Monty’s Gang, a book aimed at children under five has become a surprise bestseller in France. Wishing to save money, first time children’s author Linda Darrington translated her own novel into French using Alta Vista’s Babel-fish web site, a free service that provides online translation of simple sentences. Darrington’s book tells the story of a boxer dog called Monty who has a girlfriend called Ruby, and two cat friends, Kitty and Bobby. This innocent tale of one dog’s adventures with his furry pals has become an immediate existential classic in France due to the peculiar automatic translation process. Innocuous sentences like: ‘Monty ran to fetch the ball’, which when run through the lingo program was translated as, ‘Monty a fonctionné pour chercher la boule’, seemed to accrue a deeper if less certain significance for the French readership than Darrington had originally intended. A translation back into English of that French phrase being, ‘Monty functioned to seek the ball’.
The slim novel has become a coffee-table favourite amongst the Gallic cognesetti and has been placed on the philosophy syllabus of the Sorbonne university in Paris. Ms. Darrington said that she was surprised by the success of her novel in France and was busily working on the follow-up, tentively entitled Monty and the absent-minded empiriscist.