The translator

Leaving the Shore

 

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I was just hit with the news that Mavis Gallant has passed away. She was truly one of the great dames of Canadian short stories, along with Margaret Atwood (duh...) and Alice Munro (super double duh...). At 91, she was one of those always present rocks of CanLit with a Québécois connection.

She embodied, for me, someone who lived the foreign. "Now we're on my home ground, foreign territory," as Atwood wrote in her novel Surfacing. And that's exactly how I envisoned Gallant, just without the ensuing madness. She was like the white or black dot in the yin yang symbol, always emersed in the Other, that is where she felt anchored, where she sought her emancipation. The place from where she wrote. How she managed to keep from getting swallowed into this overwhelming sea is the enigma for me. Her writings constitute the clues she left behind in order to answer this -- which shore was she referring to?

I would love to translate more of her work, into French, French from Quebec, to bring her back onto her native shore.

My translation of "La vie parisienne", one of Gallant's short stories, published in 1981.


It's off to a start!

SF_GG

It's the beginning. Here marks the beginning of my next 12 months...

 

La langue peut être abordée sous deux grands éclairages – soit, on peut la considérer de l’extérieur comme l’analyste qui veut découvrir le secret de son maniement et de sa « physiologie »; soit, on l’aborde de l’intérieur comme le fait l’écrivain, et de manière plus concise, le poète. Il s’agit de deux mondes à part, qui ne se touchent que très rarement. 

Une discipline qui a pour but de faire interagir la langue sous ces deux perspectives simultanément est la traduction littéraire. Le linguiste et l’écrivain se rencontrent en une personne. L’équilibre entre les deux est particulier – une démarche un peu trop « linguiste » dans la traduction fait perdre la créativité et souvent le lecteur, mais un peu trop de créativité dans l’approche fait basculer le tout en une adaptation et fait perdre la trace de l’auteur(e) original(e). En somme, il faut faire des choix lucides à chaque mot, à chaque phrase, pour chaque voix du début jusqu’à la fin du texte, voir même après.

Pour moi, tout a commencé avec la langue et une curiosité sans bornes pour son fonctionnement tant dans notre cerveau que dans notre manière de la concevoir en temps qu’être humain. Mais cette quête de la linguistique prendra fin. Elle se verra entraver par la réalité du quotidien qui viendra rapidement faire comprendre que l’université appartient à un autre monde.

Dix ans plus tard, c’est par la poésie que la langue me rappelle à elle. Je n’ai plus la « petite gêne » de ma jeunesse qui me nargue de choisir un métier, j’ai la maturité de mes convictions qui me dirigent vers ce qui, je soupçonne, a toujours été sous-jacent dans mes choix.

Durant les séminaires de ma scolarité de maîtrise en traductologie, j’ai exploré plusieurs avenues de recherche. C’est lors de l’exploration d’une de ces avenues que j’ai fait la connaissance des écrits du poète montréalais Abraham Moses Klein. Cette rencontre s’est produite par l’entremise des poèmes de sa collection The Rocking Chair and Other Poems. J’en suis restée étonnée par leur franchise et leur évidente intention de communiquer avec ce que nous, en traductologie, aimons désigner comme l’Autre. Cet Autre n’est que celui qui n’est pas Nous.

À partir de ce point de vue s’amorce toute la notion d’identité propre par rapport à l’entourage, la culture, la langue, le peuple, la nation (pour n’en nommer que cinq). Cette identité se définit au regard de l’Autre. Personne ne vie en vase clos, sinon il n’y aurait aucune raison de définir son identité.

Dans le cas de Klein et de ses écrits, cette analyse identitaire a été très bien faite d’un point de vue intellectuel et académique. Plusieurs recherches (voir même la majorité) ont explicité son identité de poète/écrivain/journaliste juif, anglophone, moderniste et montréalais à l’intérieur du contexte de son époque, de sa culture et des cultures avoisinantes.

Ce qui est plus rare est de saisir cette identité, clairement illustrée non seulement dans ses poèmes, mais également dans sa prose et ses autres écrits, et de la faire passer par la traduction vers le français du Québec, dans la langue de l’Autre. Cela a été entrepris par trois personnes et ne touche que très peu de ses écrits. Il a écrit tant de poèmes – sa collection complète compte plus de mille pages.

Et c’est ici que je rentre en jeu. Le mémoire que je veux remettre à la fin de ma maîtrise est la traduction d’une sélection de poèmes de Klein, accompagnée d’un appareil critique.  

Cet appareil critique approfondira le regard sur la communication avec le Québécois (l’Autre) que Klein a toujours cherché à établir durant une grande partie de sa vie dans ses écrits.

La traduction elle-même sera la mise à l’épreuve de la capacité d’emmener l’identité de Klein vers la langue de l’Autre. Je ne traduirais pas pour rendre la poésie de Klein en un objet anthropologique et informatif aux yeux d’une société savante, mais pour emporter Klein lui-même vers la langue de l’Autre, un changement de perspective en quelque sorte qui incorpore mutuellement les trois cultures qui l’entourent : la culture québécoise, la culture anglo-québécoise et la culture juive.


The news you can find on Facebook!

Claro, that "Sting" "Madona" of the translating world has a Facebook account totally worth following. Commentary on anything and everything that goes on around him.

Although, sometimes I wonder if these Facebookers and Twitterers don't spend more time typing in their lives than actually living them, but hey, to each his own. Somehow, the last thing I think of doing is grabbing my "smart phone" to type in some witty comment when living a great moment or having a flash of inspiration...but it's so much fun reading them...anyway, I digress.

Here's what I found this morning...haven't seen this news anywhere else though.

   Casanova_Claro



Are you in or out?

The perpetual labeling of translation as a phenomenon in the margins raises a problem for me. When you're in the margins, you are in effect outside of something. Translation/translating/the translator represent actually exactly the opposite of this. They are so inside, they have fallen through the cracks and are in a world where they have befriended a little girl called Alice.

Doubt Doubt Sprout...

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Maybe I'm just having my own personal political battle. The fundamental question is who could I serve better?

Again, I get this vivid image of being able to go incognito into the unsuspecting east side to bring back treasures to the west side. You figure it out, it has nothing to do with geography anymore. How much of this apparition has to do with a wider acceptance from the west side and a plus grande méfiance from the east side? Not sure. If it were the case, I could not get away with such easy undercover work. Maybe it just has to do with the act of writing, un point c'est tout. They all think I come from France anyway. How much weight is carried by simply being born somewhere? Automatic "membership", but once the verification process is undertaken, do I pass the examination? Sometimes I feel like such an impostor.

Maybe that's why I feel an affinity for Mavis Gallant. Quels sont les vestiges de mon identité? What kind of shape does my screen have?


Reading Between the Lines...Agnes and the White Elephant

F. Leger's polychrome sunflower in Old Mtl

It takes so very little in the grand scheme of things to completely change directions. What seems so obvious today was completely absent yesterday. So what happened? Was there always a big white elephant in the room and I just happened to be blind?

Talk about the literary translator, read about the literary translator, research the literary translator...blah blah blah. Hell, I want to be the literary translator! Maybe it was simply a question of directness of path, all that meandering built up to explode into what I know I want today. So in essence, not much has changed and at the same time everything is different. I still must research the literary translator, but in a Pygmalion sort of way. What kind of literary translator am I? How can I turn this experience into the discovery of my own making? À voir.

The title of this post is in homage to, yup you guessed it, Agnes Whitfield (again) and her book Writing Between the Lines. Portraits of Canadian Anglophone Translators. It's odd to note that what I seem to be retaining the most in all the portraits are the descriptions of how they (literary translators) go about translating, the method to their madness. I feel like a privileged peeping Tom. Am I concocting a recipe on how to become a literary translator? If so, at least I am basing it on the best ones out there!

I find elements in every single one of them (portraits of these translators) that hits home. I get it, I get them. Stratford's notion of recreating the author's blindness. I get it. Jones' way of translating a poem whereby there is this odd mysterious relationship between the texts and the "inherited code" of culture. I know we can't pinpoint this strange innateness, it's just there. Claxton's adamant drive to get the message across, with all its nuances and details. I get this responsibility completely. But I think it's Sheila Fischman that speaks to me the loudest. "Climbing into the skin of the author" and living out what has been written. To translate what touches her and to stay as closely as possible to the original writing. All this just speaks to me, directly at me. I just know. I've rarely been so certain.


Gallant's Parisian Life

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I was turned onto Mavis Gallant very late in life by a professor of mine. The first thing I read was her collection of short stories Going Ashore published in 2009. It just felt right. She is one of these authors whose work I can read forever. The finer subtleties of her writing keep me keenly awake and looking in the nooks and crannies of her words. I especially love her more recent work, the short stories written in the 80s. She's been at it for so long, it is fascinating to see how time has affected her story writing and her vision of the world.

This is one Montreal dame that definitely has something to say to the francophone readership of la Belle Province. Let's present her as the Québécois Anglophone she started out as (and still is) and yank her translations back over the Atlantic to her hometown of Montreal.

I decided to translate one of them into French. Its title is "Parisian Life" and it was written in 1981.

Please read on for the translation itself...

Continue reading "Gallant's Parisian Life" »


It's All Agnes Whitfield's Fault (and Sherry Simon's for Having Made Me Read Her Books)

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I consciously choose not to have a camp. I decide to walk that line between both, never wanting to "belong" to either permanently. It is my world, my reality, my identity. This is my comfort zone. I repel any rejection from either side and claim binary division as pathetic and facile. My world is defined by a cocoon that feeds off both sides, in all there is of bad, good and mediocre of their essence.

I invent the notion of two worlds qui cheminent selon leurs règles, selon leur vision that nevertheless stay connected due to transfuges (desertors, defectors and renegades like me). I decide the nature of my double-crossing visits. I am a double agent. Sooner or later I will be found out. Mais j'assume! And I will continue to go back and forth. Time will tell if I'm any good. I know I am. At the very least, I know I get it, everytime and all the time. It is what I do with it that will become the crux of the journey.


The OTTIAQ Ethics Seminar

Frustra Legis Old Montreal

I attended the OTTIAQ ethics seminar this past weekend. As difficult as it was to be locked up in a downtown office tower over this glorious weekend, I am quite glad I participated.

Our Saturday comprised of a tight overview of Chapter C-26, the Quebec Professional Code.

Who knew this law was written to protect the public and not the translator? And what of the use of the term "specialist":

58. No person may use the title of specialist or act in such a way as to lead to the belief that he is a specialist unless he holds an appropriate specialist's certificate.

This may not be as obvious in English, but in French, all translators have a "specialité" or are "spécialisés" in a particular domain...it's part of the lingo. The more you translate in a specific field, the better you become in that type of translation and over time you become "specialized". So to find out you are not even allowed to go near this particular term, let alone use it, well...for a translator is comes off as rather "intégriste" on the part of the government. It is strictly reserved for, yup you guessed it...medical doctors or those in health-related professions with "specialist" certificates.

So watch out translators, it could cost you a formal notice or notice of default and a slap on the wrist from the "Ordre" if it appears on your business cards, your website or any form of advertisement in Quebec.