Every five years or so I like to put up a post about translation, that time has come around again and this is the post.
This week a festival in Latvia asked us…
“Dear Roisin, we have to translate the title of the work into Latvian and I wanted to ask you to explain in what way you use “of all the people…” to have exact translation”
What a beautiful question. I love all this stuff about the use of words. So if you don’t want to know the ‘official answer’ then stop reading right now.
Principally “of” in this context means “about” so it is a show “About all the people in all the world” as in “the story of all the people in all the world”
The superfluous second “all” in the title is intended to evoke that famous line in the film Casablanca:
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world she walks into mine” (about 1:35 in) which hopefully implies “of all the people in all the world it had to be you”.
The show is about EVERYONE and ONE PERSON at the same time, in my mind at least the slight ambiguity of the title allows both readings to coexist. Of course it may not work in Latvian. I’m not even sure it works in English!
Roisin came up with a simpler, more elegant formulation:
“Of all the people in all the world, these… were born today.”
“Of all the people in all the world, these… are firefighters in Riga.”
Which should probably become the new ‘official answer’.