This is the first sentence of one of the most famous phrases in French literature due to the ambiguity of the temporal reference.
Here is a video of Camus receiving his Prize as Nobel Laureate.
Here are some other translations that can also be found online.
- Gilbert’s 1946 translation is: “Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY. Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday.”
- Laredo’s 1982 translation is: “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know. I had a telegram from the home: ‘Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.’ That doesn’t mean anything. It may have been yesterday.”
- Ward’s 1988 translation is: “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours. That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday.” [Maman is informal French for the informal EnglishMum/Mam/Mom; a strict translation of the opening line is “Today, mom died.”]
|Camus, Albert. L’étranger. Collection Folio 2. Paris: Gallimard, 2008. Print.
Aujourd’hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas. J’ai reçu un télégramme de l’asile : « Mère décédée. Enterrement demain. Sentiments distingues. » Cela ne veut rien dire. C’était peut-être hier. (p.9)
|Camus, Albert, and Matthew Ward. The Stranger. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Print.
Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home : “Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.” That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday. (p.3)
|Camus, Albert. Etranje! Trans. Régis, Guy. Koleksyon Souf Nouvo. Haïti: Edisyon Près Nasyonal d’Ayiti, 2008. Print.
Manman mwen mouri jodi a. Se dwe yè pito. Mwen pa konnen. Mwen resevwa yon telegram Azil la : « Mère décédée. Enterrement demain. Sentiments distingués. » Bagay sa pa vle di anyen. Siman se yè vrèman.
What is most interesting in the Haitian translation is that the French was still retained.