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  • Traductions/Translations
  • Agnès Whitfield (bio)

When I took over the column in 2002, the translation omnibus review covered only translations from French into English, and the works reviewed were those that publishers sent to the Quarterly. My first objective was to balance the review by adding an equal section on translations from English into French and to ensure that as many as possible of the literary translations published in Canada each year were received and reviewed. Initially, this involved checking the translations submitted for the Governor General's Award. However, as this list was not comprehensive, another system was adopted, involving communicating yearly with Canadian anglophone and francophone publishers to request press copies of any translations they had published that year. By and large, publishers responded well, and while this approach did not allow for inclusion of translations of Canadian literary works into French or English done outside Canada, it did provide for a good overall vision of translation activity between English and French within Canada. It also implicitly permitted a larger view of Canadian translation activity, since the list of works received included all the translations published by solicited [End Page 317] presses, whether these works would generally be considered literary or not. Literary translation is part of a broader ecosystem of literary and cultural exchange, affected by the circulation of culturally significant works, and an attempt has been made to provide some assessment of these kinds of translations, predominantly of essays on historical or contemporary questions that have some bearing on or relevance for anglophone and francophone exchange in Canada.

Focusing on translation trends, the review column has provided a general assessment of the health of the translation ecosystem and has increasingly sounded the alarm. Unfortunately, there is no indication in this year's translation production that any improvement is in sight. Translations, particularly into English, once again show far too many linguistic errors and painfully raise the question of how publishers edit translations. Since many of the errors are obvious in a reading just of the target text, one wonders if translations are not receiving less editorial attention than original texts, and if so, what this indicates about the status of translations. The choice of texts to be translated, always erratic, is increasingly a reflection of market factors, favouring some authors and eliminating many others, independent of any assessment of the potential of the translation to contribute to a greater understanding of the other culture. In some cases, commercial factors would appear to exacerbate cultural tensions. The pool of reliable translators, particularly into English, is shrinking to a dismal few. With some notable exceptions, translations into English continue to demonstrate a tendency to upgrade the text in some way, projecting the image of a more stultified and pedantic writing style that can decrease interest and appreciation for francophone writers. The way the Canada Council awards translation grants needs urgently to be reviewed to include a review process for the translation to ensure quality. Given the number of errors present even in works short-listed for the Governor General's Award, a revision of the adjudication process, perhaps to include the participation of professional translators, is essential, if these awards are to retain their legitimacy.

De Quelques Traductions D'Essais vers le Français

Mon pays c'est un roman. Un atlas littéraire du Canada de Noah Richler, traduit par Lori Saint-Martin et Paul Gagné, n'est pas un cours d'histoire littéraire, comme le suggère le titre, mais le périple opportuniste d'un journaliste du National Post dans l'univers des lettres dans le but de nouer des contacts et reproduire les propos des auteurs. Dans ce reportage biaisé, Richler semble avoir été motivé davantage par le désir d'étaler ses propres fantasmes que par le souci d'approfondir la qualité de son regard. Les auteurs cités sont triés sur le volet pour illustrer une thèse et le résultat est un album entre nostalgie et persiflage. La traduction [End Page 318] reste professionnelle. Ce n'était pas facile d'échapper à cette écriture bour-souflée et de donner vie à un ramassis informe d'entrevues et de...


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