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The following comes from a book written by Jung, and translated by Gallimard into a book titled Dialectique du Moi et de l'inconscient; it is from one of the Prefaces to that book:

Cela représentait un simple essai, et je ne me sentais pas trop convaincu de ses insuffisances.

The same sentence from an English translation, titled The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious, translated by R.F.C. Hull in a book called Two Essays in Analytical Psychology:

It was a mere attempt, of whose inadequacy I was painfully aware.


If I try to translate the French version, I would come up with something like:

This represents a simple attempt, and I don't feel very convinced of its inadequacies.

and DeepL gives:

This was a mere attempt, and I did not feel too convinced of its inadequacies.

The translation by DeepL (and me) seem to be the opposite of what the English version says! That is, DeepL's translation is saying that Jung was not "convinced" of its inadequacies; that is, that Jung did not think it had strong inadequacies.

Obviously, DeepL's translation is incorrect, because it does not match the English version.

Why does "Je ne me sentais pas trop convaincu de ses insuffisances" not mean "I did not feel too convinced of its inadequacies", but instead means something closer to "I was painfully aware of its inadequacies"?

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  • 1
    Tried DeepL that gave me "It was a simple test, and I didn't feel too convinced of its shortcomings." I didn't get the same as you but anyway it matches the meaning of the French sentence, like yours did. The English translation you got - from a book I presume - seems weird to me, that's why it would be great to have the original sentence in German. You wouldn't happen to have it, would you?
    – None
    Jan 2, 2022 at 10:06
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    German title Die Beziehungen Zwischen dem Ich und dem Unbewussten but couldn't find the whole text in German. Internet archive has it in French and gives exactly the French sentence you are giving. It's Gallimard's edition and the translator is a Jung specialist and I would entirely trust his translation. To me the two sentences we both got from DeepL mean the same, and to me it sounds quite the opposite of the translation you quote in your question. The French sentence means he wasn't really convinced of the shortcomings in his test.
    – None
    Jan 2, 2022 at 11:41
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    I am fluent in German."It was a mere attempt, of whose inadequacy I was painfully aware." is a correct translation of "Es war ein bloßer Versuch, von dessen Unzulänglichkeit ich nur allzusehr überzeugt war.", unless "Versuch" actually means "experiment". (Hard to say without more context.)
    – Tsundoku
    Jan 2, 2022 at 14:11
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    One doesn't translate from a translation. Ergo, this question should not be here. No one does that. Interpreters sometimes do that, it's called relay interpretation. This here is a fool's errand. Sites like Deepl are not designed to deal with highly intellectual texts, anyway. And can be very misleading.
    – Lambie
    Jan 2, 2022 at 17:56
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    I’m voting to close this question because it's about German>French translation followed by a French>English of the same text. This is really unthinkable. Relay translation does not work and is certainly not a subject for this site.
    – Lambie
    Jan 2, 2022 at 20:23

2 Answers 2

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The context of this sentence is sufficiently complete if the beginning of the whole paragraph is included, as well as some lines that follow it.

Dans l’essai publié en 1916 sur La Structure de l’inconscient mentionné plus haut, j’essayais, pour la première fois, d’apporter une synthèse résumant l’ensemble du processus. Cela représentait un simple essai, et je ne me sentais pas trop convaincu de ses insuffisances. Les difficultés inhérentes à l’objet à étudier étaient telles que je ne pouvais espérer, en une brève communication, en venir à bout et leur rendre justice. C’est pourquoi, avec la ferme intention de reprendre, à l’occasion, l’ensemble de cette étude dans un cadre plus ample, je m’étais limité à cette « communication provisoire ». Douze années d’expériences supplémentaires me permirent, en 1928, de remettre sur le métier mes constatations et mes descriptions de 1916.

Jung is speaking about one of his early essais, and concerning it he says "Les difficultés inhérentes à l’objet à étudier étaient telles que je ne pouvais espérer, en une brève communication, en venir à bout et leur rendre justice"; that is to say that he perceived important difficulties in the treatment of this subject, and that he had no hope of surmounting them in the short piece he had decided to write. This does not point to the would-be fact that he could have doubted the reality of the inadequacies, but on the contrary to the fact that he was only too convinced of them, which corroborates the english translation. It appears then that the French translation is in error. This is corroborated by the fact that "allzusehr" is translated by "que trop" and that the negation "nicht" does not appear in the German (Es war ein bloßer Versuch, von dessen Unzulänglichkeit ich nur allzusehr überzeugt war). Sans la négation "allzuseher" se traduirait par "que trop" et ce ne serait que lorsque "nicht" figure dans la construction que "ne pas trop" is right.

(bab.la) « allzusehr » en français allzusehr {adv.}
que trop

♦ Meiner Ansicht nach sollten wir mit diesem Gebäude nicht allzusehr prahlen. → En ce qui me concerne, je dirais qu'il ne faut pas être trop bougon vis-à-vis de ce bâtiment.
♦ Während „gerade die ersten beiden Episoden packende Thriller“ gewesen seien, stehe bei diesem Film „allzusehr die Botschaft im Vordergrund“. → Le négociateur ne réussit que trop bien dans une mission aussi délicate.

(See the examples of translation in the above reference)

  • Cela représentait un simple essai, et je ne me sentais que trop convaincu de ses insuffisances.
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If I had to align the French with the original German, I would read de as "by" rather than "of":

I was not much convinced by its shortcomings. ~ I was hardly convinced by its shortcomings. Its shortcomings failed to convince me. For its shortcomings, I was not convinced. Because of its shortcomings, I was not convinced.

Thus:

Cela représentait un simple essai, et ses insuffisances ne m'ont pas trop convaincu.

It seems to me an attempt to capture the flavour of the German in a not very natural rendering in French. But it's not an impossible logical construction if read in a sufficiently ironic tone. Compare this exchange:

Weren't you impressed by my poetry?

No. I am not much impressed by doggerel and sentimentality.

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  • swayed by None's and LPH's logic, i was convinced that the French sentence was probably a mistranslation. do you also think it actually is a mistranslation, or do you instead think it's more likely that the reading that you outlined here is likely what was intended by the French translator?
    – silph
    Jan 3, 2022 at 2:13
  • @silph My original opening was "If I was forced to reconcile the French and the German", but it pushed one or two words onto the next line on my screen, and my OCD took over and I replaced it with a version that was more ambiguous but more visually pleasant (to me...). I do think the reconciliation would be forced. I don't know why the translator chose this wording.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jan 3, 2022 at 2:32
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    i do find it interesting to see your idea of the forced reconciliation with the given wording, though, so thanks for writing the answer!
    – silph
    Jan 3, 2022 at 2:36

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