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Alessandro Baricco: Ocean Sea


The most famous doctor in the land was called Atterdel. Many had seen him raise the dead, people who had one foot in the grave, already as good as gone, done for, really, and he had fished them back from Hell and brought them back to life, which was also an embarrassment if you will, sometimes even inconvenient, but it should be understood that that was his job, and no one could do it like he could, and so those people came back to life, pace friends and relatives all, who were obliged to start all over again, postponing tears and inheritances until better times, perhaps the next time they will consider things beforehand and seek the services of a normal doctor, one of those who does them in and that’s that, not like this one who gets them back on their feet, only because he is the most famous doctor in the land. Not to mention the dearest.


And so Father Pluche thought of Dr. Atterdel. Not that he had much belief in doctors, it wasn’t that, but for everything that concerned Elisewin he was obliged to think with the Baron’s head, not with his own. And the Baron’s head thought that where God had failed, science might succeed. God had failed. Now it was up to Atterdel.


He arrived at the castle in a shiny black coach, which seemed somewhat sinister but was also very dramatic. He rapidly climbed the flight of steps, and when he came up to Father Pluche, almost without looking at him, asked, “Are you the Baron sir?”


“I wouldn’t half mind.”


This was typical of Father Pluche. He was unable to restrain himself. He would never say what he ought to have said. Something else would come to mind first. Only a moment before. But it was more than enough time.


General Notes:


  • Try to find idiomatic English expressions, e.g. one foot in the grave.
  • The most famous in the LAND. Avoids confusion of ‘paese’.
  • Style: The first paragraph is one long sentence. In literary translations you should try to remain as close to the style of the original as possible.
  • Grammar: del Barone = of the Baron
  • Magari = If only, I wish, I wouldn’t mind


Erasmus Students

  • He wrote to me NOT he wrote me
  • Back on their feet ≠ back on foot