A Peak into my Thesis entitled Crossing the Borders into Québécois Literature, Contemporary Anglo-Literature in Translation

The years of work required by a PhD are hard ones. And I'd like to share a few pages in honour of my being almost done. If you are up to reading some hard core theoretical translation studies material, hold on to your hats, ladies, because here it comes!


Please click on this link to access the PDF of 20 or so odd pages of pure reading pleasure for those in the know or simply the very curious.

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.



Canadian literature is wide, large and extremely beautiful when inclusiveness is the word of order. It is composed of different languages, many of them indigenous. It is open to a wide variety of influences, often contradictory. And it is understudied.

I am not interested in going down that path, the one of why it isn’t taken as seriously as other major literatures, at least not now. Others before me have gone this route, brandishing various very thought provoking reasons, not the least being our lack of a strong (global/national?) identity. It is this ceaseless inward looking eye that bothers me, the need to streamline, categorize, catalogue and label works, so that they fit in a very narrow understanding of what constitutes CanLit. (What a great abbreviation, just think about it: “can” like the verb, a literature that “can.”)

I consider any work that is produced by anyone who has at one point in time identified with, was born, lived, touched or died on Canadian soil, to be a part of CanLit. Indigenous productions, Québécois literature, being contentious members, are for me, works of Canadian literature. They all participate in the complex conversation that is Canada. The idea is not to exclude, but to include more voices, more works, more authors, in order to open this exclusive club. The idea is to trace links between these different works and stand far back enough to see an outline of what CanLit really is.

History has its part to play in this grand piece, but not just Canadian history. What is Canadian history if European and American history (and by extension their literatures with their authors and works) are not included in this structure? Not much. We were not constituted in a vacuum, and we do not operate in one either. No one does. I’m thinking of Jack Kerouac, for example. Why isn’t he considered a part of CanLit? Yann Martel is claimed by CanLit, how is Kerouac any different? Parental filiation in both cases. Martel retains a certain Canadianness, whereas Kerouac had his completely erased.

And translation also has its place. And not just French and English translations. Here, I have in mind Joséphine Bacon’s poetry, in Innu and French, side by side, translated by Phyllis Aranoff, from French into English. And think about works by English-language Quebec authors, translated into French in Quebec. These are all works of CanLit, albeit from minority literatures.

Works to be included in minority (or perhaps minor) literatures, all under the umbrella of CanLit, works that belong to movements, rather than strictly regions. Poets like W. W. E. Ross could finally trully inhabit the Modernist space it deserves. Why couldn’t regional and literary currents intersect, juxtaposed one upon the other, and not be considered contradictory? And what of chronology? Other than being uselful to find out publication and circulation information, it should not constitute a barrier to belonging. Here, Sherry Simon’s three Montreal Modernities comes to mind, parallel currents that did not intersect, but reflected an era much larger than themselves.

And I could go on. And I will go on. I promise.

R. M. Vaughan's 14 Reasons Not To Eat Potato Chips On Church Street


For those of you who are wondering about my title, no, it has absolutely nothing to do with the nutritional content of potato chips or any sort of guide to dieting. It is the title of a poem, one written by R. M. Vaughan and originally printed as a chap book back in April 1999 for National Poetry Month by Ottawa-based Above/Ground Press. A few months later that same year, it came out in Vaughan's collection of poems Invisible to Predators, published by ECW Press. But more recently, in 2007, it was published in Barton and Nickerson's anthology Seminal by Arsenal Pulp Press. This is where, with the guidance of a wise professor, I happened upon it. The poem is a riot. It made me giggle all the way to this blog page.

And now that I have read it through a few times, googled some of the more oblique angles in my spotty connaissances, I find it is perhaps less fluffy than I may have judged at first glance.

First, a bit about the poet. R. M. Vaughan, or Richard Murray for those who, like me, are curious about the meaning of initials in place of actual names. Of course, this curiostity only amounts to silly sleuthing and is usually quickly solved with the first lines of a Wikipedia entry, but in this case, and in the name of serious academia, I relied on the University of Toronto's Canadian Poetry Online website to provide me with an encyclopedic quantity of information on Vaughan. Needless to say, I will not repeat what can easily be found on the above mentioned site, which is chalked full of information.

Broadly writing, this poet, novelist, playwright, video artist and journalist seems to live up to his "writing philosophy" of Genius is Volume. The sheer quantity of material he has written, produced, published, brought to the stage is a bit overwhelming. Until I read the poem I will discuss, I had never heard of this New Brunswick-born, Toronto-residing artist. One piece of biographical information that I find relevant to mention is his passage in the mid-1990s, as the playwright-in-residence, in Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times professional theatre, a not-for-profit company "dedicated to the promotion of Queer Canadian culture." The reason I find this relevant is that it clearly places Vaughan's writing in the Gay literature genre. Gay experience is at the heart of what he writes, and his collection of poetry Invisible to Predators clearly demonstrates this.

A reviewer in Quill & Quire called the collection "A candid celebration of homosexual love" where Vaughan's poems navigate from the deeply emotional connection of love, to a considerably abstract reply to a French revolutionary's last words to his wife before being sent to the guillotine. In all of this rather profound and touching poetry, we find a piece about potato chips held together with strange words of wisdom based on Torontonian geography. And what immediately comes to my mind is that there has to be more to it than that.

 A quick first reading of the poem made me snicker. Who hasn't been plagued with the little (and sometimes not-so-little) insecurities of weight gain and the social pressure to "keep thin?" By giving heed to the 14 reasons, the poet essentially wants to remain/become attractive (reasons 1, 5, 10 and 12), watch his nutrition in public (reason 7), steer clear of social shame associated with the consumption of junk food (reasons 3, 4, 11 and 13), watch his personal hygene in much the same way a mother would warn her son (reasons 2 and 9); let's not forget the financial predicament of an artist which stipulates that he or she be poor and therefore starving (reason 6 pushes in this direction) and what of the concept of luck, where only bad things will happen to you, much like crossing the path of a black cat. Although, I would like to find out more about the adversity of wearing a white shirt on Saturday night.

I have purposely left out the last reason, number 14. Prior to Vaughan terminating it on the satiric and resolutely fatalistic "But now it's too late," the preceeding four lines contemplate a different place: "a kinder neighbourhood, someplace more real, a family place", where he might meet someone who would be able to love him for what he is, potato chip-eating and all.  By leaving (specifically the Church and Wellesley Village, Toronto's largest LGBT neighbourhood), he might have a chance at some kind of peace. The safety zone of the gay community seems to be suffocating our poet. Gay turf, historically cloistered and turned onto itself, has become a space of repression where stereotypical political and social righteousness rule. You have to walk the walk, or else. And sadly, for this poet, and in his own words, "it's too late."


A Typical Montreal Historical Saga (the 60s)

The carefully sketched out picture of Montreal in translation in the 1960s is one of an awakening of consciousness. There is a moment in life when, emerging from childhood, we all start to question what has made up life up to then. The incoherences or anomalies invisible to us until then suddenly come into full light.

Rather than hiding behind hole-filled walls as they have done for centuries, certain individuals scamper up the brickwork and far from being satisfied with this new view, jump down on the other side. Unbeknownst to them, they have lived with a hybrid language and culture, not quite French, definitely not English. The desire to clearly distinguish what is theirs and separate themselves from all that is English and what it represents is the manifestation of this awakening. Observations and affirmations, political, linguistic and cultural, have their outlet in the choice of language.

How fascinating to find out Malcolm Reid's book was not translated until very recently. How did this work end up shelved for so many years?

(Translating Montreal Episodes in the Life of a Divided City, Chapter 1 - The Crosstown Journey)

Doubt Doubt Sprout...

Odéon_LeComptoir 4464

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?

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 between...it'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...