This is from Baltasar and Blimunda (1998, p. 3), a translation of José Saramago’s Memorial do Convento (1982). Broader context: it’s the 1700s, an Austrian princess married the Portuguese King to “provide heirs for the Portuguese crown”; it's been two years, and she hasn’t conceived yet. The fictional narrator (warning: he holds deeply misogynistic views) goes on:
That anyone should blame the King is unthinkable, first because infertility is an evil that befalls not men but women, who for that very reason are often disowned and second, because there is material evidence, should such a thing be necessary, in the horde of bastards produced by the royal semen, who populate the kingdom and even at this moment are forming a procession in the square.
I’m asking this because it’s not clear to me that the passage in bold conveys the original meaning. (If you want to think about the possible interpretations of the English translation with a mind uninfluenced by knowledge of the original meaning, pause your reading now.) I appears to me that it does not. But first I speak English as a foreign language only, and second I cannot be sure of what I would make of the passage if I didn’t know the original; and lastly I find it strange that the translators should fail to convey the original meaning. The original is “e a procissão ainda vai no adro”, or ’and the procession hasn’t left the churchyard yet’, a Portuguese saying meaning that things have barely begun, which applied to our passage means that the King has barely begun fathering children out of the wedlock―we then learn he is only 22.
So my questions are:
- What will an English native speaker make of the passage in bold? Will they understand Saramago’s original meaning?
- Would a more literal translation, such as my and the procession hasn’t left the churchyard yet, convey the original figurative meaning?
- If not (or even if so) what would be a good way of conveying the original meaning?