Monday, 4 July 2016

The Lousy Reputation

A German teenager once told me at a picnic that, ever since “what happened during the war”, it would be considered indecent to hang a German flag out in front of your house in Germany. François Hollande tried to encourage this sort of in-your-face patriotism in France after the terrorist attacks on November 13th, 2015, asking the French to hang a red-white-and-blue flag out their window in homage to the victims. But I too am allergic to flag-waving, and I'm relieved that almost nobody in our neighborhood followed his advice. I can understand loving a culture, a language, a landscape, the music, food or architecture of a place. But to me a flag represents none of the above - it represents a state and a governing structure: necessary perhaps as protectors of your person and property and as providers of public services, but too often responsible for a host of evil acts as well. So, in honour of the star spangled 4th of July, I’ll spangle my web page with notes and letters from another one of my singable English translations of the great French singer-songwriter, Georges Brassens: La Mauvaise Réputation (literally “the bad reputation”), which I translated as The Lousy Reputation. It’s a cheery hymn to non-conformity. I took some liberty in replacing the 14th of July (Bastille Day, or the French National Holiday) with the 4th of July (American Independence Day), but otherwise I managed to stick pretty close to the original.



Georges Brassens in concert
at the Théâtre national populaire, October 1966
Here are the lyrics:

The Lousy Reputation
a (singable) translation of La Mauvaise Réputation, by Georges Brassens
Translation copyright © 2013 by Moyshelé Rosencrantz - unauthorized reproduction prohibited

In a small unpretentious town
My reputation’s going down
Whether I try to improve it or not
They take me for an... I don’t know what
No, I do not cause harm in any way
As I carry on in my own sweet way but
Your good neighbors don’t like it when
You follow another path than them
No the neighbors don’t like it when
You follow another path than them
Behind my back they all will call me names
Except for the mute! It goes without saying

On the day of the Fourth of July
In my cozy bed I lie
Trumpets parading along in the sun
It’s just not my kind of fun
No, I do not cause harm in any way
By not listening to the buglers play but
Your good neighbors don’t like it when
You follow another path than them
No the neighbors don’t like it when
You follow another path than them
All will point their finger right at me
Except for the armless! But let it be

When a poor thief crosses my path
Chased by a citizen full of wrath
I stick out my foot for a change of pace
The citizen’s suddenly flat on his face
No, I do not cause harm in any way
Helping one poor apple thief get away but
Your good neighbors don’t like it when
You follow another path than them
No the neighbors don’t like it when
You follow another path than them
Everybody will rush to pin me down
Except for the cripples! It will be found

No need to know my ascendant sign
To guess the destiny that is mine
As soon as a rope is suitably clipped
Around my neck it will be slipped
No, I do not cause harm to Smith or Jones
Just because my road doesn’t lead to Rome but
Your good neighbors don’t like it when
You follow another path than them
No the neighbors don’t like it when
You follow another path than them
They’ll all come see me hang without remorse
Except for the blind! Of course!

Photo of Uncle Sam by William Vander Weyde, circa 1900
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like The Gorilla.

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