A Short History of the French Translation

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Jacques Weiss
Jacques Weiss
Jacques Weiss

By Georges Michelson-Dupont, Vice President and Manager of Translations, Urantia Foundation Recloses, France

Soon after the publication of The Urantia Book in 1955, Mrs. Caroline Brown, a member of the Forum, sent a copy to her friend Jacques Weiss. Mr. Weiss was a brilliant man who graduated from L'École Polytechnique, one of France's most prestigious universities. He was an engineer, a successful businessman in the field of coalmines and transportation, and a professional translator of spiritual books.

It took one year for Mr. Weiss to read The Urantia Book, to understand its teachings, and to convince himself to translate it. In 1956, Mr. Weiss wrote to the Urantia Brotherhood, mentioning his interest in translating the book into French. A stream of correspondence ensued, and in response to a letter from Mrs. Rowley, dated December 1956, Mr. Weiss wrote:

I have personally made several translations, such as the books by Spalding, Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East, published in French in 1946, and more recently, Esoteric Healing, by Alice Bayley.

Mr. Weiss began translating The Urantia Book in late 1956 or early 1957. On November 13, 1957, he wrote to Ms. Christensen (Christy) the following:

In order to test the ground, I took the first steps myself. I have presently translated into French the first half of Part I. During many months this work has taken me several hours a day. . .It is hard because you have to create new terminology and therefore must meditate on many sentences. Also there are words which are "false friends" in English and in French. Among scores of examples, I quote "realize." In English it means mostly "to understand clearly," but in French "réaliser" means "to actualize."

In this paragraph, Mr. Weiss enumerates some of the many challenges and difficulties all translators experience. Not only must a translator translate ideas and not words, but also, in the case of The Urantia Book, new concepts must be understood clearly and translated accurately.

Mr. Weiss hired several people to finalize the translation, and the result was a team effort. The following names appear on the first edition of the book: Lysie Guionic and Simone Le-clerc. Mrs. Guionic was in charge of the French syntax and punctuation while Simone Leclerc, who did not speak English, was involved with the translation's spiritual flavor.

It is also possible that other individuals participated in the translation. In the following paragraph from the above mentioned letter to Christy, Mr. Weiss wrote the following:

Since the translation in its entirety is more than a one man job, I have contacted two men and asked them to translate the third and fourth parts as a pay job. The first man is a Hungarian refugee, a spiritualist speaking equally well German, English, and French. The second is a French expert on the Bible and has taught me some elements of the Hebrew language during the early forties. Neither of them has given me a final answer.

In a letter dated June 16, 1958, Mr. Weiss wrote:

As to the translation into French, I have assumed full responsibility for it, and I bear the full load of all the work, the costs, the supervising, the correcting, the unified terminology, and the choice of the team. I translated myself Parts I and II. A good professional translator will soon start Part III, and an amateur lady has started Part IV.

By March 8, 1960, Mr. Weiss completed the translation and received a telegram of congratulation from Urantia Foundation. He sent his work to Chicago for review by Mr. Gelsey, a "corrector" hired by Urantia Foundation.

On April 14, 1961, a contract was signed between Urantia Foundation and Mr. Weiss, and 2,625 copies of Part I and II of "La Cosmogonie d'Urantia" were printed on November 28, 1961, followed by the printing of Part II on March 14, 1962, and Part III on April 12, 1962.

Thanks to the tenacity and the persuasive attitude of one man, and the exceptional circumstances surrounding the translation effort, the French translation came into existence and new potentials for spiritual growth were offered to the French-speaking world. It was a team effort led by a man of conviction and a group of five responsible individuals who, with courage and patience, transformed a dream into a reality.

The French translation was the first translation of The Urantia Book, and many of the subsequent translators, while translating from the English text, have used the French translation as a reference and source of inspiration.

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