An Officer and a Translator

Davis-210x300This is just a little post to note that the great Lydia Davis, whose translations (e.g. Madame Bovary, Swann’s Way, etc.) are as luscious as her own fiction writing, is about to be named an Officier of the French Order of Arts and Letters by Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy Antonin Baudry, in a closed ceremony in New York on Jan. 15, 2015. They can’t knight her, because she was already named a Chevalier back in 1999 for her translations of Michel Leiris, Emmanuel Hocquard, Jean-Pierre Jouve, Maurice Blanchot, and Françoise Giroud. If I have understood the fine points of the highly complex system of French honorifics correctly, to be named an Officier is even a higher honor than knighthood. All these titles sound odd when applied to a woman, of course (yes, I assume that wasn’t in the original plan). Apparently the (British) female form of “sir” (for knights) is “dame” (for lady knights). “Dame Officer Davis” doesn’t sound quite right in either English or French, but if you get the accent right on “chevalier et officier,” you’ll be in good shape to congratulate this splendid writer and translator when you see her next.

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