- Writing between the Lines: Portraits of Canadian Anglophone Translators
Since the time of the inaugural funding of literary translations by the Canada Council in the early 1970s and the subsequent founding of the Literary Translators' Association of Canada, many important assessments of the theory and practice of Canadian literary translation have been published, among them F.R. Scott and Anne Hébert, Dialogue sur la traduction (1970); ellipse 21, 29/30, 50, 51; Translation in Canadian Literature (1983); Mapping Literature: The Art and Politics of Translation (1988); Canadian Literature 117; Re-belle et infidèle: The Body Bilingual (1991); and Culture in Transit: Translating the Literature of Quebec (1995). To that distinguished list of scholarly studies must now be added this recent work edited by Agnes Whitfield. Herself well known as a past contributor to such endeavours, she has added significantly to her reputation with this collection – comprising twelve chapters by a dozen scholars in the field (one chapter is itself a translation from a French text), each focusing on a single English-language translator, and offering valuable insights into the life and work of that multi-talented dozen: W.H. Blake, John Glassco, Joyce Marshall, Philip Stratford, D.G. Jones, Patricia Claxton, Sheila Fischman, Barbara Godard, Ray Ellenwood, Susanne de Lotbinie're-Harwood, John Van Burek, and Linda Gaboriau. Demonstrating her versatility and mobility in the bi-directional world [End Page 413] of literary translation, Whitfield had earlier produced the equivalent volume in French: Le Métier du double: portraits de traductrices et traducteurs littéraires (2005). On the whole, her assembled jury acquit themselves, and their subjects, very well here, paying consistent homage to the true elders of the Canadian translation tribe, nine of them still living, but with an average age now approaching seventy. Nearing retirement, or already past it, they have bequeathed a rich heritage and legacy to Canadian literature, and their achievements are therefore justly celebrated here.
Whitfield offers an informative overview in her 'Introduction,' and herself presents one of the twelve accounts. In addition, the text as a whole provides a cumulative historical survey of the interrelationships at the heart of literary translation in Canada, notably centred at three universities (Sherbrooke, McGill, and York). Perhaps not coincidentally, the most memorable portraits here are those detailing the life and work of Canada's very best literary translators (Joyce Marshall, Philip Stratford, D.G. Jones, and Sheila Fischman) since the authors of these profiles skilfully demonstrate the close ties between the personal and professional in the translators' lives, and document how and why they became such distinguished practitioners of the art of translation. Throughout, the authors provide immensely helpful bibliographies of both translated works and writings on translation by their subjects, and also direct readers to valuable archives such as those housed at Guelph (Van Burek), Bishop's (Marshall), and the National Library (Fischman).
At the same time, a few caveats are in order. Some references are no longer timely: Fischman is said to have 'just' published a work that appeared in 2003, and Jane Everett's article on Marshall does not mention In Translation, the important Marshall–Roy correspondence she edited in 2005. There are many variations in the format of information about translations among the chapters and at times within them, and sometimes information about the original or the translation is missing. Although the editor quotes Claxton's view that 'references . . . should be right,' her article on that translator misaligns endnotes 15–18 and erroneously assigns 28–30 to the English translation of Roy's letters to her sister rather than to the original French text. The article on Godard misreports both the page numbers for the Lise Gauvin translation (as 214–20 rather than 136–39) and gets wrong three times the title Collaboration in the Feminine: Writings on Women and Culture from Tessera, though it is accurately reported elsewhere in the text. The final word in the title of Marshall's translation for the Tamarack Review 40 is misreported as 'Authors' rather than 'Novelists.' The publication...