Today I was told a very funny story, and I had to share it. Next time you drive down Lake Ave West take a good look at the No Exit sign on McArthur Street. Did you know that was changed a little over a decade ago? Why? Well that is because some neighbours took offence to a sign on that street that was marked DEAD END. The residents felt the sign wording was disrespectful to the Alan Barker Funeral home and its visitors. But is NO EXIT any better?
No Exit, the play, was originally written in French by jean-Paul Sartre, so the first thing we have to consider is whether “No Exit” is an appropriate translation or not. No exit from what? Yes, the obvious answer is “hell.” Garcin, Inez, and Estelle, the three main characters in the play, are locked in a room together with no windows or fire escapes or trap doors. They can’t exit the room. This also means that they can’t escape from each other – which, if you read the play and its “hell is other people” conclusion, you know is exactly the same thing as not being able to escape hell. They face the fact of their freedom and can be held responsible for their decisions. Because they choose to close the door, they can blame no one but themselves for their confinement to hell.
So where does that leave the translation of the McArthur Street sign? Should we worry? Not really, after all the entrance strategy is actually more important than the exit strategy.