it referred to a singular Jedi, namely Luke Skywalker, but more shrewd observers wondered whether the Jedi in the title was singular or plural (since Jedi can be both singular and plural) [2].

Given the secrecy surrounding the film, how could a translator working on this title know how to translate it into an inflected language where the rest of the sentence fragment – the definite article The and the adjective Last – could potentially give away these plot points?

©StarWars.com / Disney / LucasFilm
The Last Jedi title card, courtesy of StarWars.com

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