Lost in an art - the art of translation. Thus, in an elegant anagram (translation = lost in an art), Pulitzer Prize-winning author and pioneering cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter hints at what led him to pen a deep personal homage to the witty sixteenth-century French poet Clement Marot.
"Le ton beau de Marot" literally means "The sweet tone of Marot", but to a French ear it suggest "Le tombeau de Marot" - that is, "The tomb of Marot". That double entendre foreshadows the linguistic exuberance of this book, which was sparked a decade ago when Hofstadter, under the spell of an exquisite French miniature by Marot, got hooked on the challenge of recreating both its sweet message and its tight rhymes in English - jumping through two tough hoops at once.
In the next few years, he not only did many of his own translations of Marot's poem, but also enlisted friends, students, colleagues, family, noted poets and translators - even three state-of the-art translation programs! - to try their hand at this subtle challenge.
The rich harvest is represented here by 88 wildly diverse variations on Marot's little theme. Yet this barely scratches the surface of Le Ton beau de Marot, for small groups of these poems alternate with chapters that run all over the map of language and thought.