Thursday, 26 April 2012

Quatre-vingt quinze pour cent

This is a fascinating and typically frank song about disparities between the sexes during lovemaking. From other songs of this period we are aware that Brassens felt there was not enough physical love in his life. The first verse of this poem seems to continue this theme as the poet laments the lack of sincere response in the vast majority of women. However the poem leads him in different directions until as a final irony, he becomes the ally of the unresponsive woman faking it. In view of this outcome, I have chosen first an excellent recording made by a woman, Dorothée Berryman. 



Quatre-vingt quinze pour cent


La femme qui possède tout en elle
Pour donner le goût des fêtes charnelles,
La femme qui suscite en nous tant de passions brutales,
La femme est avant tout sentimentale.
Main dans la main les longues promenades,
Les fleurs, les billets doux, les sérénades,
Les crimes, les folies que pour ses beaux yeux l'on commet,
La transportent, mais...

Quatre-vingt-quinze fois sur cent,
La femme s'emmerde en baisant(1).
Qu'elle le taise ou le confesse
C'est pas tous les jours qu'on lui déride les fesses(2).
Les pauvres bougres convaincus
Du contraire sont des cocus.
À l'heure de l'oeuvre de chair(3)
Elle est souvent triste, peuchère!
S'il n'entend le coeur qui bat,
Le corps non plus ne bronche pas.


Sauf quand elle aime un homme avec tendresse,
Toujours sensible alors à ses caresses,
Toujours bien disposée, toujours encline à s'émouvoir,
Elle s'emmerd' sans s'en apercevoir.
Ou quand elle a des besoins tyranniques,
Qu'elle souffre de nymphomanie chronique,
C'est ell' qui fait alors passer à ses adorateurs
De fichus quarts d'heure(4).



Quatre-vingt-quinze fois sur cent,
La femme s'emmerde en baisant.
Qu'elle le taise ou le confesse
C'est pas tous les jours qu'on lui déride les fesses.
Les pauvres bougres convaincus
Du contraire sont des cocus.
À l'heure de l'oeuvre de chair
Elle est souvent triste, peuchère !
S'il n'entend le coeur qui bat,
Le corps non plus ne bronche pas.


Les "encore", les "c'est bon", les "continue"

Qu'ell' crie pour simuler qu'ell' monte aux nues,
C'est pure charité, les soupirs des anges ne sont
En général que de pieux mensonges.
C'est à seule fin que son partenaire
Se croie un amant extraordinaire,
Que le coq imbécile et prétentieux perché dessus
Ne soit pas déçu.


Quatre-vingt-quinze fois sur cent,
La femme s'emmerde en baisant.
Qu'elle le taise ou le confesse
C'est pas tous les jours qu'on lui déride les fesses.
Les pauvres bougres convaincus
Du contraire sont des cocus.
À l'heure de l'oeuvre de chair
Elle est souvent triste, peuchère !
S'il n'entend le coeur qui bat,
Le corps non plus ne bronche pas.


J'entends aller bon train les commentaires
De ceux qui font des châteaux à Cythère(5) :
"C'est parce que tu n'es qu'un malhabile, un maladroit,
Qu'elle conserve toujours son sang-froid. »
Peut-être, mais si les assauts vous pèsent
De ces petits m'as-tu-vu-quand-je-baise(6),
Mesdames, en vous laissant manger le plaisir sur le dos(7),
Chantez in petto...


Quatre-vingt-quinze fois sur cent,
La femme s'emmerde en baisant.
Qu'elle le taise ou le confesse
C'est pas tous les jours qu'on lui déride les fesses.
Les pauvres bougres convaincus
Du contraire sont des cocus.
À l'heure de l'oeuvre de chair
Elle est souvent triste, peuchère !
S'il n'entend le coeur qui bat,
Le corps non plus ne bronche pas.

 Georges Brassens 1972 -
Fernande


The woman who’s got all it takes
To offer the spice of carnal joys,
The woman who excites in us so many passions brute,
The woman is above all sentimental.
Hand in hand the lengthy strolls together.
The flowers, the billets doux, the serenades,
The crimes, the follies one commits just for her beauty,
They delight her but…..

Ninety five times out of hundred
The woman turns off while coupling.
Whether she tells or keeps quiet
Not every day are her lower parts set a-tingle.
The poor blokes who are convinced
Of the opposite are just fooled.
At times for the work of the flesh
She is often sad, poor dear.
If he can’t hear her heart thumping,
Her body’s not budging either.



Except when she loves with true affection
Always sensitive to his loving touch
Always inclined and well-disposed to show true emotion
She turns right off, without knowing.
Or else when she has needs so overwhelming,
That she suffers chronic sexual desire
It‘s she the one who deals out to the men who adore her
Wretched experiences.


Ninety five times out of hundred
The woman turns off while coupling.
Whether she tells or keeps quiet
Not every day are her lower parts set a-tingle.
The poor blokes who are convinced
Of the opposite are just fooled.
At times for the work of the flesh
She is often sad, poor dear.
If he can’t hear her heart thumping,
Her body’s not budging either.



The “Agains” », the “That’ s nice”, the “Keep going”s
She shrieks to pretend she’s up in the clouds
That is pure charity and the angelic sighs
Are, in general, merely pious lies
Whose sole aim is that her partner
Believes he’s an extraordinary lover.
That the imbecilic, pretentious cock perched on top
Is not disappointed.


Ninety five times out of hundred
The woman turns off while coupling.
Whether she tells or keeps quiet
Not every day are her lower parts set a-tingle.
The poor blokes who are convinced
Of the opposite are just fooled.
At times for the work of the flesh
She is often sad, poor dear.
If he can’t hear her heart thumping,
Her body’s not budging either.



I can hear comments that come flooding in
From those who build their castles in Cythère
“It is only because you do it wrong with no technique
That she can always keep her self-control “
Perhaps, but if the assaults come on hard
From little « Have you seen me when I shag?”s,
Ladies, letting yourselves eat up the pleasure, while supine
Sing under your breath……


Ninety five times out of hundred
The woman turns off while coupling.
Whether she tells or keeps quiet
Not every day are her lower parts set a-tingle.
The poor blokes who are convinced
Of the opposite are just fooled.
At times for the work of the flesh
She is often sad, poor dear.
If he can’t hear her heart thumping,
Her body’s not budging either 





TRANSLATION NOTES
(1) en baisant - I get criticised  (see comments below) for avoiding the direct , everyday English translation of the verb baiser q’n, but I think "while fucking" would shock an English audience a bit too much.  In French "un baiser" means "a kiss"  and gives the word a gentle association.  The noun and verb in English mean just the one thing and are absolutely blunt.

(2) qu'on lui déride les fesses – The play of words is from the expression ; »dérider le front à quelqu’un. Taking the furrows from the brow means restoring a state of happiness, and by the change from brow to bum, we understand that it is sexual pleasure.

(3) l'oeuvre de chair - One of the standard circumlocutions of the Vatican for “to have sex” was “faire oeuvre de chair”.

(4) De fichus quarts d'heure. - Quart d’heure is used in French to express a short strained period of time, e.g.( from Robert): Il lui a fait passer un mauvais quart d’heure”. = “He gave her a bad time”. In this second verse the poet seems to have had the realisation or recollection that the imbalance of passion could be the other way round. It is perhaps another manifestation of the principle which is stated (at its extreme surely!) in the famous epigram: “There are two parties to a love-transaction: the one who loves and the other who condescends to be loved.”

(5) Des châteaux à Cythère – To get lost in a dream world is to build castles in the air. A reference to Cythère is sneaked in, because in Ancient Greece, the island of Cythera was seen as the birthplace of Venus. From this it came to represent a meeting place for sexual dissipation See Brassens’ song: “Les Amours d’Autan

(6) ces petits m'as-tu-vu-quand-je-baise. This is Brassens’ own composite word for the macho men, who go around boasting about their expertise in making love. Previously, in translating “baiser” in the refrain, I had declined to use the direct translation. Here to translate “baise” the last element in his neologism, I think a more uncouth word from their everyday vocabulary is appropriate.

(7) le plaisir sur le dos - Brassens is recommending women to use the relatively passive missionary position. In the first verse he had been impatient at the lack of responsiveness of his female partners. However by the last verse he had changed round completely and was advising them to take silent revenge on macho men, by lying inert and thinking mischievously of the 95 per cent of their fellow women doing the same.

This is a recording of Georges Brassens singing this song



The very pretty French film star Emmanuelle Bejart also had thoughts on this topic:


The famous American writer, Dorothy Parker, dealt with this theme in her poem:"Ballade at thirty-five" and Carla Bruni,made it a song on her album "No Promises".  Click on the previous title for a link.

Click here to return to the full index of Brassens songs with translation

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

l'humour l'emporte sur la vulgarité,
ça ne nous choque pas du tout quand Brassens ça

merci, j'apprends l'anglais avec toi
(désolée, impossible de me connecter avec google)

sylvie evin said...

mon vocabulaire anglais va s'enrichir beaucoup avec toi;) on va se demander où j'ai appris tout ça

Mose - Tipsy Pilgrim said...

Oh please! I really appreciate your translation, but your refusal to use properly vulgar English equivalents is ridiculous! Brassens used dirty language, and for good reason; scrubbing that out is silly.

well said...

Great job.

Mark O' Q said...

Fairly flat perfromance form Béart

Mark

Milan said...

I believe that the words "while shagging" would be more appropriate than either "while fucking" which is too harsh, even in Brassens mouth here and now, or "while coupling" which really doesn't give the true respect of the text, here. Generally speaking, in my French mind, I would accept more easily the term "to shag" as a pendant to the French verb "baiser" more than "to fuck". Again, it depends of the context... but there is a degree of softness to the word "baiser" that has to do with the fact that it is a sweet term as a noun, and that we don't find in the English term "to fuck". Which by the way, you well explain in your notes.
This being said, I want to acknowledge the tremendous job you have done translating Brassens. I am impressed how dedicated you are and with how much preciseness you aim to render the beauty and the subtlety of his poetry. You rock! :-) But please, get rid of "coupling", it hurts my eyes (and my ears). Shagging is the word!

Alexis deTocqueville said...

Thank you so much for all you good work. Brassens's French is a bit difficult for me, but thanks to you, I can appreciate this very French gem. Don't be dissuaded by the pickers of nits.