Current Affairs

What is Anglo-Québécois Literature? (WASM talk)

The Women's Art Society of Montreal , an institution that has been around since 1894, honoured me with an invitation to come and speak to their members and the public at large about a topic very dear to my heart, Anglo-Québécois literature. I had the privilege to outline the topic and discuss its impact on Québécois literature today to a wonderful and welcoming crowd.

Promise held, here are a few links to several publishers, groups, authors, associations, posts, videos and events that I mentioned during my talk.

Sherry Simon and her books Translating Montreal. Episodes in the Life of a Divided City and Cities in Translation: Intersections of Language and Memory

"Pre-Anglo-Québécois" authors mentioned were:

  • A. M. Klein (The Rocking Chair Collection)
  • Mavis Gallant (Montreal Stories)
  • Gwethelyn Graham (Earth and High Heaven)
  • Hugh MacLennan (Two Solitudes)
  • F. R. Scott (and his conversation with Anne Hébert about his translation of her poem Le tombeau des rois)

The Flow of Languages, the Grace of Cultures .. and although this talk was given back in 2010, it is still relevant.

In this article, Neil Smith gives us a humorous look at translation in Quebec : Translating Montreal: Where Blueberries are not Myrtilles

Quebec publishing houses translating Anglo-Québécois works, among other English-language works originating in the rest of Canada.

Alto is a publisher worth looking into as it has published many translated works. Here are just the latest.

And here is the link to Mordecai Richler published by Boréal

Alto and Marchand de feuilles are two French-language Quebec publishers. Many Anglo-Québécois authors have their books published in Toronto as English-language publishers in Quebec are not large outfits. One that was mentioned (in the short video of Guillaume Morissette) is Vehicule Press. It has been around since 1973, and today is run by poet Simon Dardick and Archivist Emerita Nancy Marrelli.

Part of the publishing English-language puzzle is the Association of English-language Publishers of Quebec, an organization that "advances the publication, distribution, and promotion of English-language books from Quebec." They also publish the Montreal Review of Books, "a free, nationally distributed journal of reviews, features, and essays on English-language books by Quebec writers and publishers." English-language publishers in Quebec, a topic that merits further study and discussion.

Another important subject I did not have time to broach is about the translators themselves... do not forget to look at who is translating these Anglo-Québécois authors. Most are Québécois authors in their own right.

The Blue Metropolis Festival will be going on from April 20 to 29 this year. Here is this year's program

The Quebec Writers' Federation is an important institutional organisation that not only helps out English-language authors but also creates and funds a number of community programs, events and workshops involving literature. Their yearly literary awards have been around for decades.

The English Language Arts Network "connects, supports, and creates opportunities for Quebec’s English-speaking artists and arts communities."

The Quebec Drama Federation is Anglophone theatre's version of the QWF.

Don't hesitate to comment if I have forgotten to mention anything. All quoted passages are not my own words and come from the related linked websites.



A New Journal Specialized in Translation and Interpreting!

Transletters. International Journal of Translation and Interpreting is a brand spanking new journal that is looking for submissions for its first issue. Deadline is April 30, 2018. María del Mar Ogea from the Universidad de Córdoba and Christiane Nord from Universität Heidelberg are its chief editors, and its advisory board is full of linguistics and translation studies super stars. Don't miss this opportunity to appear in their first issue.

So you're teaching this semester...

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This will be a quick and practical blog entry. The point is to provide links to a few pieces of literature that can help PhD students organize their first teaching gig here in Université de Montréal's Département d'études anglaises (ÉTANG).

Having been in this position not too long ago, I know only too well how daunting this can feel. The mountain of information available out there in the cyber world is almost as disorienting as being on the other side of the desk on that first day of class. A few choice pieces of information can go a long way in supporting you through this situation. After all, teaching will most likely become an integral part of your life if you’re a doctoral student.

The Contract

To apply to teach one of the courses "soustraits à l'affichage" that you are interested in, you simply follow the instructions that Mélissa Grenier sends you in the email that advertises these courses. We get them at the beginning of each semester. If you are selected to teach, Ms. Marianne Gallo will ask you to come in to sign a "Contract d'engagement." You are then responsible for the course's preparation.

The Syllabus

First and foremost in this process is creating the course syllabus. Proper preparation of this teaching tool is paramount to getting off on the right foot. It will keep you organized and help the students know exactly what to do througout the semster, and avoid any undue miscommunication. Here are two links from the Université de Montréal’s PAFEU website (Parcours d’autoformation des enseignants universitaires) on preparing course syllabi.

PAFEU - Plan de cours
Designing a Great Syllabus

In my own experience, I have found that relying on a recent course syllabus prepared by a professor, especially one from the course you are going to teach, to be a great place to start. And once your own syllabus completed, getting it looked over by your supervisor is an additional way to make sure it passes muster regarding the inclusion of important elements.

Beyond your name, course number, class time, email and office hours, you will have to write a personalized brief course description and provide the students with the list of the required texts (see next paragraph for bookstore ordering). Another part of the syllabus has to do with required course assignments and the evaluation methods, along with their distribution (e.g. percentage worth of each element) This is also a great place to explain exactly what you expect as far as content and presentation is concerned (e.g. MLA style for essays). Policy regarding late assignments and plagiarism also fits well in this part of the syllabus. This is then followed by the semester's reading and teaching schedule, broken down by class. The material is portioned off into teachable sections that include a title, the required readings and deadlines for assignments.

The Bookstore

When you have been assigned a class to teach, an integral part of putting a course together revolves around the material you will use to teach. The books you choose are an important part of this. And once that choice is made, you will have to order from the university bookstore. They are the ones responsible for making sure the right number of books is available for your students. But, as no one is perfect, there is always a margin of error that you must account for in this process. By ordering your books early enough though, the bookstore has a better chance of fixing any issues that come up along the way.

The first class I taught was a grammar class. Since I did not have the responsibility of chosing the course manual, I simply ordered the manual used in the preceding semester the course had been given. I found out what book this was by looking at the previous course syllabus available online in the department. I contacted the bookstore, informed them that I was a grad student that was going to teach a course (use precise name and number of course here) in the upcoming semester and inquired about the book ordering procedure. Mélanie Primeau guided me through the entire process. You will find her contact information below.

Mélanie Primeau | Gérante
Librairie Université de Montréal
Pav. 3200 Jean-Brillant | 3200 Jean-Brillant, local B-1315
Montréal (Québec) H3T 1N8
téléphone:514-343-6111, poste 30167| Télécopieur:514-343-6350
courriel : [email protected]


I have included here a teaching manual I was given at the beginning of a ProGradSkills course I took a few years ago. Obviously, seventy-four pages is insufficient to constitute a thorough and complete guide to teaching in college and university, but there are some useful pointers. Download _The_CDN_Teaching_Manual

It is important to remember that you are teaching a course, and that class time is the best time to give information to the students. If several student emails come in regarding a specific point that is turning out to be unclear, I have found it very useful to use Studium's "Dernières nouvelles" feature to send out generalized information to everyone in the class. As a matter of fact, Studium allows you to transmit a lot of information to your students. I use it to post the syllabus and any documents, or online links to documents, that should be read before a class. It is worth inversting time in learning how it functions, as it will save you a lot of effort in disseminating information to your students during the semester. My students are warned ahead of time that I favour this method of communication and that I will only contact them through their university email.


Conversation with Mireille: Saturday Morning Giggles Over Writing Retreats

About a thousand years ago, back in high school, I had a plethora of real live friends and acquaintances. Unfortunately, the much older and wiser person that I am now (please insert giggle here) is left with very little time to dabble in the outwardly social. From this aforementioned "plethora" I have constituted a good solid base of Facebook friends. In comparison to some folks out there, the so-called solid base is microscopic. I don't collect them for show. I just do it so that I have something to do when stuck waiting somewhere and the only entertainment at my disposal is my handy dandy "smart phone."

There is one person's certain Facebook post that I look forward to every week. It acts as a friendly reminder to read a certain column in the National Post. I could very easily just go online and find this column myself, but the extremely lazy soul that I am prefers to rely on someone else's prompt and reliable postings rather than add to my own list of never-ending things to do. These posts usually turn up as I wait for Lili's Saturday morning Mandarin classes to end. Perfect timing.

But it isn't just a question of timing. This column is good. It also makes me feel good. It is vastly entertaining to see how someone's view of their universe can so easily find echo in mine, malgré nos différences évidentes. The reading is so entertaining that I always want to answer her, like in a conversation, only on "paper" (screen?)

This week's column hit so close to home that here I am, ready to take up the (one way) conversation… 


Your infamous rate of word production. I know a thing or two about this exact issue, and yes it includes children, fathers' country homes and food too. How totally odd the way you instantly locked into familiar territory for me. 

So, no, I don't write for a newspaper, nor have I written short stories. My scribblings are on a much smaller scale. Last year, I finished my MA thesis, an almost 100-page chunk of research in the realm of literature. Funny, because the subject of my thesis also hit close to home with another one of your posts. But that's another story.

I did come to the conclusion, as you did, that the kids are not really the issue so much as us wanting them to be. I'm beginning to wonder if procrastination isn't a Freudian "mom thing." 

Retreats, I know a thing or two about those and they also include my father the writer and his country home. Although he doesn't drive me completely crazy about food, he is rather set in his ideas as to what goes into the definition of "good for you" food. Some members of the family have sharply commented on this over the years -- My husband is almost afraid to drink his coffee. No, Dad, fresh ground pepper should NOT go into the freshly ground coffee… the ensuing cup does not make for a pleasurable experience. And as my younger sister has maintained since adolescence, chicken is not best boiled with a carrot. Then there is the story of when my father mistook Mom's vichyssoise for milk and poured it over his morning cereal. This event did not bode well with my mother after he threw it all down the sink thinking the milk had gone bad.

I could go on, I have a ton of these stories. Let's just say that my father has developed an approach to cooking that has had its hits and misses. Although I do have to say that the smoked salmon cured with maple syrup is a total hit with Lili and I.

My last writing retreat at my father's country home was, well, regulated by the "healthy" meals he would prepare for both of us -- no salt anywhere and olive oil everywhere. So, to answer your question, you're right, it's not just your father. But I'm not so convinced it's just your people either. Going to the village for the papers, and in his case usually bread also, rang oddly familiar when I read you this Saturday.

As for music, no. It's a totally different story. He does sometimes get all classical on me. But usually, it's NPR à tue-tête throughout out the house. But his tolerance for people's chatter has greatly diminished over the years. It's just the volume that freaks me out. I know he's not going deaf, so why? Again, must be Freudian.

Oh, and the McGill Law Journal Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, does it look like this? Yea, I have my own copy, from my days as a legal translator. The coincidences really are weird.

À samedi prochain.




Off to Antwerp I go!

I found some fantastic news in my inbox bright and early last Monday morning. My submission to the Translation and National Images conference in Antwerp and Amsterdam has been accepted! The topics fit perfectly within my research so I said "What the heck, looks good to me!" and it seems that the conference's scientific committee said the same thing.

Here's the link to the conference itself hosted by Lessius University College and the University of Amsterdam, with the support of CETRA, University of Leuven:

The title of my presentation is A Case of Transposing National Identity in Literary Translation: Translating Montreal Anglophone Jewish Poet A.M. Klein into French, in Quebec.

The gist of it is my desire to implant a couple things. First, the whole field of Anglo-Québécois literature needs to be put out in the forefront and what better way to do this than to translate this literature into French for the French Québécois population. If they don't know this kind of literature exists, how can it get its stripes? And one of the ways they will be able to read it is through translation. I am going to stop here, otherwise I will get carried away.

Secondly, I think (believe...whatever, it's a question of opinion here) that A.M. Klein started looking cross-culturally at a time when it just wasn't done. His "voice", as a result, wasn't really heard on the other side all that well. I think it's time more Francophones find out who he was and what he said about them (way back in the 1940s). Some may be surprised to find out that he actually felt a certain kinship with them... him, the Jewish Anglophone poet... who would have thought.

So, in a nutshell, that's my project for this conference and it will specifically revolve around the poem Parade of St. Jean Baptiste and my translation of it.

I'll post the abstract as soon as it's all in order.

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.


Gallant's Parisian Life

  Editeurs 4464

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" »

Tourism in la Belle Province and Adaptation...A Losing Battle? Part One

This winter, I taught a university level adaptation class. Advertising adaptation is an infinitely fascinating subject. What seems to stick out most is how haphazard the actual process is.

There is an entire industry that somewhat overlaps with advertising adaptation. We know it as "localization", the adaptation or translation of websites and computer applications. This well-structured and many-tiered discipline goes beyond straight forward translation. It calls upon vital cultural, ethnographical and anthropological elements along with a powerhouse of computer programmers and engineers armed with cutting-edge software, hardware, all of it overseen by global project managers and business strategists. Take the hard-core computer aspect out of the equation and the resulting structure can apply to adaptation as it is done by the bigger players within the advertising industry.

And then you have individual translators who try their hand at ad work. Afflicted with language-oriented tunnel vision preventing any sort of viable cross-border exportation, the resulting translation can be very disappointing.

I know, I have presented two extremes. So now just imagine everything that can be found in's the Wild West!

The bottom line of the advertising industry is to sell something. To sell, you have to appeal to a well-defined market. You have to understand how they feel, what they eat, what gets on their nerves and you have to have a general sense of their day-to-day existence. Otherwise, forget it, they won't even notice you or they will laugh at you, or even worse, they will get really MAD at you! So, how do you avoid this? You research. All clients do it so that their advertising agencies can come up with appropriate and successful ads. And success is rated by...that bottom line...dollars; how much more product was sold as a result of the advertisement (although as Mathieu Guidère has aptly pointed out, no one has come up with an explicit formula!)

I also know I haven't written anything here that comes as a surprise to anyone. And yet, examples of grand and not so grand blunders abound. They can be found everywhere on the Internet, bloggers especially love to point them out. Some "faux-pas" are hysterically funny while others leave you wondering what was going through the head of the people in charge of the project. You don't even have to go that far. Here in Montreal, glancing at the daily papers is usually sufficient to notice questionable blunders. My students had a ball bringing them to me all throughout the semester and it wasn't even an assignment! (Probably will be next time though.)

So how do Tourisme Montréal and Tourisme Québec fit into this picture? Unfortunately, very easily and not on the good side.

Back in December 2009 (Tuesday the 8th, to be precise), the Globe and Mail  printed an article that I brought into class: "Quebec faces backlash over English-only ads". This is a classic story about bad research in advertising/adaptation. Tourisme Québec sent out a glossy English-only brochure praising the merits of snowmobiling in Quebec. The target market was Ontario (the second largest French-speaking population outside of Quebec) and the northeast United States.

Ontario had a field day. How was it that Quebec had the audacity to send out material in English only! The reaction was so heated, director of communications for the Quebec Ministry of Tourism, Michel-André Roy had to apologize and the ministry decided to adapt the campaign and send out new French-version brochures. Hmmmm...this is what happens when you don't research your target audience.

Now the problem is defined as such here. But if you step back, could it be symptomatic of a larger issue? Has Quebec turned so onto itself that it cannot get a sense of what happens to be around it? I believe Northrop Frye called this the "garrison mentality". Quebec has erected such tall walls around itself in order to prevent anything from coming in and attacking that it has great difficulty getting a sense of what happens to be growing in the garden next door... Ok, the walls are "semi" or "pseudo" transparent and perhaps even a tad unidirectional, but there is absolutely no excuse for not knowing your neighbour for pete's sake. That's the part that makes my hair stand up on the back of my neck. Does Quebec (Ministry of Tourism) have any idea how Quebec is truly perceived? Grand temps pour une étude, non?

The mistake made by Tourism Quebec is the one of an amateur. Who made this decision? Had that person (or persons) even set foot in Ontario before? Had they even considered an adaptation during the whole process? 

But the tourism saga does not end here. In part two, I will give you a glimpse of an English-language hotel brochure from Tourisme Montréal. It will have you all questioning the quality of adaptation coming out of this organization. Well, it had me worried anyways...

Last Weekend's Reading...Is Culture Language or is Language Culture?

Le Botero à George

In last Sunday's New York Times there was an article entitled "Pardon my French" by Michael Kimmelman. I gobbled it up and promised myself I would write a blog post about it.

But where to begin!

Let me throw in a couple keywords to orient the conversation: French, language, snobbery, elitism, culture, politics, globalization, writers.

For eons, the French had a monopoly on the French language, everything and anything "French" came out of "France". The culture and the political implications of associating oneself with this culture boiled down to the use of the French language. The snobbery and elitism associated or mixed in with the French language all related back to the country itself and its historic culture. But this isn't the case anymore, or at least there seem to be cracks appearing in the logic. Kimmelman points out a very interesting statistic in his article - there are approximately "200 million French speakers in the world but only 65 million are actually French." But the "French" are so parochial...if it doesn't come from "France", well it is just NOT French.

Enter globalization...Now I think we have to be very careful about the definition of the term. Many see it as an assimilatory label. Kimmelman quotes Abdou Diouf, secretary general of the francophone organization as saying that "The more we have financial, military and economic globalization, the more we find common cultural references and common values, which include diversity. And diversity, not uniformity, is the real result of globalization." A way of distinguishing ourselves and our culture from others out there is to point out our differences. In phonology, its called phonemic differentiation! The infamous "minimal pair". Bottom line, it's the differences that count. 

The main point though is that globalization will not be halted. It simply is not something that can be stopped. The most important thing we can do is watch it carefully to see how it manifests itself and go along for the ride. I am not being pessimistic here, just realistic. When everyone and anyone can raise their hand to say "Hey I'm different and I count, look at me", the compelling question becomes how will it all tally in the end?

So the "French" from "France" and their French...has the nostalgic taste of colonialism. Culture and language can and are intimately linked, but I believe the over-ridding element in this duo is the culture and the language is simply one of its vassels. Over the course of time, the vassel is shaped by the culture to fit it like a gorgeous kid glove: you can't lend it to anyone anymore, it just won't fit any other hand. But it's just the glove, not the hand itself.

The end of the article looked at literature and specifically writers who craft their art in French...even though they are not French. Pascale Casanova's book "La république mondiale des lettres" just kept coming back to mind as I read on: if the proverbial book doesn't go through French literary establishment, well it just isn't "literature" in the noble sense of the word! Anything worth the attribute of "literature" is written, translated into French and published in France (point final!)

But how long can this still hold with a majority of French speakers who do not identify with this specific culture? Are we faced with a potentially dwindling empire in the long run? Will it allow others to enter in order to survive? Or will it die out from its incestuous elitism (all of a sudden, my mind sees Egyptian pharaohs marrying their sisters to keep the "blood line pure"...too much Discovery channel here, sorry about that.)

French publishers have always kept that door well guarded and no one was let in if they could not produce the secret password...except when they were duped, like in the case of Makine and his "retroactive original" of Dreams of my Russian Summers (see article).

But the best quote comes from Nancy Huston, qui parle en toute connaissance de cause!

"The French literary establishment which still thinks of itself as more important than it is, complains about the decline of its prestige but treats francophone literature as second class while laying claim to the likes of Kundera, Beckett and Ionesco, who were all born outside France. That is because, like Makine, they made the necessary declaration of love for France (read "secret password" here!) But if the French bothered actually to read what came out of Martinique or North Africa, they would see that their language is in fact not suffering."

So, France does not have the exclusivity on kid gloves, there are plenty of new pairs to go around. But how do you get rid of a monopolizing bully? I'll get back to you on that in another post at the end of my masters.

And just to bring the point home, here is what Algerian writer Mohammed Moulessehoul said at the end of Kimmelman's article: "Paris is still fearful of a French writer who becomes known around the world without its blessing." But to illustrate the other side of the coin, he adds "and at the same time in certain Arab-speaking circles I am considered a traitor because I write in French. I am caught between two cultures, two worlds."

So, could this be about using someone else's kid glove? Never fits quite right.

Here is a link to the New York Times article itself: Pardon my French

Good reading.