L e s  B e l l e s I n f i d è l e s

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n a m e

The project's name comes from a 17th century quip by Gilles Ménage in which he compared a set of translations to an acquaintance of his: beautiful but unfaithful. The phrase has come to express the tension between making a translation seem natural in the target language versus keeping it as close as possible to the original text.

c o n c e p t


A short story written by Benjamin Rosenbaum specifically for this project is translated and re-translated through a series of languages. A given version of the story may be translated more than once, so the story variants become a branching tree with each language represented with multiple versions.

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i n s p i r a t i o n


The project is inspired by round-trip translation games that use automated translation tools (such as Google Translate and Babel Fish) to send text through a chain of languages and then back into its original language for the lulz.

Les Belles Infidèles, however, uses human translators instead of translation software. Machine translation games explore the awkwardness and inaccuracies of literal translations. With human translators the occasional mistranslation and awkward phrase will still arise, but the heart of the project becomes an exploration of the story's compounding mutation as translators attempt to make it work in different languages and cultures. Or to put it another way, instead of exploring the Mad Libs of machine round-trip translation, the project focuses on the humanity of a translation game of Telephone.

t r a n s l a t o r s


The project will commission freelance translators (and not translation services) found via websites like TranslatorsCafé.com. The criteria will be for translators whose mother tongue is the target language and who live where it is an official language. 

Each translation will be credited to the translator by name. Additionally, translators will have the option of including a bio, website link, email address, and/or photo on the project's website.

The emailed discussions with the translators become part of the project and (with their permission) are viewable on the website.

i n t e r a c t i v i t y


The tree of translations is dynamic. When one of the boxes is clicked, the associated story is displayed and the tree rearranges itself into a layout that presents that version as the "definitive" version of the story. This interface is intended to emphasize that there is no inherent directionality to translations—that any variant could be considered the original version from which all others branch. 

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Attached to each translation is the emailed discussion with the translator (the emails will be presented with the translator's permission).

The translations can be read on their own or in comparison with the other versions. When comparing texts the reader can choose to simply read them side-by-side or, if the translations are in the same language, with the differences highlighted.

Visitors to the website can also have any story version translated by Google Translate.

The website will be fully localized for all languages that are included in the translation tree. The tree of translations will default to a translation whose language matches the browser's language, if possible.


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