Katerine, Les Grands Restaurants

27 10 2009

I like Philippe Katerine: he’s witty, jaded, fanciful (“Je vous emmerde” is a classic, “Poulet No. 728120” bizarrely moving, “Pyjama de soie” goes well with a glass of red late at night). On a recent flight, this song popped up on shuffle for the first time in a while, and I was reminded how much I liked the lyrics, though I’d always heard the first line as “J’ai battu le néant dans un grand restaurant” (tr: I fought off nothingness in a fine restaurant). And the chorus as “Mais toi, tu n’y vois que tu fus” (tr: But you only see what you were). Or fumes (smoke)? Rorschach test, I guess…

J’ai combattu des lions dans un grand restaurant,
j’ai posé un avion dans un jardin d’enfant,
j’ai construit un immeuble dans une chambre de bonne,
monté un éléphant dans la rue de Charonne

Mais toi tu n’y vois que du feu
à croire que t’as de la merde dans les yeux

Nous vivons prisonnier dans le ventre d’un chien,
tout le monde le sais mais personne ne dit rien,
j’ai mangé l’Espagnol qui jouait de la guitare,
tous les dimanches matin sur le Pont des Arts

Où est-ce que tu es ?
ou, les châteaux a Santiago
ou une vallée de coquelicots
ferme les yeux on voit bien

Viens combattre les lions dans les grands restaurants,
faire la révolution sur un tapis volant
Viens vider l’océan en une seule gorgée,
viens fumer le monde en une seule bouffée

Translation follows (some liberties taken for meter, rhyme, and euphony):

I have wrestled with lions in a fine eatery
I have landed a plane in a kids’ nursery
Found a maid’s room and built a skyscraper inside
Down the rue de Charonne, took an elephant ride

And you, you fell for all of it
It’s like you’ve got no brains up there, just shit

Locked up in a dog’s belly is where we all dwell
It’s a secret we all know, but nobody tells
I devoured the Spaniard who played the guitar
Every Sunday AM on the Pont des Arts

Where are you now?
in a castle in Chile
with poppies in a valley
Close your eyes, you’ll see fine

Come and wrestle with lions in a fine eatery
Fly a magical rug and wage insurgency
Come and drink all the seas, just one gulp is enough
Come and smoke the whole world in just one single puff

I am especially happy with the verses, which preserve, I believe, the original alexandrines… less so with the bridges.

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