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The French parts of “Achilles, come down”: Translations and literary analysis

Throughout the Greek mythology inspired song, “Achilles, come down”, can be heard a man saying some French phrases during the musical interludes that connects the multiple verses of the 7 minute song. Some people would attribute its presence solely for aesthetic purposes, some think there is more to it, but regardless, most fan are curious about the meanings of these words. Like many other songs such As Swan Upon Leda by Hozier, It uses many artistic and literary symbolism to get it message across and so, to find answers to our questions, some research into the world of French literature was necessary.

To start with, here is what the first series of French phrases means:

Je vois que beaucoup de gens meurent parcequ’ils estiment que la vie ne vaut pas la peine d’être vécue et j’en vois d’autres qui se font paradoxalement tuer, pour les idées, les illusions qui leurs donnent une raison de vivre. Ce qui peut être une raison de vivre est en même temps une excellente raison de mourir. »

I see that many people die because they deem that life is not worth living and I see others that, paradoxically, get themselves killed for the ideas, the illusions that gives them a reason to live. What can be a reason to live is at the same time an excellent reason to die.”

These words are a direct exert from the philosophical essay The myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus who was a French author and philosopher belonging to the movement of absurdism.

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum

The same can be said of the second paragraph present in the song:

“D’un gérant d’immeuble qui s’était tué on disait qu’il avait perdu sa fille depuis Cinq ans, qu’il avait beaucoup changé et que cette histoire l’avait « miné ».”

“About a building manager that killed himself, people said that he had lost his daughter five years ago, that he had changed a lot and that this event “undermined” him.”

By now, it is clear that this essay by Albert Camus tackles the topic of suicide and the meaning of life as is common in the philosophy of absurdism. In fact, the book starts with the author stating that the only philosophical problem is suicide. With that in mind, we can clearly see a link between the song and all these quotes taken from The myth of Sisyphus.

Book cover of the first edition

Another interesting thing to note, is that the further the song progress, the more the quotes rises in intensity , and the closer it gets to the heart of the problem as shown by the extract present right before the fifth verse that present the conflict between the singer and Achilles intrusive thoughts:

“Des souvenirs d’une patrie perdue, de l’espoir d’une terre promise, ce divorce entre l’homme de sa vie… 

“Memories of a lost homeland, hope of a promised land, this divorce between a man and his life…”

Finally, what makes these extract so fitting for this specific song is the fact that the band , Gang of youth, like Camus, opted to use an episode of Greek mythology to exhibit their answer to the philosophical problem of whether life, is in fact worth living or not. In Albert campus’s case, it was the story of Sisyphus, stuck in an absurd existence where he is doomed to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll back. As for the gang of youth case, they opted to take an episode from the lliad after the death of Achilles lover Patroclus.

In conclusion, we can clearly see that the French extract present in the song “Achilles, come down”, were specifically thought out to fit the songs and possibly the authors’ philosophical and artistic agenda.

By Aurelie Maroun

I’m an obsessive consumer of art music and fiction so i had to get these thoughts out of my head somehow. With that in mind, I have decided that posting what I write on a blog would be a good way to start. At least it would give me an opportunity to be read and criticized. Which is way better than keeping what I write forgotten in a folder of my laptop anyway. Now, with that out of the way, I hope you’ll like what you see here.

11 replies on “The French parts of “Achilles, come down”: Translations and literary analysis”

I couldn’t find a translation of the French parts back in 2017 and I’m so happy today to finally find out what was being said! Your analysis of how it fits the song theme was both interesting and helpful.

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Lovely analysis. I had no idea these were quotes from Albert Camus. As a French Literature student, allow me to correct some grammatical errors in the first and second extracts. It should be “Je vois que beaucoup de gens meurent parce qu’ils estiment […] j’en vois d’autres […] qui leur donnent une raison de vivre.” in the first extract. In the second, it should be “[…] qui s’était tué, on disait qu’il avait perdu sa fille depuis cinq ans […]”. Also, for the final extract, this translation would be more accurate: “Memories of a lost homeland, hope of a promised land, this divorce between the man of his life…” I’m guessing ‘the man of his life’ can be interpreted in the same way as ‘the love of his life’. I hope this helps 🙂 Good luck with your blog!

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Hello, thank you for your feed back! I’m a French literature student too, but let’s just say spelling is not exactly my forté :’) . As for the translation of the last extract ,your suggestion is more than correct if we were to translate the expression literally (word by word). However, in terms of context and meaning, I feel putting “the man of his life” instead of “the man and his life” would be incorrect in this context as it might be understood in a way that strays from Camus’ intended meaning (as you pointed out). I was also a bit conflicted when it came to translating this part but I thought staying as true to the intended meaning might be the best choice here considering that I am focusing on Camus’ philosophy. But with that being said, it’s definitely interesting to point out the alternative translation this segment, because as you said, ‘the man of his life’ can be interpreted in the same way as ‘the love of his life’. It could possibly be linked to the romantic nature of the song present ,through Achilles and Patroclus, as well as the impact of the losing the love of ones life, which is an important theme in “Achilles, come down”. One of the aspects I find so beautiful when it comes to the word of literature and art as a whole, is how people influence each others and help take each others projects to a whole new level. As such, I want to thank you again for your feedback, it was very insightful, and I hope to make my blog a place where there is always room to discuss and share various takes, like now. I wish you the best of luck to you too!

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Oh finally, thank you i was looking everywhere to read the explanaition of the french verses, this is a really awesome and amazing work, Your analysis is very rich in content

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