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Citesc la ediţia în engleză a romanului “The life of Pi” şi n-am avut vreme să traduc pasajul. Am tradus însă vreo câteva cuvinte, pe care cred eu un vorbitor pasiv – ca mine – de limbă engleză s-ar putea să nu le fi întâlnit.

I have heard nearly as much nonsense about zoos as I have about God and religion. Well-meaning but misinformed people think animals in the wild are “happy” because they are “free”. These people usually have a large, handsome predator in mind, a lion or a cheetah (the life of a gnu or of an aardvark is rarely exalted). They imagine this wild animal roaming around the savannah on digestive walks after eating a prey that accepted its lot piously, or going for callisthenic runs to stay slim after overindulging. They imagine this animal overseeing its offspring proudly and tenderly, the whole family watching the setting of the sun from the limbs of trees with sighs of pleasure. The life of the wild animal is simple, noble and meaningful, they imagine. Then it is captured by wicked man and thrown into tiny jails. Its “happiness” is dashed. It yearns mightily for “freedom” and does all it can to escape. Being denied its freedom for too long, the animal becomes a shadow of itself, its spirit broken. So some people imagine.

This is not the way it is.

Animals in the wild lead lives of compulsion and necessity within an unforgiving social hierarchy in an environment where the supply of fear is high and the supply of food is low and where territory must constantly be defended and parasites forever endured. What is the meaning of freedom in such a context? Animals in the wild are, in practice, free neither in space nor in time, nor in their personal relations. In theory – that is, as simple physical possibility – an animal could pick up and go, flaunting all social conventions and boundaries proper to its species. But such an event is less likely to happen than for a member of our own species, say a shopkeeper with the usual ties – to family, to friends, to society – to drop everything and walk away from his life with only the spare change in its pockets and the clothes on his frame. If a man, boldest and most intelligent of creatures, won’t wander from place to place, a stranger to all, beholden to none, why would an animal which is by temperament far more conservative? For that is what animals are, conservative, one might even say reactionary. The smallest changes can upset them. They want things to be just so, day after day, month after month. Surprises are highly disagreeable to them. You see this in their spatial relations. An animal inhabits its space, weather in a zoo or in the wild, in the same way chess pieces move about the chessboard – significantly.  There is no more happenstance, no more “freedom”, involved in the whereabouts of a lizard or a bear or a dear than in the location of a knight on the chessboard. Both speak of pattern and purpose. In the wild, animal stick to the same paths for the same pressing reasons, season after season. In a zoo, if an animal is not in its normal place in its regular posture at the usual hour, it means something. It may be the reflection of nothing more than a minor change in the environment. A coiled hose left out by a keeper has made a menacing impression. A puddle has formed that bothers the animal. A ladder is making a shadow. But it could mean something more. At its worst, it could be that most dreaded thing to a zoo director: a symptom, a herald of trouble to come, a reason to inspect the dung, to cross-examine the keeper, to summon the vet. All of this because a stork is not standing where it usually stands!

But let me pursue for a moment only one aspect of the question.

If you went to a home, kicked down the front door, chased the people who lived there out into the street and said “Go! You are free! Free as a bird! Go! Go!” – do you think they would shout and dance for joy? They wouldn’t. Birds are not free. The people you’ve just evicted would sputter: “With what right do you throw us out? This is our home! We own it! We have lived here for years! We’re calling the police, you scoundrel!”


aardvark – leneş (animalul)

lot – soartă

callisthenic – care ţine de-o bună formă fizică

overindulge – a se îndopa (în context)

offspring – odraslă

limbs – ramuri

dash – zdrobită

yearn – tânji

could pick up and go –  ar putea să se ia şi să plece (în context)

flaunting – sfidând (în context)

path – cale, drum

coiled – încârligat

hose – furtun

menacing – ameninţătoare

herald – semn

stork – barză

sputter – a lua foc (în context)

scoundrel – ticălos