Tu ne retiens pas un traître mot.

Tu ne retiens pas un traître mot.

tewn ruh-tee-yaa pah uh tray-truh moh. Click below to hear this.*

You don’t remember a single word.

It’s Philippe again, the hypercritical boyfriend in Christiane Rochefort’s novel. Nothing Céline does or says pleases him, yet he wants to marry her. He wants to Take Care Of Her. Céline hates the way he tries to control her and change her, yet she wants to be with him. You can see the problem brewing, right?

In this particular paragraph he is criticizing her for reading too many books, of which, he says, Tu ne retiens pas un traître mot. He thinks her time would be better spend sewing on the missing button on he sweater that he called her attention to last week. I’m not finding this guy especially likeable, so far.

Anyway, just so you know, traître is not a swear word, which is why I didn’t translate it as one. But it feels like one. It has force, emphasis, it makes un mot (a word) pop, but it’s not in the least bit vulgar. Its literal meaning is traitorous. I have no idea how that became a reinforcer, but it’s an interesting word choice for Philippe, who undoubtedly believes sincerely that Céline’s books, and the words they are packed with, betray her into behavior that is not “her”. The “real” Céline is the one in his head.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:


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