erik lundegaard

The Moon Landing from Africa, and Other Stories (Translated from the French)

Earlier this week, Le Monde ran a series of snippets from readers on where they were and what they were doing 40 years ago when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. With the help of my French teacher, Nathalie, I've translated some of these. Most were more interesting than the reports I saw in the U.S. this week. This was a global event. How did other people around the world see it? I know how we did but how did they?

First the French, then the translation. All errors, as the big boys say, are mine:

La Lune et le croissant, par Smail Houri
A l'époque, la télévision n'existait pas encore à El-Oued, une oasis du sud algérien, mais les gens qui voyageaient et avaient pu voir les images dans les grandes villes comme Alger, ont raconté l'événement dans tous ses détails. Répandue comme une traînée de poudre, la nouvelle a fait réagir les plus profanes. Les gens ne discutaient que de cela et les commentaires allaient bon train. Même les religieux, d'habitude réservés sur de tels sujets, se sont mis à discuter longuement de l'exploit accompli. La question qui revenait sur toutes les bouches était : "Comment est-ce possible que l'homme ait pu percer le ciel pour atteindre le croissant ?"

The Moon and the crescent, by Smail Houri
At the time, television did not exist in El-Oued, an oasis in southern Algeria, but people who traveled and had been able to see the images in big cities like Alger, recounted the event in all its details. Spreading like wildfire, the news made even non-believers react. People talked only about the moon-landing, and commentaries gathered steam. Even religious people, who are usually reserved on such subjects, started to discuss it at length. The question that kept returning was: “How is it possible that man was able to pierce the sky to get to the moon?”

***

Hypnose, par Eric Lefèvre
J'avais 14 ans. Je me trouvais ce soir-là sur le toit d'une vieille maison près d'Evry. Le ciel était clair et la Lune brillait. Mes yeux étaient hypnotisés par la mer grise de la Tranquillité à des centaines de milliers de kilomètres de là. Subitement, j'eus l'impression de voir des formes s'y déplacer. J'oubliais alors la radio. Cette vision suffisait à me faire comprendre le moment extraordinaire que j'étais en train de vivre.

Hypnosis, by Eric Lefevre
I was 14 years old. That night I found myself on the roof of an old house near Evry. The sky was clear and the moon brilliant. My eyes were hypnotized by the gray Sea of Tranquility hundreds of millions of kilometers away. Suddenly I had the impression of seeing the forms shift. I forgot about the radio. This vision was sufficient to make me understand the extraordinary moment I was living in.

***

Un chat sur la Lune, par Moussa Touré
Lorsque le premier homme a marché sur la Lune, j'avais 6 ans. Je me souviens que tout le monde en parlait. Pour moi, c'était possible. Chez nous au Mali, on expliquait à chaque éclipse qu'un chat avait grimpé sur la Lune. En tout cas, c'était une légende. Moi je m'étais dit que si un chat pouvait monter sur la Lune, pourquoi un homme ne le pourrait-il pas ? Après ce succès, je me rappelle encore que de nombreux orchestestres de musique Mandingue ont été baptisés "Apollo".

A cat on the moon, by Moussa Toure
When the first man walked on the moon, I was six years old. I remember all the world was talking [but], for me, it seemed very possible. In our house on Mali, we would explain every eclipse [by saying] that a cat had climbed on the moon. In any case, it was our legend, so I said that if a cat could go up to the moon why couldn’t a man? After this success, I also remember a number of Mandingan orchestras were christened “Apollo.”

***

Les Américains ont aluni sur Boufarik ! par Bouzgaou Abdelhamid
J'avais 16 ans, et j'ai vécu cette fabuleuse épopée en direct sur notre chaîne de télé algérienne. J'en garde un souvenir impérissable. Et pour cause. Je crois que mon papa a été le premier a en douter, en m'affirmant qu'il s'agissait d'un montage des Américains. Il était 3 h 30 ou 4 heures du matin quand il m'a trouvé scotché à la télé. Surpris, il me demanda ce qui m'a retenu si tard. Je lui ai répondu, tout heureux et émerveillé : "Papa, les Américains sont sur la Lune. Il pouffa, et il me dit : Pauvre incrédule, tu aurais dû dormir d'un bon sommeil. Ils ont aluni, mais sur Boufarik (ville à 30 km d'Alger) !"

The American moon-landed on Boufarik! by Bouzgaou Abdelhamid
I was 16 years old and watched this fabulous epic live on our Algerian television channel. I keep an undying memory from that time. With reason. I think that my father was the first to doubt the moon landing, to assert that it was a matter of cinematic editing by the Americans. It was 3:30 or 4 in the morning when he found me glued to the television. Surprised, he demanded that I refrain from staying up so late. I responded, all happy and filled with wonder, “Papa, the Americans are on the moon!” He sniggered and told me, “Poor unbeliever, you must have had a good sleep. They have moon-landed...but on Boufarik!” (A city 30 km from Alger.)


Posted at 08:14 AM on Fri. Jul 24, 2009 in category Culture  
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COMMENTS

Uncle Vinny wrote:

You are really coming along in the French department!

Here's my moon-landing story: I was negative 4 months old, and my Mom was grousing to people that when her child was born, he or she wouldn't be able to gaze up at the moon with a sense of wonder, as it would already have been explored by men. In reality, I've never felt cheated that someone else got to the moon before me.
Comment posted on Fri. Jul 24, 2009 at 09:40 AM

Tim wrote:

Somewhere there is a photograph of me at 6 months old watching the moon landing with my dad, his dad, and his dad. I recall none of it; perhaps it never happened and a fake photo with a fake baby was staged in a warehouse at Area 51.
Comment posted on Fri. Jul 24, 2009 at 04:09 PM

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