Perfect Private Public Moment

It was Prague in 1991.  The debate about the Soviet designed and partially built Temelin reactors being completed by Western firms was in full debate in the Czech Republic.

The reactor was across the street from a graveyard

The reactor was across the street from a graveyard

The representatives from the power utility were debating my young boss, Honza Beranek.  It was a table full of true believers.  The technocrats were convinced they were right and Honza knew better.

There were over 200 people in the room including half a dozen English speakers.  The government thought this was sufficiently important to pay for simultaneous translation into English for the event.  And the translator was good.  Very good.

As the debate went on, the moderator lost control of the speakers (this happens surprisingly often in the East) and our translator tried valiantly to keep up.  He donned different voices for the different speakers so he did not have to keep telling you which one he was becoming and losing time by identifying the transition.

Then on stage, all hell broke out.  Honza was arguing with the PR guy from the reactor, and they were both really going at it.  Increasingly they did not let the other finish their comment and interrupted them.  In response the translator spoke faster and switched voices more.

Finally, the moderator stopped the discussion.  At this point the half dozen people who had listened to this amazing translator broke out in applause.  It was one of the most amazing linguistic fetes any of us had ever experienced.  Of course the rest of the audience was completely baffled, for they thought they had experienced everything and we were just getting poor translations.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

2 responses to “Perfect Private Public Moment”

  1. Jan Haverkamp says :

    Strange how history repeats… Paks II EIA hearing last Thursday… evening, of course. 300 people from the power station in the hall, about a dozen NGO people. The moderator wants me to start with my question 11 instead of 1… one wonderful translator, one nuclear lobbyist who diverts from questions, one Jan who does not take that, 300 people jeering (against me)… fun, sense, but exhausting.

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