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Words of the Week: Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Saint-Exupery-Lettre-a-un-otage
Toi si Français, je te sens deux fois en péril de mort, parce que Français, et parce que juif.

(My attempt at a translation: You who are so French, I sense that you are doubly in mortal danger, because you are a Frenchman, and because you are a Jew.)

Source: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Lettre à un otage (“Letter to a Hostage”), first published in 1943. (My copy lists a 1944 copyright.)

There’s more about this text, and Saint-Exupéry’s friendship with Léon Werth, the titular though never-named hostage, in Stacy Schiff’s Saint-Exupéry biography. (Werth is the same friend to whom Saint-Exupéry dedicated Le Petit Prince.) I am currently awaiting the arrival of one of Werth‘s works about the wartime period, 33 Jours.

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3 Responses »

  1. The “si” here means “if” and the verb is ommitted; therefore: “If you are a Frenchman…”

    • Interesting…that isn’t how I interpret the “si” in this case at all. I may need to go look at an official translation. Thanks for raising the question.

      • Trust me, for I spoke French way before English.

        The word “si” in French can mean “so” in English only exceptionally, as an abbreviation of “aussi”, and that is not the case here. It mostly just mean the English “if”.

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