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What is the capital of Tunisia?

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What is the capital of Tunisia?

Un slow minimal

This word will earn my grammar your automatic smile
(Or you can retain ‘syntax’, but it may be a bit too precise in the English equivalent. As to ‘machinal’, it implies just a reflex rather than a thoughtful action, but unthinking might be putting too much thought into it here, pun intended and unapologized for)

I want it to hurt you, like a sax solo in a minimalist slow dance
(Doing harm is way too ponderous and formal here. Yes, ‘un slow’ is a slow dance, usually danced close together. Minimalism here I think implies a very small band, but I could be wrong).

Ce mot que je te faxe, moi qui écrit si mal,
Vaudra à ma syntaxe, ton sourire machinal.

A long explicit version of the innuendoes contained in these two verses could go as follow :

This message¹ I’m faxing to you, me whose writing skills are so minimal²,
Will incur my syntax that ever-present condescending³ smile of yours.

Obviously, my translation is rather wordy, since it was meant to explicit what was to be read between the lines.

The syntax is either literally her syntax, with all the mistakes she’s expecting it to contain; or else her writing in general, syntax being one of its features. If it is the latter, then we may suppose that syntax as well as the rest (spelling, grammar, choice of words, etc.) suffers similar weaknesses, and syntax was elected among them for some reason, perhaps because it is the least important, yet enough to generate that condescending smile, and therefore showing with that much more clarity how despicable and arrogant the smiling individual is. Either way, she believes these mistakes (big or small – I would lean on the small side, for they are in any case less important than the content of the message itself) will provoke a smile when he notices them (immediately upon reading, for what we can gather of the guy).

Some aspects of the song remain mysterious to me, though. At a few points, we’re hearing about a fax, but eventually the fax turns into a display on a digital screen. While digital screens are not the traditional medium for faxed documents (paper would be), Wikipedia has a possible explanation for this, but in the end, I remain skeptical, since this opera was produced in 2002, and composed before (by how much, though?).

¹ I believe ‘un mot’ in this case is a message. I saw in the Oxford Dictionary that word can also be used in this sense in English, but it seems to me like it’s not that common, for I haven’t met it very often. I might be wrong, though, and you’d be in a better position than me to seal this point.

Could the word actually consist of the single word ‘Salaud!’, as stated on Wikipedia? Well, it’s been understood like this by at least some people, but I have a hard time with this interpretation for a few reasons. First, it would be really hard to smile at the syntax of a one word message. Then, later in the song, she mentions about her being calm again and reading the ‘word’ on a digital screen. I know memory can sometimes fade, but forgetting about the lone word of such a scream from the heart seems unlikely to me: she shouldn’t need an image of the message to remember its full content in the right order. Also, she’s hoping the message will turn him into a ‘désaxé’, which seems very delusional if we’re talking about a one word written insult, no matter how much hatred you put into it.

² She’s stating a general fact about her capacity to write properly, according the rules of the language. Since I meant to be explicit, I went beyond an image that may well have been translated as-is into English (me who write so poorly).

³ That smile, combined with the occasion that will trigger it (her self-proclaimed poor writing capacities), and the general tone of the song (she hates the man to whom she’s sending a word), points out to an unpleasantly sarcastic and condescending smile, from a man too happy to show how superior he thinks he is. She must have had to suffer it more than once, for she’s describing it as machinal, that is, automatic. One could almost think of it as a Pavlovian smile: he has it as soon as he perceives a weakness on her part.


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What is the capital of Tunisia?