The Interplay of ‘Walk’ and ‘Wander’ in Chinese and Italian

Our exploration of the prismatic transformations of ‘walk’ and ‘wander’ reaches its end-point in the animations below, where you can see, first, a selection of walks, then a selection of wanderings, and finally the two sequences braided together, all given in the recent Chinese translation by Song Zhaolin (2005), the anonymous first Italian translation (1904), and Bronte’s English.

The Chinese text, studied by Yunte Huang, translates the opening contrast between ‘walk’ and ‘wandering’ with 散步 ({sanbu}random or scattered footsteps) and 漫步({manbu}, wandering footsteps). Both expressions, Huang explains, contain the character 步, which ‘ is an ideograph of two feet: the upper half止is an image of a foot with toes sticking out, and the lower half is the reverse image.’

When you watch the appearances of both ‘walk’ and ‘wander’ you can see this character recurring. As with the examples we have explored on previous pages, Song finds varied ways of translating Brontë’s repeated words; but he also establishes patterns of reiteration – most notably when the ‘walk’, 散步 (sanbu), which could not be taken at the novel’s beginning reappears as the ‘walk’, 散步(sanbu), which Jane and Rochester will for evermore be able to take together after they are reunited at its end.

In Italian, there is a similar mixture of prismatic diffraction of Brontë’s words, and partially-matching repetition.  Italian has two obvious verbs for walk: ‘passeggiare’, which is more in the sense of going for a walk or stroll, and ‘camminare’, which is more in the sense of being able to walk, or just walking. The anonymous translator makes her or his own patterns with these words. You will see below  that ‘camminare’ figures on one occasion in the ‘wander’ animation (ch. 23), and it can appear elsewhere in the novel where Brontë does not write of either walking or wandering.

There are also two obvious Italian words for ‘wander’: ‘errare’, which includes the sense of error, and ‘vagare’ which is more carefree, a bit like the English ‘drift’. In the animations, watch for the recurrences of ‘passeggiare’ (including ‘passeggerò’) and ‘errare’ (including ‘errato’, ‘errante’ and ‘erravo’).

First, here is a sequence of walks:

Now here is a sequence of wanderings:

And, finally, here are the two sequences – walk and wander – braided together. Watch for the varying interplays and divergences as the two translators, in their different places, times and languages, remake and re-arrange these contrasted though overlapping kinds of motion.

Text and animations by Matthew Reynolds