Gérard Manset - Fauvette (English translation)



Elle avait pas dormi depuis plus de trois jours.
Une petite fauvette aux yeux peints,
avec des bagues aux doigts, une jupe de daim,
avec un blouson de satin.
Elle est partie dans le fond
téléphoner à on ne sait qui.
On l’a vue qui pleurait
et puis se recoiffait comme une furie,
se mouchait dans sa manche.
Quelqu’un devait l’attendre dehors, mais il neigeait.
Elle a rabattu sa capuche, écrasé sa cigarette,
laissé quelques pièces de monnaie,
ramassée comme un petit Donald en peluche.
Ramassée comme un petit Donald en peluche.
J’en aurais pas parlé si ce n’était pas un dimanche
avec ce qu’on peut pleurer pour les hommes.
Les petits, les moches, les grands, les têtes de pioche
et ceux qui parlent jamais à personne.
Et ceux qui parlent jamais à personne.
Quand je l’ai vu qui la suivait,
qui la mangeait des yeux,
la petite fauvette en parka bleue.
La petite fauvette...
Elle avait pas dû dormir depuis pas mal de temps,
comme une alouette blessée.
Parce qu’il faut dire qu’il y a pas souvent de printemps
dans les rues de sa cité.
Il y avait un sapin de Noël planté
un peu plus loin sur le parking,
et les loupiotes qui semblaient lui dire : « Va t’amuser
avant que la vie te tombe dessus »
Je les ai vus qui marchaient
dans cette neige fondue vers un camion,
et lui qui la tenait comme ça, dans la nuit.
Comme si elle avait bu,
qu’elle avait les jambes en coton,
qu’il fallait qu’elle dorme dans un vrai lit.
Qu’il fallait qu’elle dorme dans un vrai lit.
Si je parle de ça, c’est que je me suis souvent demandé depuis
Ce que j’aurais pu faire de plus,
sinon l’asseoir de force et lui faire cracher son mal de vivre.
Personne aurait jamais su.
Personne aurait jamais su.
Laissez-nous comprendre pourquoi tout est ainsi :
écroulé, malfaisant.
On en ramasse comme ça
tous les automnes, tous les hivers,
les ongles encore accrochés
sur quelques lambeaux de mystère.
Pourquoi s’était-elle enfuie de toute la chaleur
que peuvent donner une mère, une sœur ?
Un père absent, violent,
qui peut-être même avait tout brisé,
mais quand même laissé du bonheur.
Mais quand même laissé du bonheur.
Après la dinde, à plus d’heure,
quand j’ai voulu m’en retourner,
tout ça m’était sorti de la tête,
comme toutes ces choses
qu’on n’a jamais fini de ressasser.
Alors le jour s’est levé.
Alors le jour s’est levé
comme un chacal en manque d’amour
qui lève une charogne
et vient prendre la place de la nuit.
Tous les arbres étaient blancs
sur une patte comme autant de cigognes
au-dessus de toutes ces flaques de cambouis.
Au-dessus de toutes ces flaques...
À chacun son démon tapi qui peut sortir de l’ombre,
voilà la seule chose que je me suis dite.
Vers un ailleurs indéfini aux portes du hasard
j’ai vu la vallée dans le brouillard.
J’ai vu la vallée...
Vers un ailleurs indéfini
aux portes du hasard
j’ai vu la vallée.
Submitted by petit élève on Tue, 18/10/2016 - 14:05
Last edited by Joutsenpoika on Mon, 12/02/2018 - 10:21
Align paragraphs
English translation

Little sparrow

She hadn't sleep for three days or more,
a little sparrow1 with painted eyes,
rings on her fingers, a suede skirt,
and a satin jacket.
She went to the back room
to call who knows who.
They saw her crying,
then doing her hair furiously,
wiping her nose on her sleeve.
Someone must have been waiting for her, but it was snowing.
She pulled up her hood, stubbed out her cigarette,
left a few coins on the table,
squat like a little fluffy Donald Duck.
Squat like a little fluffy Donald Duck.
I wouldn't have spoken about that, but it was on a sunday,
and there are so many reasons to cry over men.
The small ones, the ugly ones, the tall ones, the mule headed,
and all those who never speak to anyone.
And all those who never speak to anyone.
Then I saw him as he followed her,
devouring her with his eyes,
the little sparrow in her blue jacket.
The little sparrow...
She must not have slept for quite a while,
like a wounded skylark,
what with the spring not coming so often
around her city block.
A Christmas tree stood there,
a bit further down the parking lot,
and the blinking lights seemed to say: "Go and
have fun before life starts breathing down your neck"
I saw them as they walked
on this molten snow, toward a truck.
He was clutching her in the dark
as if she was drunk,
as if she felt weak at the knees,
as if she needed to sleep in a proper bed.
As if she needed to sleep in a proper bed.
I'm speaking about that, because I often wondered afterwards
what else I could have done.
Except maybe have her sit down and spit out her despair.
Nobody could have ever done that.
Nobody could have ever done that.
Let us figure out why things are always
so messed-up, so mean.
They pick up a few like her
every fall, every winter,
their fingernails still clinging
to a few shreds of mystery.
Why had she run away from all the warmth
a mother or a sister can bring?
An absent father, a violent one,
who maybe had smashed everything,
but surely there must have been some happiness left.
Surely there must have been some happiness left.
After the roast turkey, late at night,
as I started for home,
all this had slipped my mind,
like all these things
you're never done dwelling on.
And then the day broke.
And then the day broke
like a love-starved jackal
digging up a rotting carcass
it replaced the night.
All trees were white,
like storks standing on one leg
above all these greasy puddles.
Above all these puddles...
To each his demon, lurking, ready to pounce out of the shadows,
that is the only thought that came to my mind.
Toward an uncertain future, at the edge of fate
I saw the valley in the fog.
I saw the valley...
Toward an uncertain future
at the edge of fate
I saw the valley.
  • 1. A "fauvette" is technically a warbler, but I tried to pick something that would better evoke the character the song is about.
This translation does not claim to be of any particular value.
Glad if you liked it, sorry if you didn't.
You can reuse it as you please.
Glad if it's for knowledge or understanding, sorry if it's just for money or fame.
Submitted by petit élève on Tue, 18/10/2016 - 15:23
Last edited by petit élève on Thu, 20/10/2016 - 00:21
Author's comments:

I did what I could, but Manset is really a great songwriter and my English is struggling to convey the strength and elegance of these lyrics.

Please help to translate "Fauvette"
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Gavin    Wed, 19/10/2016 - 16:04


A few little fixes/questions:

Wiping not whiping

Stubbed *out* sounds a bit better than just 'stubbed'

Doesn't "tête de pioche" mean "stubborn" rather than stupid? You could use use "stubborn" or maybe "the mule headed (ones)"

nothing wrong with the "as if she had to" as such but maybe "as if she needed to"
sounds more natural?

Personne aurait jamais su. - No one would every have known?

Qui lève une charogne - does he not in fact dig it up?

I think that's it. It all reads very smoothly. :-)

petit élève    Wed, 19/10/2016 - 16:17

Yep, I hesitated on "tête de pioche". I'm not quite sure what that means, actually Regular smile
I've heard it used both ways, but "stubborn" is probably the most common meaning, and seems more appropriate here.

Personne aurait jamais su -> I understand it as "No one would ever have known (how to do that)", i.e. he's trying to convince himself nobody could have helped her.
At any rate, that's the kind of thoughts that occasionally crossed my mind when I was playing the social worker. Not that I ever had one of my "clients" freeze to death on a parking lot, though. The runaway kids usually had enough sense to wait for the spring.

lever une charogne -> "lever" would mean "detect/find", but "dig up" sounds better. I'll take that.

Gavin    Wed, 19/10/2016 - 16:21

Oh yes, I forget that savoir really means know *how* so yes, that makes perfect sense.

Ah right - well in that case 'dig up' is even better as it can indeed be used in that sense too! :-)

Gavin    Wed, 19/10/2016 - 16:23

The feeling that someone should have done something coupled with the sense of helplessness. Yes I can imagine...

Gavin    Wed, 19/10/2016 - 16:26

Oh I meant to ask - is "après la dinde" figurative in some way or does it mean literally "after the turkey (dinner)" indicating Xmas. Or does turkey have that association in France?

petit élève    Wed, 19/10/2016 - 16:39

Yes, the turkey is a metonymy for christmas dinner, but I feared the word would sound too ambiguous in English.
Would "after the turkey" be as easy to get as in French?

Gavin    Wed, 19/10/2016 - 19:34

I think it's clear but you could always say " after the turkey dinner" or "after the roast turkey". It's pretty much the only time we eat them!

batay    Fri, 26/01/2018 - 14:21

Very nice job indeed. I find it extremely uneasy to decide between 'conveying the strength and elegance' of Manset's lyrics as you put it so wisely, and the fidelity to these lyrics. A perfect example is given by the title of the present song, Fauvette. Manset could have used 'Moineau' or 'piaf', but he did not. Instead he chose a rather rarely used bird name, which happens to be also a (rare !) girl's name... Now if warbler was actually an English girl's name, it would probably be a good choice, but I am not sure that is the case.

petit élève    Fri, 26/01/2018 - 19:28

Yeah, I remember struggling with these lyrics, and Gavin's help was precious to try and make the translation sound right.

Gavin    Fri, 26/01/2018 - 19:57

Il n'y a pas de quoi! Regular smile