Sunday, November 19, 2023

19: Another Exercise In Translation

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(Review of Radio Play. Draft)

“In England you have to have a licence to own a television.

The money from these licences is given to the government, who give it to a public TV company to pay for new TV shows and radio programmes. Some people think that this is a good thing because the public company makes good and interesting shows. Some people think it is a bad thing because it means the company makes shows some people don’t want to watch.

Some people believe that the world was made by a powerful being they call God or Allah and those people meet up each week in places called Churches, or sometimes Synagogues or Mosques to say prayers, which is their way of talking to the being they call God or Allah.

There is a law which says that the company which gets the money from the television licence has to make some programmes each year which would be especially interesting to the kinds of people who go to Church or Synagogue or Mosque.

In the olden days, before television and the internet, cinemas or movie houses—big halls where lots of people pay to sit in comfortable chairs and watch a big screen together—were very popular. In England people specially liked funny films. There was one very funny film about a soldier. It was called Carry On, Sergeant, because that was the kind of thing that one officer might say to another officer in the English Army. (It means “take it from here” or “as you were”.) It was so popular that the same actors appeared in similar funny films, making fun of different jobs. They were called things like Carry On Doctor and Carry On Teacher. So people started to call them “Carry On...” films. Sometimes the jokes were a little bit rude. English people were usually very polite in the olden days, but they still laughed at the rude jokes.

One of the actors who appeared in these funny films was a man named Kenneth Williams. Now it sometimes happens that boys have boyfriends and girls have girlfriends. In the olden days those people were usually called “homosexuals” although nowadays they are usually called “gay”. Kenneth Williams was one of those people. In the olden days, English people were not very nice to homosexuals. If a boy was caught kissing another boy in public he could even be sent to prison. So although Kenneth Williams was a very funny man, he was also quite sad a lot of the time.

In August the English public service radio channel (the one that people’s TV licences pays for) did a series of radio programmes about the Carry On Films. The channel is called Radio 4. It only shows talk shows. Some people like it very much because it has clever people talking about difficult subjects. Some people make fun of it because it is old-fashioned and stuffy. There is also a joke that very rich people don’t listen to it very much, and ordinary people with ordinary jobs don’t listen to it at all, but the in-between people who work in offices and schools listen to it all the time.

One of the programmes was a very old play with Kenneth Williams in it. It was a serious play and he played a serious character. In the Carry On films, Kenneth Williams was always very silly and very funny, so it was quite surprising and quite interesting to hear him playing a serious part. The play had been one of the programmes that was intended for people who believed in God and went to church, which, as we mentioned, the public service channels had to make in those days.

Andrew likes stories about space ships and wizards very much indeed. Sometimes he uses the internet to talk to other people who like them almost as much as he does. People often make fun of people who like stories about space ships and wizards. They say that they only like the stories because they are shy and lonely and don’t know how to talk to ordinary people. (Do you think this is fair?) A lot of those people liked a book called Good Omens very much. Good Omens was turned into a TV series. There has been a second TV series which continues where the book left off, even though one of the men who wrote the first book has sadly died.

Some of the people who believe in God also think that God has magical servants who take messages and help good people. Those servants are called angels. People who believe in God treat angels very seriously and treat them with great respect; but Good Omens is a funny book and the angels in it are quite silly. This is because the book is making fun of people who do believe in God, but because the book is quite funny and quite clever most of the people who believe in God didn’t mind too much.

The main character in Good Omens is an angel called Aziraphale. And guess what? The character Kenneth Williams played in the very old radio play was an angel called Azariel! A lot of the people who liked Good Omens thought it was quite funny that the names were so similar. Some of them listened to the radio play to see if the two characters had anything in common. But in fact....”

(Draft breaks off at this point.)

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