I am currently (and slowly) reading Camus' La Peste [Gallimard] in French concurrently with The Plague [trans. Robin Buss, Penguin] in English.
On p 6 of La Peste is this excerpt (emphasis mine):
Les hommes et les femmes, ou bien se dévorent rapidement dans ce qu'on appelle l'acte d'amour, ou bien s'engagent dans une longue habitude à deux. Entre ces extrêmes, il n'y a pas souvent de milieu. Cela non plus n'est pas original. A Oran comme ailleurs, faute de temps et de réflexion, on est bien obligé de s'aimer sans le savoir.
On p 6 of The Plague, however, it is rendered as (emphasis again mine):
Men and women either consume each other rapidly in what is called the act of love, or else enter into a long-lasting, shared routine. Often there is no middle between these two extremes. That, too, is original. In Oran, as elsewhere, for want of time and thought, people have to love one another without knowing it.
It's not like this changes the direction of the story in any noticeable way, but it has stood out to me as strange. Google Translate confirms that the French translates to ‘This is not original either’, so it's not just me mistranslating.
No doubt Mr Buss knows an awful lot more about translating from French than I do, and the book will have been through any number of editors, so I'd be surprised to find I had spotted an error on one of the first pages that they have missed.
Assuming then, that this is intentional, what might be the reason for it? It doesn't seem like an idiom that needed altering to make sense to English readers. My two theories are:
- this is somehow related to verlan; or
- I recall reading something years ago during a Charlie Hebdo controversy about French humour being very dependent on multiple levels of ironic meaning (I think it was in relation to a cover that characterised migrants as coming over to France just to have children, which was apparently skewering the far-right politicians pushing that narrative rather than the migrants themselves), so perhaps Buss and his finely-honed sense of French could tell that Camus meant the 'not' to be ironic, but that English readers wouldn't understand it.