Deaf geographies, and other worlds.

Deaf Banquets 1835 – and a glimpse of Berthier’s poem

The transcription of the French account of the 1835 banquet is now complete, and available here.

The translation is nearly done. I’ll put it up as soon as it’s ready.

In the meantime, you could always try using the online translation tools that I cover in https://mikegulliver.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/online-translation-tools-thoughts-and-challenges/to access a rough version of the text.

And… just as a teaser – here’s my initial translation of Berthier’s poem:

Seeing, come together in this vast hall

Those, to whom misfortune has united me from birth

Children, disinherited of the gift of speech

Children, whom bitter nature has mistreated

No, I cried to myself, in his pilgrimage

That the eternal lays upon every human being

I do not walk alone, for a brother walks with me

And the road is shorter when it is walked as two.

We do not speak, it is true, but think

We can express ourselves just as well with eyes, and hands, and smiles and lips.

Our most attractive discourse is found on the tips our fingers

And our language, rich in secret beauty

That you, poor speaking people, will never understand.

And do we not also have your Phoenician art,

That paints our words, and speaks to our eyes?

Excepting the sound, your arts and sciences

Have nothing that is hidden to our questing minds.

And show us the heavens, ambitious Icarus,

Where I might not follow, without also falling like you.

To whom should the glory of this marvel?

Which transforms the beast into a thinking being?

Whose voice was it that spoke to the miserable slave:

Arise… their banquets are also your own?

I will restore to you the voice that you lack,

And your fingers will unite you to the human race.

A thousand tributes to that sublime man,

The modest creator of an art that is nearly divine!

Homage to our father! Oh! Every year

We should come and reawaken our love by celebrating him.

Bind ourselves tighter in the bonds that unite us

And thank God for our Freedom.

Enjoy 🙂

P.S. By the way – I don’t mind you reproducing any of the text of the banquets for wider purposes… but if you could credit me with the translation I’d be grateful.

Of course the poem belongs to the Deaf community… as does the essence of the translation. But I think it’s important to make sure that the translation and texts remain attached to an academic context where their meaning can be critically, and reflexively examined.

Thank you.

7 comments on “Deaf Banquets 1835 – and a glimpse of Berthier’s poem

  1. dagrushkin
    June 13, 2012

    Thanks for your translations! This is valuable stuff, especially for those of us who can’t read French beyond the occasional merci and beaucoup!

    • Mike Gulliver
      June 14, 2012

      Hi Don,

      No problem – glad to be of service. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get to it… for some reason, academic work with the Banquet documents is eligible for funding, but no-one seems to be interested in funding a translation… and that, of course, is where we have to start.

      Enjoy reading.

  2. handeyes
    June 14, 2012

    can u also put it up in French???
    thank u for all u r doing with this
    patti durr

  3. handeyes
    June 14, 2012

    merci beaucoup mike – i did click around yesterday but didnt see it. thanks for the direct link

    wondering if Dr. Harlan Lane had already translated any of this stuff or if not if u want to draw his attention to ur work. its important



    • Mike Gulliver
      June 14, 2012

      Hey Patty – I don’t know if Harlan’s aware of this – I did scout around before I started and only Bernard Mottez’ (and offshoots) translations of the ’34 banquet appeared to be available.

      Feel free to pass on information about this to him.

      What I’m making available is some of the data that I based both my Masters and PhD work on… the Banquets are cited by so many as evidence of early Deaf identity discourses – but critical examination of them is almost completely lacking.

      What I found was not only evidence from the banquets of something much richer than had been unpacked before – but also evidence that only one side of the banquet story had been told.

      Yes – they are discourses of Deaf identity. But they are only one story of Deaf identity from the 1800s, and there are many more than have yet to be told.

      Without a translation, no real debate can be opened up… and no discussion of those ‘other’ Deaf identities can be had.

      So, this is the first step – I’ll also be publishing information from voices that have never been heard… so keep reading 🙂


  4. Paul Kiel
    June 14, 2012

    very nice story – thanks Mike – I love to dig deeper and deeper for stories about deaf people and how they contribute to advancing the society. Cheers!


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This entry was posted on June 13, 2012 by in DEAF history and tagged , , , .
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