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Le festin punique de Salammbô

ou, comment traduit-on une gastronomie imaginaire?

1. Texte français

extrait du texte intégral (voir le site Flaubert perso.wanadoo.fr/jb.guinot)

Les cuisines d'Hamilcar n'étant pas suffisantes, le Conseil leur avait envoyé des esclaves, de la vaisselle, des lits ; et l'on voyait au milieu du jardin, comme sur un champ de bataille quand on brûle les morts, de grands feux clairs où rôtissaient des boeufs. Les pains saupoudrés d'anis alternaient avec les gros fromages plus lourds que des disques, et les cratères pleins de vin, et les canthares pleins d'eau auprès des corbeilles en filigrane d'or qui contenaient des fleurs. La joie de pouvoir enfin se gorger à l'aise dilatait tous les yeux çà et là, les chansons commençaient.

D'abord on leur servit des oiseaux à la sauce verte, dans des assiettes d'argile rouge rehaussée de dessins noirs, puis toutes les espèces de coquillages que l'on ramasse sur les côtes puniques, des bouillies de froment, de fève et d'orge, et des escargots au cumin, sur des plats d'ambre jaune.

Ensuite les tables furent couvertes de viandes antilopes : avec leurs cornes, paons avec leurs plumes, moutons entiers cuits au vin doux, gigots de chamelles et de buffles, hérissons au garum, cigales frites et loirs confits. Dans des gamelles en bois de Tamrapanni flottaient, au milieu du safran, de grands morceaux de graisse. Tout débordait de saumure, de truffes et d'assa foetida. Les pyramides de fruits s'éboulaient sur les gâteaux de miel, et l'on n'avait pas oublié quelques-uns de ces petits chiens à gros ventre et à soies roses que l'on engraissait avec du marc d'olives, mets carthaginois en abomination aux autres peuples. La surprise des nourritures nouvelles excitait la cupidité des estomacs. Les Gaulois aux longs cheveux retroussés sur le sommet de la tète, s'arrachaient les pastèques et les limons qu'ils croquaient avec l'écorce. Des Nègres n'ayant jamais vu de langoustes se déchiraient le visage à leurs piquants rouges. Mais les Grecs rasés, plus blancs que des marbres, jetaient derrière eux les épluchures de leur assiette, tandis que des pâtres du Brutium, vètus de peaux de loups, dévoraient silencieusement, le visage dans leur portion.

La nuit tombait. On retira le velarium étalé sur l'avenue de cyprès et l'on apporta des flambeaux.

Les lueurs vacillantes du pétrole qui brûlait dans des vases de porphyre effrayèrent, au haut des cèdres, les singes consacrés à la lune. Ils poussèrent des cris, ce qui mit les soldats en gaieté.

Des flammes oblongues tremblaient sur les cuirasses d'airain. Toutes sortes de scintillements jaillissaient des plats incrustés de pierres précieuses. Les cratères, à bordure de miroirs convexes, multipliaient l'image élargie des choses ; les soldats se pressant autour s'y regardaient avec ébahissement et grimaçaient pour se faire rire. Ils se lançaient, par-dessus les tables, les escabeaux d'ivoire et les spatules d'or. Ils avalaient à pleine gorge tous les vins grecs qui sont dans des outres, les vins de Campanie enfermés dans des amphores, les vins des Cantabres que l'on apporte dans des tonneaux, et les vins de jujubier, de cinnamome et de lotus. Il y en avait des flaques par terre où l'on glissait. La fumée des viandes montait dans les feuillages avec la vapeur des haleines. On entendait à la fois le claquement des mâchoires, le bruit des paroles, des chansons, des coupes, le fracas des vases campaniens qui s'écroulaient en mille morceaux, ou le son limpide d'un grand plat d'argent.

2. First English translation

posted without translator's name at www.classicreader.com

Hamilcar's kitchens being insufficient, the Council had sent them slaves, ware, and beds, and in the middle of the garden, as on a battle-field when they burn the dead, large bright fires might be seen, at which oxen were roasting. Anise-sprinkled loaves alternated with great cheeses heavier than discuses, crateras filled with wine, and cantharuses filled with water, together with baskets of gold filigree-work containing flowers. Every eye was dilated with the joy of being able at last to gorge at pleasure, and songs were beginning here and there.

First they were served with birds and green sauce in plates of red clay relieved by drawings in black, then with every kind of shell-fish that is gathered on the Punic coasts, wheaten porridge, beans and barley, and snails dressed with cumin on dishes of yellow amber.

Afterwards the tables were covered with meats, antelopes with their horns, peacocks with their feathers, whole sheep cooked in sweet wine, haunches of she-camels and buffaloes, hedgehogs with garum, fried grasshoppers, and preserved dormice. Large pieces of fat floated in the midst of saffron in bowls of Tamrapanni wood. Everything was running over with wine, truffles, and asafoetida. Pyramids of fruit were crumbling upon honeycombs, and they had not forgotten a few of those plump little dogs with pink silky hair and fattened on olive lees, – a Carthaginian dish held in abhorrence among other nations. Surprise at the novel fare excited the greed of the stomach. The Gauls with their long hair drawn up on the crown of the head, snatched at the water-melons and lemons, and crunched them up with the rind. The Negroes, who had never seen a lobster, tore their faces with its red prickles. But the shaven Greeks, whiter than marble, threw the leavings of their plates behind them, while the herdsmen from Brutium, in their wolf-skin garments, devoured in silence with their faces in their portions.

Night fell. The velarium, spread over the cypress avenue, was drawn back, and torches were brought.

The apes, sacred to the moon, were terrified on the cedar tops by the wavering lights of the petroleum as it burned in the porphyry vases. They uttered screams which afforded mirth to the soldiers.

Oblong flames trembled in cuirasses of brass. Every kind of scintillation flashed from the gem-incrusted dishes. The crateras with their borders of convex mirrors multiplied and enlarged the images of things; the soldiers thronged around, looking at their reflections with amazement, and grimacing to make themselves laugh. They tossed the ivory stools and golden spatulas to one another across the tables. They gulped down all the Greek wines in their leathern bottles, the Campanian wine enclosed in amphoras, the Cantabrian wines brought in casks, with the wines of the jujube, cinnamomum and lotus. There were pools of these on the ground that made the foot slip. The smoke of the meats ascended into the foliage with the vapour of the breath. Simultaneously were heard the snapping of jaws, the noise of speech, songs, and cups, the crash of Campanian vases shivering into a thousand pieces, or the limpid sound of a large silver dish.

3. Second English translation

by A. J. Krailsheimer (Penguin Books, 1977) pp. 18-19

As Hamilcar's kitchens were not sufficient, the Concil had sent them slaves, tableware, beds: and in the middle of the garden, as on a battlefield when the dead are being burned, appeared huge, bright fires where oxen roasted. Loaves dusted with aniseed alternated with great cheeses, weighing more than discuses, bowls full of wine, and pots full of water beside golden filigree baskets containing flowers. They were all wide-eyed with joy at being able to stuff to their heart's content at last: here and there singing began.

First they were served birds in green sauce, on red earthenware plates decorated with black patterns, then all the kinds of shell-fish found on the Punic shores, wheaten porridge, beans and barley, and snails in cumin, on plates of golden amber.

Then the tables were covered with meat dishes: antelopes with their horns, peacocks with their feathers, whole sheep cooked in sweet wine, haunches of she-camels and buffaloes, hedgehogs in garum, fried grasshoppers and preserved dormice. In wooden bowls from Tamrapanni great lumps of fat floated in saffron. Everything overflowed with wine, truffles, and assa foetida. Pyramids of fruit tumbled over honey-cakes, and they had not forgotten a few little dogs with big bellies and pink bristles, fattened on olive-pulp, that Carthaginian delicacy which other people found revolting. The unexpected sight of novel food aroused their greed. Gauls, with long hair tied up on the top of their head, snatched watermelons and lemons, devouring them peel and all. The Negroes who had never seen lobsters tore their faces on the red claws. But shaven Greeks, whiter than marble, threw behind them the peelings from their plate, while shepherds from Bruttium, dressed in wolf skins, munched in silence, heads bent over their food.

Night fell. The velarium stretched over the cypress avenue was taken off and torches were brought.

Oblong flames wavered over the bronze breastplates. The dishes encrusted with precious stones flashed and scintillated in sparkling profusion. The drinking bowls, rimmed with convex mirrors, multiplied the magnified reflection of things around; the soldiers pressing around looked at their own reflections with amazement and pulled faces to amuse themselves. They hurled ivory stools and golden spatulas over the tables at each other. They gulped down all the Greek wines that come in wineskins, Campanian wines kept in amphorae, Cantabrian wines brought over in casks, as well as wines of cinnamon, jujube, and lotus. The wine spilled in slippery puddles on to the ground. A cloud of steam from the hot food rose up into the foliage mingled with the vapours exhaled by the crowd. At the same time one heard the noise of champing jaws, conversation, song, goblets, Campanian pitchers shattering into a thousand fragments, or the clear note of some great silver dish.

CITATION DU JOURTODAY'S QUOTATIONMenus littéraires = Literary MenusAlphabète de recettes = Alphabet of RecipesOrdonnancier = Historical PrescriberIFAQs
Bacchus ExtraDangerous Tastes ExtraDictionary of Languages ExtraFood in the Ancient World ExtraGuide to World Language Dictionaries ExtraNotes in the Margin Extra

RUE DES LIBRAIRES = STREET OF THE BOOKSELLERS

ACCUEIL = HOMEBibliothèque = BookshelvesDictionnaire = DictionaryIndex de langues = Language indexEcrits de / Work by ANDREW DALBYLiens = LinksRecherche Web = Web search