The Hadron Collider

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator complex, intended to collide opposing beams of protons charged with approximately 7 TeV of energy. Its main purpose is to explore the validity and limitations of the Standard Model, the current theoretical picture for particle physics. It is theorized that the collider will produce the Higgs boson, the observation of which could confirm the predictions and missing links in the Standard Model, and could explain how other elementary particles acquire properties such as mass. The LHC was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and lies underneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland. It is funded by and built in collaboration with over eight thousand physicists from over eighty-five countries as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories. The LHC is already operational and is presently in the process of being prepared for collisions. The first beams were circulated through the collider on 10 September 2008, and the first high-energy collisions are planned to take place after the LHC is officially unveiled on 21 October 2008. Although a few individuals have questioned the safety of the planned experiments in the media and through the courts, the consensus in the scientific community is that there is no conceivable threat from the LHC particle collisions. Concerns have been raised in the media and through the courts about the safety of the particle physics experiments planned to take place at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator to date, built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva, in Switzerland. The claimed dangers of the LHC particle collisions, which are scheduled to begin on 21 October 2008, include doomsday scenarios involving the production of stable micro black holes or the creation of hypothetical particles called strangelets. The potential risks of these unprecedented experiments were reviewed in 2003 by the LHC Safety Study Group, a group of independent scientists, who concluded that, like current particle experiments such as the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), the LHC particle collisions pose no conceivable threat.A second review of the evidence commissioned by CERN in 2008 reaffirmed the safety of the LHC collisions in light of further research conducted since the 2003 assessment. The 2008 report was reviewed and endorsed by CERN’s governing body and by the Division of Particles & Fields of the American Physical Society and was published in the Journal of Physics G. It concludes that any doomsday scenarios at the LHC are ruled out because the physical conditions and events that will be created in the LHC experiments occur naturally in the universe without hazardous consequences.

Two from the LRB

(h/t the inimitable Helen Dewitt)

The Adulteress Wife, on a new translation of The Second Sex (news of which had me excited until I had finished the article).

The book is marred by unidiomatic or unintelligible phrases and clueless syntax; by expressions such as ‘the forger being’, ‘man’s work equal’, ‘the adulteress wife’, and ‘leisure in château life’; and formulations such as ‘because since woman is certainly to a large extent man’s invention’, ‘a condition unique to France is that of the unmarried woman’, ‘alone she does not succeed in separating herself in reality’, ‘this uncoupling can occur in a maternal form.’ The translation is blighted by the constant use of ‘false friends’, words that sound the same but don’t mean the same in the two languages.

And then there are the howlers. A character in Balzac’s Letters of Two Brides is made to kill her husband ‘in a fit of passion’, when what she really does is kill him ‘par l’excès de sa passion’ (‘by her excessive passion’). In the chapter on ‘The Married Woman’, Beauvoir quotes the famous line from Balzac’s Physiologie du mariage: ‘Ne commencez jamais le mariage par un viol’ (‘Never begin marriage by a rape’). Borde and Malovany-Chevallier write: ‘Do not begin marriage by a violation of law.’

The translators fail to recognise many of Beauvoir’s references. Adler’s ‘masculine protest’ becomes ‘virile protest’; the ‘sexual division of labour’ becomes, on the same page, ‘the division of labour by sex’ and the ‘division of labour based on sex’; Bachofen’s ‘mother right’ becomes ‘maternal right’; and Byron’s epigram, ‘Man’s love is of his life a thing apart; ’Tis woman’s whole existence,’ loses all its wit on the round trip from English to French and back again: ‘Byron rightly said that love is merely an occupation in the life of the man, while it is life itself for the woman.’

The notes, bibliography and index are riddled with mistakes. Names are misrecognised and bibliographical references are botched. According to the translators, Stekel’s Frigidity in Woman was first published in French in 1949; in fact it appeared in 1937 (Sartre quotes it in 1943, in Being and Nothingness). Oxford University Press may be amused to learn that A.V. Miller’s Hegel translation is listed as published by Galaxy Press, the publishing house of the Scientologists. In the index, references to Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet turn out to be references to Stendhal’s Mme Grandet, a character in Lucien Leuwen. There is one entry for Johann Bachofen and another one for a character called ‘Baschoffen’ with no first name. In general, far too many index entries fail to provide first names. After all, to find out who Samivel was, all it takes is to type the name into Google.

That bad?  One wonders how things like this happen…

Given the profile of the book, Beauvoir specialists hoped that the publishers would turn to a first-rate translator with a track record in the relevant field: maybe Carol Cosman, the translator of Sartre’s multi-volume study of Flaubert, The Family Idiot, and of Beauvoir’s America Day by Day; Lydia Davis, a translator of Proust; or Richard Sieburth, translator of Leiris, Michaux and Nerval. Instead, the publishers chose Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier, two Americans who have lived in Paris since the 1960s and worked as English teachers at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques. They have published numerous textbooks in English for French students (My English Is French: la syntaxe anglaise), and many cookery books (Cookies et cakes and Sandwichs, tartines et canapés among others). Their track record in translation from French to English, however, appears to be slim (I have found only two catalogue essays for art exhibitions in Paris, both translated by Malovany-Chevallier).

In a 2007 interview with Sarah Glazer, published in Bookforum, Borde and Malovany-Chevallier dismissed doubts about their competence. They explained that they first heard about the problems with the English translation at the 50th anniversary conference on The Second Sex in Paris. After the conference, they contacted a former student, Anne-Solange Noble, the director of foreign rights at Gallimard, to propose themselves for the job, and in due course Noble told Allfrey [the British publisher of the book] that she ‘already knew the perfect translators’.


And then this–McCarthy on Toussaint.    Please read it.  It is a list of McCarthy’s obsessions in the guise of a review essay.  Perhaps “obsessions” is a bit strong.  Perhaps not, though.  When I read Camera last year I was reminded of McCarthy (and, less flatteringly, of Benoit Duteurtre). M and T share preoccupations.  There are affinities.  One enjoys teasing them out of the other’s books.  Have you preordered C yet?

The Unknown Citizen—W. H. Auden

(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content 
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

He’ll take your broads…

Surprisingly candid…

Quick confession:  If I HAD to pick one, Mingus would probably be my favorite jazzman.  I’ve been fascinated with him since I first heard him (I think “Jelly Roll” off of Mingus ah um did it).  I read his fanciful Beneath the Underdog and I’ve played Mingus Presents Mingus so many times it’s become a part of my just-walkin’-around mental soundtrack.