Eng => Fr

Leaving the Shore



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.

Summer translating is the best

Phone (1)
So, I've been sitting on my balcony translating away some Klein for the past few weeks and I have been loving it. There is no small feat of strategizing involved as the kids, the impending end of school, work and a plethora of details (like laundry, for example) keep coming up. I do my best to promptly attend to them (cough, cough) and then book myself whole days of balcony translating.

I have found a "stream-of-translating" kind of approach to translating these poems works rather well. I always have a photocopy of the original poem so that I can whip it around the work surface (way easier than the 1000-page compilation whence it comes!). Then the ever-present pen and paper for any sort of note-taking to compensate for my faltering memory. Of course, the word processor open and ready to take in the translation and the Web browser opened to a selection of dictionaries that I find helpful for this work in particular.

I am translating A.M. Klein into French... think Shakespeare, anglo-norman roots and the whole shebang. For this, I love, absolutely LOVE, the OED. The etymology of words is the best and often I can pick up a French version of the word directly form there. When all else fails, I jot back and forth from the OED to the Petit Robert. I want to have access to the Grand Robert... working on that presently. Then I also have a rhyming dictionary handy - I like the BaRBeRy because you can manipulate it to obtain the type of rhyme needed. And of course, I could not do without the CRISCO! This one is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

So, all the chosen poems have been translated. I'm in the tweaking phase right now. But I have one major problem on my hands... they do not fit the blabla édulcoré I spewed out about them earlier this spring. Argh.

They were supposed to fit in as the "forgotten" poems of the Rocking Chair collection. A couple of them do, but that's the issue, just a couple of them. So I have to figure out how to deal with this. I love translating Klein's poetry and I would not see it d'un mauvais oeil if I had to translate some more of it. Especially the poems about himself and his natures mortes. 

I'm going to have to think about this some more... à suivre.

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: http://www.lessius.eu/transimage/

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.



A.M. Klein is a well-known Canadian modernist poet from Montreal whose writing had to wait over 40 years to be read in French translation. As wide as this gap in time may be, it is not a surprising one. However, what does prompt further investigation is the timing in the appearance of these translations.

Klein’s poetry transforms him into a well-positioned and talented observer of his era. But upon closer inspection, his writing also takes on an unexpected relevance in Montreal’s 21st century.

Applying the translation studies concepts of “translatability” and “furthering”, as defined by Sherry Simon, I will explore his short poem “O God ! O Montreal !”. I will illustrate the relevancy of Klein’s opinion within his own period but also how this view was, at the time, condemned to stay within a static cultural environment. Over two decades have passed since and Montreal’s cultural environment is quite different from the one in which Klein wrote. But nevertheless, today’s pluricultural Montreal is fraught by an echo from Klein’s writing.

In this particular poem, Klein makes Montreal’s historical and cultural realities cross paths over a period of two centuries. Like an elegant time capsule, the poem is a criticism of Montreal’s suspicious perception of all that is “culture” and traces a part of our history all the while helping us answer the question: How did we get this way?

All this brings us to the importance of translating more of Klein’s poetry as a way of reconstituting and enriching a part of Montreal’s cultural history from the very valid and seldom considered vantage point, the Anglophone poet.

It's off to a start!


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.

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" »