The Mistranslation of Mice into Des Souris | October 2017 | Translation Journal

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The Mistranslation of Mice into Des Souris


The chosen title, in French language, “Des Souris et Des Hommes’ is considered such an inexplicable mystery of translation that goes back to the ancient era of Cicero and Jerome as to when translation was entirely analyzed by two focal points: Form and Text methods. Nevertheless, the two points of translating must go beyond the box of reading and understanding literary translation in such a way to affirm issues of target (French) language. Translating the plural noun “Mice” into French literary style is not a significant way of translation , inasmuch as literary translator ,Maurice-Edgar Coindreau , should take into consideration the unvoiced issues of translation studies: ideology, ambiguity, rewriting, flexibility, inventiveness, style, tone and the humility of translating and he must vitally put himself in such situations as to where it is a must for him to break up the rules of Translation Studies in order to produce the so-called “the Art of Literary Translation”.

According to this strategy, the translator moves immediately into another level of translation , that is , to produce –freshness and ability to communicate to the reader- but this text should contain literary communication in order to obtain the effectively persuasive creativity and originality . Due to the plot of Mice and Men, the translator immediately adopts his strategy of translation that highlights the deeply forming pattern rather than deeply analyzing fragments of American culture that is in contact with French culture and in that cultural approach plays its far-reaching advances in depicting that Mice is never considered as the equivalent entreprise for “Des Souris” in French language forasmuch as every culture is a different mod of writing . To shed more light on this cultural issue: when John Steinbeck writes the novel of “Mice and Men”, he did not randomly titled it , because he loves Mice and he hates Men, nonetheless there being such historical facts that take place in USA that recount the misery of human beings to the extent that Mice were living happily than people due to the dangerous war in the past.

In the event that - the acceptability of a new bizarre culture in France “Des Souris” is somehow inadequate to target culture, henceforth the sentiment of fidelity of this title painstakingly creates the so-called “Abusive Fidelity and Cultural Paradigm” that is the only state-of the-art strategy to analyze the existed conflicts from this created title “Des Souris et Des Hommes”. Notwithstanding this unsolved problem that stems from the model of culture, it is suitable to ask the equivalent question in such an obvious way to come up with new theoretical solutions, unfortunately translation remains always as a tragic text of TT: Can we come up with such logical assumptions and theoretical conclusions of translation in order to translate this title?


In this study we will exemplify in the first section how Of Mice differs thoroughly in terms of cultural study that painstakingly creates perplexing issues in Translation Studies - on the whole.


This paper seeks to show the underpinning literary translation that functions similarly in such great cohesion with literary theory to the extent that the latter is more theoretically argued than the first tool. They can alter the meaning of this title, due to the perplexing conflicts of Cultural Translational Studies that reside between two international borders: French territory and USA territory. By all means, this study aims to portrait the unvoiced issues of cultural translation that are betwixt and between to translators and even authors. In the foreground, this study tries to deconstruct new suggestions for fixing this title in order to be correspondingly well fit in French society. In doing so, we will focus not only on the rules of translation studies, albeit we will attempt to go beyond the so-called “level of extra-textuality”

Of Mice and Des Souris:

Neither the concept of fidelity nor the notion of abusive fidelity could make us a good literary translator, because literature is never defined as Government, the one which is always ruled by rules and leaders and this ways of reading literature is vaguely mingled with the strategy of translating correctly .Therefore, the shift from being as a good author to the level of being a proficient literary translator is somehow similar in the foreground of any literary text :

Of Mice and Men translated into Des Souris et des Hommes
The word “Mice” should be translated as something which is really and positively equivalent to “Men”
Mice: être ; Creature ; Femme ; Sexe ; Désir ; Monde

The fidelity of translating is no longer needed in the novel of John Steinbeck, especially the title of Mice and Men is deeply considered as a cultural issue in French version, because “Des Souris et Des Hommes” is a negatively connotative adjective that is linked to the level of ethical understanding of humans which means the way that Americans grasp the philosophy of life is totally different than the portrait of French literature. According to the history of World Literature, if want to translate the meaning of Mice into French language, if we keen on correcting the dazzling conflict of cultural mistranslation , we must get a deep insight into the world of academic etymology :

French W : Du latin sōrex, sōrīcem devenu*sōrīx, sōrīcem en latin populaire et sourice, souris en ancien français.

English W: From Middle English mous, from Old English mūs, from Proto-Germanic *mūs, from Proto-Indo-European *muh₂s.

This example illustrates the gap between two words: Anglo-Saxon etymology and French etymology in the light of understanding cultural boundaries of “Mice” which is literally translated in French as “Des Souris”. The internally contextualization of Mice in French community is a very complex issue and it is verily reliable to replace this word by another connotatively similar noun such as: L’être ou la créature. After the literary, technological and social movement of postmodernism, the symbol of “Mouse” is vehemently changed and it gradually becomes as an entity of entertainment, that is to say, the world of mass media of twenty-first century creates a good character that is known as a Modern Mickey Mouse in order to entertain people from all over the world in that the symbol of this concept has rapidly altered the statue of negativity into the level of positivity.

This Fictional character “Mouse” becomes internationally as a real person in human’s imaginary as well as the outlook of animal is fixed through the eyes of watchers on TV. The movie of “Stuart little” extremely recounts the sentiment of humanity toward Mice and it deletes the idea of hating Mice and this positive actions are due to the perfection translating message by passing through the Mass Media of 2000s . In the other words, this movie flourished the idea of loving, caring and respecting Mice in everywhere. Again and again and never to forget , the impact of Hollywood translates this unique idea of doing something good in the very near future, that is , to love Mice rather than to kill them (it).

Nonetheless, the history of French literature recounts myriads of stories that are, indeed, totally different from the symbol of Americanism to the extent that French community praises so much the intellectuality of Jean de la Fontaine who highlights the importance of mouse ( le Rat) in his fable stories ( la Grenouille et le Rat , le Rat de ville et le Rat des champs , le Lion et le Rat … ) . The stress over the word “le Rat” is culturally inherited through ages in French community, because it overly signifies the masculinity of Mouse. Moreover , the image of Mouse , in French literature , remains in literature as an eminent tool to understand the glory of how French writers maintain the statue of Mouse in the highest peak and sometimes into the lowest level of stupidity .

If we want to get more knowledge on the history of Mice, it is verily crucial to start asking questions about Middle Ages in Europe (XXth Century) as to where mouse symbolizes the impetus image of plague which continued to exist in modern societies. By the same token, this portrait of Mice, in the novel Of Mice and Men, is totally different from the external reality within today’s societies: Before the image of this animal has been a bit coupled with the importance of Snake, albeit the latter is entered into new paradigms of symbolization. Today, this image of Mice has never been considered in relation to the importance of history nor to the tantamount image of literature and, this is because, it becomes in relation to humans sufferings. To put it differently, before it was like as a hunting pattern, the destroying lifestyle of humans, the dangerous animal from as which humans vanished because of rats and today this animal becomes clearly as the image of victimization. By all means, the caravan of Mice is coupled with the image of Snake in the current, modernized, advertized society of Animal Documentaries, inasmuch as it becomes as a contrary description that doesn’t imply the reality of this creature . John Steinbeck uses this imagery “Mice” and “Men” in the light of expressing the different, unexpected, vicious and unnatural creature that is a mystery to found in American Society. We can always accuse the unusual behavioral of Leenie, nevertheless we never criticized the hatred animals “Mice” that universally symbolizes the bad spirit of something and the unlucky destiny of someone: He loves his rats; in end he kills them by force. We could, should and even must say that Leenie’s imaginary is linked to the history of killing rats, because most of universal tradition, in any society, kills the unseen rat that suddenly enters homes. There are such resemblances between American and French societies, when it comes to the idea of defending ourselves and in that we believe that Leenie was just imitating the old traditions of his grand-fathers. There being evidences of assuming him as a psychopath in accordance with the history of American literature of John Steinbeck, nonetheless nobody asserts to us that neither his malady nor his mental disease are very dangerous to himself.

The Adaption of “Des Souris”

There is always a way to repair such suggestions that are not suitably corresponding for the target community of translation , because the meaning of “Des Souris” is not a part of localization in France and this mistranslating the context can be immediately remedied by the art of adaptation :

Mice: Des Souris < Machine Translation>
Mice into Animal < Could be considered as a literary adaptation>
Mice into Créature < possibly to be affirmed as a literary adaptation>
Mice into Mohamed < it is unacceptable due to the unavailability and the emptiness
                             of logically social localization>

Sourcing, targeting and establishing the situation of Mice is inevitably a way of looking for a method of adaptation in that we must admit that, even editors and copywriters, cannot methodically measure correctly such dazzling situations, specifically in literary translation. there are many facets of creating a suitable adaptability and there must be no way of forgetting the importance of localization: If this word “Mice” is translated as Mohamed in French community, even it is a granted piece writing of such great creativity, the targeted localization of this work is absent, therefore, literary translation is not such an easy task due to the unvoiced conflicts of writing in Translation Studies.

Conclusion and Discussion

In a nutshell, translating the two coupled images of “Mice” and “Des Souris” and inserting them into inappropriately different cultures is such a risky offer to start with forasmuch as Cultural Studies care a lot about the contextualization of American novel . The translation of “Des Souris” is machine, literal translation which is inacceptable and it would be replaced by the above equivalences and then it would be a suitable method in French Literature. The two International Cultures designed differently as well as it is inquisitively true that most of literary writers find bigger moulds in every translated text , because translation is a complicated response of studying letters and the way of analyzing texts demands far-reaching advances of interpretation , deconstruction , analyzing , mistranslating and even mythologizing . “Of Mice and Men” is a very expressive imagery that contains all images of cultural contextualization of Europe ; Though “Des Souris” recalls for a literal translation , it never respond to the need of French readers because they except something which could be very creative , that is to say , it can fit to the world of literary style ; Though this is a very good translation, it opaquely restricted to the usual significance of this term and it unfortunately ignores the unstressed creativity of literary translation.


1- Steinbeck, John. Des souris et des hommes. Editions Gallimard, 2012.

2- Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. New York: Penguin Book, 1993.

3- Hermans, Theo. The manipulation of literature. studies in literary translation. Croom Helm, 1985.

4- Bassnett, Susan. Translation studies. Routledge, 2013.

5- Bassnett, Susan, and André Lefevere. Constructing cultures: Essays on literary translation. Vol. 11. Multilingual Matters, 1998.

6- Mice." Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. 8 Jun 2017, 08:37 UTC. 5 Sep 2017, 02:20 <>.

7- "Souris." Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. 25 May 2017, 01:40 UTC. 5 Sep 2017, 02:21 <>

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