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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


MORGAN, Naomi. Oskar en die Pienk Tannie: The journey of an improbable pair from a French to an Afrikaans stage. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2020, vol.60, n.1, pp.75-90. ISSN 2224-7912.

Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, the playwright of Oskar en die pienk tannie, is one of France's most popular and laurelled authors. He has been awarded the Grand prix du théâtre de l'Académie française and the Molière on several occasions, notably in 2003, when French actress Danielle Darrieux won it at age 86 for the one-woman production of Oscar et la dame rose. His novels and plays have been translated into at least 46 languages and the plays have been staged in more than 50 countries, including South Africa since 2012, when the Afrikaans production of Oskar en die pienk tanniehad its première at the Vryfees in Bloemfontein. The play is an adaptation by the playwright of his eponymous novella, which is part of a cycle of eight tales relating to religion, philosophy and diverse cultures, entitled Le cycle de l'invisible. The novella (2002) was not only adapted as a play (2003), but also as a film (2010) directed by the author. Oscar et la dame rose has a Christian theme: Oscar, a boy dying of cancer, meets Mamie Rose, one of the volunteers at a children's hospital, who advises him to write letters to God about the twelve days he has left to live. Both the novella and drama are in epistolary format and consist of fourteen letters. The text is valued for its therapeutic effect, as it provides solace to readers and theatre-goers who have to accept the inevitable. Copies of the text, in several languages, are available in European children's hospitals. In 2003 Schmitt was awarded the Prix Jean Bernard for Oscar et la dame rose by the French Académie de Médecine. Although Oskar en die pienk tannie was one of the most successful translated plays performed in Afrikaans on South African stages in recent years, the fact that Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt was unknown in South Africa proved to be quite a challenge to arouse the interest of Afrikaans publishers, directors and producers for both the novella and the theatrical adaptation thereof. The Afrikaans translation of the novella and play were submitted in 2012 to a South African publisher (Human & Rousseau) and a private theatre company (Sandra Prinsloo Produksies). In France, the novella preceded the stage adaptation, but in South Africa it was the stage production of 2012, notably the performance of Sandra Prinsloo, which eventually resulted in the publication of the novella the following year (2013). As very few Afrikaans plays and even fewer plays translated into Afrikaans are ever published, the only available version of the theatrical translation is the 2012 adapted stage text which was submitted to Dalro and the Afrikaans Contemporary Drama Archive or AKDA. The unabridged Afrikaans translation of the drama text is the property of Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's production agency. This article documents the challenges facing translators in the language pair French-Afrikaans, using the publication of the Afrikaans translation of the novella Oskar en die pienk tannie and its stage production by Lara Bye as a case-study. The author of the article translated both the novella and the stage text. Using Sirkku Aaltonen's Time-sharing on stage (2000) as a framework, the reasons for domesticating the translation and the various contexts and circumstances which resulted in different Afrikaans versions of the original French source text are outlined. As far as the stage text is concerned, examples include its adaptation to artfestival format by Sandra Prinsloo and Lara Bye and the addition of English words to the Afrikaans text to enhance the contemporary authenticity of the dialogue. Domestication was unavoidable to facilitate pronunciation of the characters' nicknames, linked to their illness, as well as the nom de guerre of the female wrestlers invented by Mamie Rose to amuse Oscar and to build up his courage. By comparison to Adriana Hunter's English translation of the title (Oscar and the lady in pink), the register of the source text title was made less formal by replacing the literal Afrikaans translation of dame by tannie (or auntie). As a contribution to the Afrikaans stage archive, the article includes a comparison of the original French and Afrikaans productions. The first French production was directed by Christophe Lidon, whose set resembled a pop-up children's book. Both Lidon and Bye had to resolve the challenge of an ongoing dialogue between two characters with only one actor on stage. In the Lidon production, Oscar's presence is represented by an old-fashioned hospital bed centre stage with the diaphanous curtains drawn. The letters to God are "posted" in the patient's chart-holder at the foot-end ofthe bed. The toy chest next to the bed contains a variety of soft toys which also double up as Oscar's sick friends in hospital. The Lara Bye production with Sandra Prinsloo as both Oskar and the Pienk Tannie had only one stage property, a table which was designed especially for Prinsloo and facilitated her continuous metamorphoses between the two characters. The height was calculated to allow Prinsloo to swing her legs in child-like fashion and to draw attention to her red tennis shoes, one of the markers for the Pienk Tannie's role-change to Oskar. Both productions had a very effective lighting plan: in the French production, the light changed from deep blue to a mysterious white as Oscar freed himself from earthly preoccupations. In the South African version, a blue rectangle of light represented Oskar's island of safety in the hospital room. The Lara Bye drama production ultimately won awards for Best Actress, Director and Production at the most prominent Afrikaans arts festivals, while the Afrikaans translation was also awarded several awards, including the South African Translators' Institute Prize for Excellence in the Translation of Children's Literature.

Keywords : Oskar en die pienk tannie; Sandra Prinsloo; Lara Bye; Sirrku Aaltonen; practical drama translation; drama and stage text.

        · abstract in Afrikaans     · text in Afrikaans     · Afrikaans ( pdf )


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