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TRANSLATIONS 383 eccentric. Indeed, the effect of Bill Ballantyne's AI Cornell in The AlCornell Story (Playwrights Canada, 64, $4.95 paper) relies on our having heard his opinions, stories, and wisecracks before. AI is not exactly a bore, but he is a little shopworn, and behind the assumed patter, evidently, more than a little frantic. A second-rate cocktail pianist, he talks about everything but his true self; the anecdotal versions run along the lines of the time he played with Buddy Rich. The populist rhetoric of his opinions of the world and its ways only makes plainer his pathetic evasiveness, and the action of the play largely sees him in retreat, from his agent and a challenging audition, from his family, and from his present job. But he does not disappear entirely: he is back at the piano in the closing scene,as full ofhis instant opinions as ever, a comic survivor. We are not to take his crisis too seriously, and the play is carried along by the sheer liveliness of his gab. In David Type's Just Us Indians (Playwrights Canada, 55, $4.95 paper) the setting is once again domestic, and the people are the roomers in Mary's Cabbagetown house, whichis, as she puts it, something of 'a freak farm.' The play begins with a series of monologues of failure: from Mary, who has never escaped from her run-down neighbourhood; Bobby, an ageing transvestite; and Tashie, who has left her reservation in search of something better. Mary, at least, is armed with a defiant optimism which her experience has never dented, and she does what she can to impress it on those around her. She tries it even on Ted, an aggressive young thug who steals money from the house, and she succeeds to the extent that he brings it back when he has won more while gambling. Inspired by her reading of this episode as a parable, she literally transforms the whole world of the play, waving her broom like a wand to produce a stairway to the stars and pantomime costumes for everyone, closing the action with tongue-in-cheek fantasy. Type's writing has wit and energy, and, if the play is hardly original, its vitality should impress both actors and audiences. Translations KATHY MEZEI 'I don't see what you have against her, except that she is so original.' Well, I don't like originals, I like translations.' Mr. Ludlow had more than once replied. (Henry James, The Portrait ofa Lady) The reader who likes translations has the pleasure of choosing among a diversity of texts this year: short stories, criticism, drama, poetry, novels both popular and post-modern, and two anthologies. One anthology is the number 47 special issue of Canadian Fiction Magazine (1983, 256, $7.50 paper), called 'A Decade of Quebec Fiction,' although it consists neither merely of short fiction nor of writing from the past decade (Ferron's tales date from 1968). It is, in fact, an eclectic collection of interviews (with Yves Theriault, Nicole Brossard), artfully composed photographs by Kero, an excerpt of Jovette Marchessault's latest play, Alice and Gertrude and Natalie and Rene [sic] and dear Ernest, selections from Jacques Brossard's Le Metamorfaux, Gerard Bessette's novel Le Garden-Party de Christophine, Madeleine Ouellette-Michalska's feminist essay L'Echappeedes discours de I'reil, an engagingjournalarticleby . Jean Blouin and Jean-Pierre Myette, 'In Search of Rejean Ducharme,' and some shortfiction. Although GeoffHancock states in hisintroductionthat 'this issue is not intended to be representative, or even up to date,' one could quibble with his choice of authors and texts. However, this disparate collection does reflect the variety and vitality of prose writing in contemporary Quebec. Many of the short stories and fictional extracts are in the surrealistic mode (Fran<,;ois Hebert, Helene Merlin, Jacques Brossard); others are modern variants of legends and folktales Oacques Ferron, Robert Lalonde, Yves Theriault). Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the translations of several of the short stories (e.g., Fran~ois Hebert's 'Prowling around Little Red Riding Hood,' Helene Merlin's 'Passing,' both translated, as are many of the pieces, by Basil Kingstone), since the headnotes indicate only the source journal, and neither the date nor the original title. M.G. Hesse's informative, detailed interview with Theriault (she has also translated here his story 'Okarnak's Christmas') is marred by her awkward, ungrammatical introductory comments. Indeed, the entire issue is riddled with typographical errors, and the omission ofa crucial 'If' on p 207 will cause readers some confusion. Three Ferron tales, from 'Contes inedits,' not included by Betty Bednarski in her 1984 Selected Tales, are translated by Wayne Grady. Since Ferron is a playful writer, slipping in double entendres, word plays, and sly references to familiar Quebec legends and customs, the translator has to be wary. When Grady translates 'Ie conte' as 'fiction' in the introduction to 'The Witch and the Barley Seed' ('La Sorciere et Ie grain d'orge,' Contes, edition integrale, HMH 1968), an amusing tale of a father's explication of nocturnal love-making through the device of a witch to his suspicious five-year-old daughter, the significance of 'tale,' the genre which Ferron manipulates and modifies in his portraits of Quebec life, is lost. Other inaccuracies occur: 'portuna' is translated as 'coffin' when it should be 'coffer' or 'medical box'; 'rna mere affolee' (p 206) becomes'my infatuated mother' (p 244) when on the contrary her mother is maddened or distracted. Tenses are changed, and a paragraph shifted on p 245; 'It gave me ... than I ever could' should follow'as soon as he saw her.' TRANSLATIONS 385 In 'The Cup of Tea,' an enigmatic, brief anecdote about a young girl's departure from home, the closing line in English, 'For a while her mother kept her ear on the noise of the engine, which diminished slowly' (p 248), is neither good English nor as clear as the original in indicating to the reader that the daughter is going off into the distance: 'La mere pr~ta quelque temps l'oreille au bruit de la machine qui s'eloignait' (p 188). Basil Kingstone's rendition of Jovette Marchessault's study of sexual difference between male and female genius in the Paris literary circle of the twenties, Alice et Gertrude, Natalie et Renee et ce cher Ernest (Editions de la pleine lune 1984), is well executed. There is some diminishment of the source text's power when Ernest's plaintive, poetic declarative statement 'La peur de mourir est une blessure confuse' (p 62) is changed into the weaker compound 'Fear of dying and a vague wound' (p 59). On the other hand, Kingstone effectively conveys Gertrude's scathing 'esprit viril jailli de toi-m~me, une main surla couille de l'action de graces, l'autre sur celle du carnage!' (p 65) by 'manly spirit squirted out of yourself, one hand on the ball of gratitude, and the other on the ball of slaughter!' (p 60). The excerpt from Ouellette-Michalska's interdisciplinary study of patriarchal oppression of women, L'Echappee des discours de I'reil, translated by Sue Stewart, is not listed in the table of contents, and the original location of the introductory sections is not clearly indicated. Translating feminist discourse is difficult because of its subversion of syntax and language, its foregrounding ofgender bias. Sue Stewart's English version is not as attentive to the emphasis on langage as it should be. For example, the word 'signposts' (p 162) does not encompass the doubleness of 're/pere,' that is, 'signpost' and 're: father.' Similarly, OuelletteMichalska 's ironicreference to 'maitriser' in a section attacking patriarchal structures in myth is not realized by merely 'conquer.' A more coherent anthology is Rosemary Sullivan's Stories by Canadian Women (Oxford, 395, $10.95) with samples in chronological order by Robertine Barry, Gabrielle Roy, Claire Martin, Anne Hebert, Monique Bosco, Louise Maheux-Forcier, Helene Ouvrard, and Marie-Claire Blais. The translators are Patricia Sillers (who has done several of the stories), Joyce Marshall, Morna Scott Stoddart, and Sally Livingstone. It's a conservative selection; none of the contemporary fiction theorists such as Nicole Brossard, who are attempting to subvert genre distinctions, are included. The most poignant story in English is Roy's 'Satellites,' describing a dying Eskimo woman's trip south to a hospital, translated by Joyce Marshall and first published in French as an introductory chapter to La Riviere sans repos, 1970. The Anne Hebert sample, 'The House on the Esplanade' (already frequently anthologized), translated here by Morna Scott Stoddart, is less literal than an earlier one replete with faux amis by Gwendolyn Moore, but 386 LETTERS IN CANADA 1984 Stoddart does take liberties with the source text (in Le Torrent, HMH 1963), omitting phrases and sentences. Anne Hebert's delicately wrought awkwardness of syntax can defeat the best of translators; perhaps one needs to move into writing a parallel text to capture her elusive tone. Louise Maheux-Forcier's 'Discretion,' one of her'alphabet' stories (from En Toutes Lettres, Pierre Tisseyre 1980), is translated by Sally Livingstone; both her translation and David Lobdell's 1982 version (Letter by Letter, Oberon) successfullyrecreatethemorbid, ambivalent, gothicatmosphere, although both translations also have awkward, unfinished moments. Lobdell's version is smoother, more adventurous, but (inadvertently?) eliminates some of the ambiguities in the source language. Andre G. Bourassa's monumental Surrealisme et litterature quebecoise (Editions L'Etincelle 1977) has been revised, and its bibliography updated for this English translation by Mark Czarnecki, Surrealism and Quebec Literature: History ofaCultural Revolution (University ofToronto Press, 365, $45.00, $20.00 paper). With this text, and the 1979 Contemporary Quebec Criticism, edited and translated by Larry Shouldice, University of Toronto Press has undertaken the important task of initiating English readers to Quebec literary criticism and scholarship, establishing a necessary background for an analytic reading of the numerous novels and poems gradually becoming available through translation. Until now, very little Quebec literary criticism has been translated; Essays on Canadian Writing, Ellipse, and Open Letter occasionally publish translations of significant journal articles. Highly detailed and absorbing, this contextual study of surrealism in painting and literature as forerunner and mirror of Quebec's 'quiet' cultural and political revolution is prescriptive in perceiving the advent of surrealism both as beneficial and as symbolic of the revolt against the established order. Bourassa has unearthed such a wealth of material that his accounts are often too brief, his transitions too abrupt, and he tries, I think, too hard to force connections and influences, particularly by Continental surrealists upon Quebec writers and artists. Nevertheless this kind of cultural history is invaluable in placing poets in a more accurate and understandable cultural context. Since the original has been revised for this translation (for example, sections on Jean Lenoir, Alfred Garneau, Louvigny de Montigny, and Reginald Fessenden are added to the first chapter, 'Precursors'), it is not easy to determine whether stylistic or substantive alterations are the translator's or the author's. In the realmofchanges, the useful chronology of events is slightly expanded, the Bibliography updated, but also abridged (sometimes regrettably). Pages 350 and 351 of the Bibliography are incorrectly called 'Index'; D.G. Jones's translation of Paul-Marie Lapointe is titled The Terrors.ofthe Snows, instead of The Terror ofthe Snows (p 350); notes 71 and 72 (p 278), while attempting to correct an error in the TRANSLATIONS 387 original's notation, become misordered. Where possible, the translator has added titles of translations and essays written in English to the Bibliography, a valuable addition; he has also included a supplementary section, 'Translator's Notes.' It would have been more appropriate to set the Translator's Notes, which are indicated in the body of the text by asterisks, at the bottom of the pages in question, rather than forcing the reader to flip to the back of the book for those as well as the regular notes, inevitably losing his or her place, fingers, bookmark in the process. The translator's notes referring to comments on p. xiv and p xvi of the introduction are erroneously attributed to the p xiv reference. This has been a formidable task for the translator, who has had a densely packed, though lisible, text and fifty-seven pages of notes to untangle, as well as hundreds of quotations from poems, manifestos, and documents to translate, and he has succeeded admirably. At times the English version reads as a too literal transposition of the French, but on the whole Czarnecki has made a seminal work ofQuebec literary criticism accessible to the English reader. Appropriately, the next translation to be discussed focuses on the French surrealist Andre Breton. The Death of Andre Breton by Jean-Yves Collette, one of the founders of La nouvelle barre du jour, translated by Ray Chamberlain (Guernica, 95, $19.95, $7.95 paper) (La Mort d'Andre Breton, Le Biocreux inc 1980), won the 1981 Prix Emile-Nelligan. Composed of short prose pieces deliberately placed within the surrounding white page, this text investigates the death of/by Andre Breton by spiralling around the sign of the knife, the signification of surrealism, and the perception of writing, of love, of sexuality as a desire for death: 'The simplest surrealist writer goes out into the street clutching his weapon and randomly stabs and disembowels as much as he can' (p 52). To write with the pen(is) (knife) is to murder/assassinate the body/page/fatherlsurrealism (the anxiety ofinfluence?), in an orgasmicrelease ofblood and words, the vital forces. In other words, phallogocentrism. Oh, once again, the boring phallus as instrument of creation and destruction. As well, the reader will find traces of la nouvelle ecriture - body as text, the deconstruction of syntax and meaning inthe style ofNicole Brossard, and ofBarthes (desire, jouissance), and of Derrida (absence, presence). As in Brossard's texts or Claude Beausoleil's poems, the translator must be both free (to invent) and literal (to pursue the particular deconstruction of syntax and language). Chamberlain makes a good effort with this non-linear narrative , in which he has to imitate, at all cost, the syntactic breaks, the open-endedness, the ellipses. However, there are some puzzles. He omits an important epigraph by James Joyce on p 83, and, unlike Collette, does not supply a table of epigraphs (footnotes). 'His convulsive thighs, his fearful swollen breasts' (p 25), referring to reality, which is feminine in French, results in a confusion of gender, and therefore of image. The 388 LETTERS IN CANADA 1984 repetition so essential to this spirallingtextis notalways maintainedin the English version. And finally, why does the translator not acknowledge that p 21 is in English in the source text, and more puzzling, why does he change the original English? Is he translating automatically? Words, punctuation, word order are transformed. For example, 'People are not interested enough in literature ... / Is it not a pity?' (French text, p 29) becomes 'People don't show enough interest in literature ... / Pity, isn't it?' (English text, p 21). . In this same Guernica Editions prose series, David Homel has brought out a new translation, Broke City (95, $17.5°, $7.95 paper) of Jacques Renaud's controversial 1964 novel, Le Casse (Parti pris). It was one of the first novels written in joual, phonetically scripting the dialect and pronunciation that characterizes it. Although many writers, including Ringuet, Roy, and Lemelin, had their characters speak in joual, Renaud's text was joual. It symbolized a defiant revolutionary stand that shocked some Quebeckers and inspired others. As Renaud explains in the Mterword: Joual isn't a style, it's a way ofthinking, a way ofexisting. Joual is more than the language Broke City is written in: it stands for a whole pariah situation. Joual is the language of both revolt and submission, of anger and impotence. Joual is a non-language. A denunciation. (P 95) Renaud pulls the reader into a slice of life in Montreal's east end - the streets, cheap boarding-houses, pushers, prostitutes, and murderers. This had not been done before in Quebec with such rawness and realism of language and narrative. In his introductory note, Ray Ellenwood points out that David Homel had a choice as a translator: to create an equivalent street dialect in English or to continually remind the reader of the original text's source injoual. Homelchose the method ofequivalence, which Ellenwood claims ensures the story's relevance to English readers by shifting the emphasis to the events and lives of the protagonists (and away from the language question), which 'may, in fact, correspond most closely withJacques Renaud's original intention' (p 11). Yes, true, but one must also remember that joual is a language of degradation, and through its anglicisms symbolizes Quebec's colonial state, her oppression, her alienation and impotence. As Renaud has his narrator remark, the language in which the storyis toldis itselfsignificant: 'Avec des mots vrais sans trop de majuscules': 'With true words, but not big ones' (p 17). An earlier (and scarce) translation by Gerald Robitaille, published as Flat Broke and Beat (Editions du Belier 1964) is a more literal version, narrated in the present, whose slang is more restrained, less violent. David Homel's style with its deliberately ungrammatical (incorrect punctuation, spelling, diction, broken syntax) street language, which on TRANSLATIONS 389 the whole sensibly avoids the pitfalls of too contemporary or colloquial jargon, unquestionably recreates the violence and alienation ofthe source text. Whether or not the reader agrees with this or that rendition of slang is irrelevant; the question is whether the reader agrees with HomeI's decision to produce an equivalent text. Here is an example of how the translation works: La chambre adnq piasses, ~a n'a pas dure une semaine. Philomene a telephone a Louise. Louise lui a dit qu'elle pouvait venir de.meurer chez elle durant environ deux semaines. Mais pas de farces plates. Amene-z-en pas d'autres que Ti-Jean. J'ai pas envie de m'faire mettre a porte. Ch'pars pour Quebec. J'veux ben t'aider mais j'ai pas envie de r'trouver tout al'envers en r'venant. (P 24) The five-buck room didnt even last a week. Philomena got on the phone to Louise. Louise told her she could stay at her place for a couple ofweeks. But no screwin around. Dont bring nobody else up but Johnny. I dont feel like gettin bounced out. 1m goin to Quebec City. I dont mind givin you a hand but I dont wanna find everything messed up when I get back. (P 31) Homel chooses to set the narration in the past, although mostofRenaud's is in the present, the past being a more familiar narrative tense in English. The reader should note that the omission of a paragraph on P 40 (between the sentences 'Johnny saw Philomena once or twice a week' and 'He got it off') and the mistaken repetition ofthe same paragraphon pages82and 83 are the consequences of editorial errors, not joua!. Another translation from the sixties is Betty Bednarski's Selected Tales of Jacques Ferron (House of Anansi, 248, $9.95 paper), which collects the eighteen previously published tales from Tales from the Uncertain Country (Anansi 1972), plus nineteen additional ones from the forty-four stories in Contes, edition integrale (HMH 1968) to give the English reader a wider sampling of Ferron's whimsical, mythical, potent tales of life in the uncertain country of Quebec during the forties, fifties, and early sixties. Some of these tales have also been translated in a special issue of Brick on Ferron (Fall 1982), Canadian Fiction Magazine 15 (1974), and Exile III, 2 (1976). Bednarski's comprehensive introduction explains Ferron's appropriation of the conte, his recurring themes, and their relation to Quebec cultural history. Because these tales are grounded in Quebec's culture, and hover between realism and fantasy, their meaning can easily escape the English reader, imposing upon the translator the thankless task of transmitting these complexities. On many occasions, Bednarski succeeds in passing on to her reader the allusions and playfulness of the source text; she inserts notes to explain colloquialisms orhistorical facts (and she could have been 390 LETTERS IN CANADA 1984 even more liberal with these helpful explanatory notes). There are a few minor inaccuracies such as the translation of 'les calculs acheves, l'argent remis' (p 75) as the less specific 'when the calculations were completed and the arithmetic done' (p 183). But there are other translatory evasions thatare more problematic. Forexample, in'LaMi-Careme,'which, likethe other tales, creates a sense of immediacy, orality, and informality, Ferron writes 'Mais voici que rna mere' (p 66) and 'Je deguerpis, vous vous imaginez bien' (p 66). These, translated accurately enough as 'then, one morning, my mother,' and 'I bolted, needless to say' (p 91), by avoiding direct address, elude that immediacy so essential to the mood ofthe conte. Similarly the syntax of the closing line in this story, let je pensais, moi, Ie flow, que c'etait lui Ie pere que la Mi-Careme aurait dft battre' (p 67), loses its efficacy in the less emphatic'And I thought to myselfI, the nipper, that la Mi'-Careme ought right to have beaten him' (p 93). On the other hand, the rendition of the mother in labour speaking 'au bout des levres' is nicely rendered by 'speaking ever so softly.' Another translatory evasion arises in 'The Dead Cow in the Canyon,' which is even more inundated with anglicisms than Ferron's other stories - 'Ie Tchiffe' (The Chief), 'Biouti Rose' (Beauty Rose), 'touristeroume,' 'un clergimane,' 'frenchifran '.;a' etc. Ferron throws these in to emphasize the English setting and domination of'Ie Farouest' where the protagonisthas travelled in order to preserve his heritage. The use of these anglicisms is not indicated in the English version, and consequently an important symbolic contribution to the theme of dispossession is diSSipated. Roch Carrier's 1981 novel, La Dame qui avait des chaines aux chevilles (Stanke) is translated by Sheila Fischmanas Lady with Chains (Anansi, 151, $8.95 paper). Departing from the burlesque mode of the La Guerre, Yes Sir trilogy, this surprisingly moving novel enters into the consciousness of a young woman plotting the death of her husband, who accidentally abandoned their child to a wintry death. With great skill, Carrier evokes both the young woman's disturbed state ofmind and life in Quebec in the 1860s. The novel is comprised of a series of dialogues- the silent dialogue between the past, present, and future at war in Virginie's consciousness presented through her narrated monologue, within which is embedded the dialogue between Virginie's life and the legendary tale of the Lady with Chains, and finally the dialogue between a silent Virginie obsessed with the past and a chatty Victor obsessed with the future. Sheila Fischman's fine translation adeptly recreates the rhythm and narrative tone of the source text. Since refrains, repetitions, and anaphora are integral to the movement ofthe narrative, and to the obsessions ofthe two characters, it is important to transmit these techniques to the English text. (Part of a sentence is missing on P 99; 'there was a violent storm but it seemed so far away' should be inserted after I night' in the sentence 'That night, filled with warmth and prayers.') TRANSLATIONS 391 Sheila Fischman has also skilfullytranslated the second novel ofMichel Tremblay's tetralogy 'The Chronicles of Plateau Mont-Royal,' Therese et Pierrette Ii l'ecole des Saints-Anges (Lemeac 1980). In this novel, Therese and Pierrette and the Little Hanging Angel (McClelland and Stewart, 262, $12.95 paper), Tremblay focuses on three schoolgirls, Therese, Pierrette, and Simone, who have appeared as embittered women in Les Belles-Sreurs and other plays. The cast of characters is as vast as in The Fat Woman Next DoorIs Pregnant, the atmosphere as carnivalesque, and the narrative ofthe rewards and terrors of school with the nuns as entertaining. Under Tremblay's panoramic gaze, the district, the girls, the war years come to life; his ear is finely attuned to the nuances of conversations and of family and street life for which his plays are renowned. The dialogue is more formal and correct in the English version, which emits a less colloquial, idiomatic flavour than the original French; for example, 'Pour moe, a' l'a mangee!' (p 39) is translated as 'If you ask me, she ate her' (p 30). Tremblay'S sentences roll on and on, like a garrulous raconteur's, but similarly long sentences in English stumble awkwardly, e.g., 'She knew that little Simone Cote would appear at any moment and she wanted the first thing the child would see as she entered the office to be her own gaze, which would penetrate to the depths of her soul' (p 23). In his Le Crime d'Ovide Plouffe (ERT 1982), translated by Alan Brown, The Crime of Ovide Plouffe (McClelland and Stewart, 408, $19.95), Roger Lemelin evidently has a film script in mind. As Lemelin himself writes: 'There are scenes that call for the film-maker's camera rather than the painter's brush or the writer's pen' (p 129). This fourth instalment of the Plouffe family saga is fast-paced, melodramatic, with a large cast of superficially drawn characters, including villains and rescuers (who else but Denis Boucher?). Lemelin has attempted to instil the aura of the post-war Duplessis years into his narrative, and although the idea of blending fiction and fact by inserting one of Jean Marchand's speeches during the Asbestos strike is good, it is not always smoothly integrated. The story is entertaining, the style unsophisticated, relying on narratorial 'telling' rather than narrative'showing,' and overpunctuatedby exclamation marks. Evaluating a translation of such a relatively unpolished narrative is tricky, for if the translation is a faithful one it will inevitably imitate the original's faults, and the translator can be accused of producing an unpolished version. Occasionally Brown through his translation clarifies the original; for example, near the end of the story, long after Ovide has left his job as a clerk in a record shop, Lemelin refers to him as 'Ie disquaire' (p 432); Brown, more simply and correctly, writes 'Ovide' (p 355). Brown's translation ofJean Marchand's speech into appropriate and colloquial English is well executed. Nevertheless, the translator has not always been as careful as he should have been; for example, 'sa plus 392 LETTERS IN CANADA 1984 somptueuse veine, la riviere Jupiter' (p 24) is peculiarly rendered as 'its most sumptuous flaw, the Jupiter River' (p 19), and Josephine's 'Theophile defunt' (p 14) becomes the archaic'defunct Theophile' (p 12). In general, the French text is less stilted in many places than the resulting translation, as you can see in the following excerpt: 'This scene would have given a laugh to Theophile or Guillaume or Ovide, who had no use for such falderols' (p 68) ('Cette scene edt fait bien rire Theophile, Guillaume, ou Ovide, eux qui ne respectaient pas ce genre de falbalas,' p 82). David Lobdell has translated two fictional works for this year's Oberon Press series that deliberately eschew realism or personal confession in favour of fantasy and surrealism. Moon Country (236, $9.95 paper), Denys Chabot's 1982 Governor General's award-winner (La Province lunaire, L'arbre HMH 1981), is a carnivalesque tale of dream journeys and exuberant adventures, reminiscent of the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and other Latin American writers. The Master of Strappado (161, $21.95, $11.95 paper) by Negovan Rajic (Propos d'un vieux radoteur, Le Cercle du Livre du France 1982) is a collection of four stories; the first, the title story, a novella, veers between Orwellian political allegory and Kafkaesque nightmare and is cleverly narrated by the manipulative, unreliable 'master.' With both these translations by Lobdell, the reader will encounter fluent, readable English texts. In Moon Country, one will find slight shifts in tone, rearrangements of syntax, some omissions or additions of· phrases, minor slips (e.g., 'sous une foison de mousse,' referring to the roof of a cabin, is translated as 'beneath its layers of froth' instead of 'under layers of moss' p 182). As well, I sensed at times a flattening of Chabot's ebullient descriptions and of the narrator's admirable naivete. The Master of Strappado, however, is an even more successful translation, effectively capturing the arrogant desperation of the narrator. A phrase like 'Helas! ce ne sont que des reves, des songes inconsistants' (p 23) translated as: 'Alas these are only dreams, disembodied figments of the imagination' (p 16) solves the problemofhow to translate the elusiveword 'songes,' and to incorporate two different 'dreams' in one sentence. Oberon's third novel in translation takes a quite different tack. As in Tremblay's novel, we enter into the cloistered world of nuns. Translated by Jane Pentland, All the Way Home (206, $23.45, $12.95 paper) by Gabrielle Poulin (Cogne la Caboche, Stanke 1979) begins and ends with Anna, a widow in a quiet village, reflecting upon her family, and particularly her daughter Rachel, a nun. For much of the novel, we are drawn inside Rachel's consciousness as she decides to leave the community , remembers her childhood, her novitiate, and her fifteen years as a nun. The narrator probes these two women's hearts with delicacy, even a touch of nostalgia, and the description of convent life as recollected by TRANSLATIONS 393 Rachel is graphic. However, frequent and rapid shifts in narrative time and between the two women as narrative centres of consciousness are sometimes (deliberately) confusing (for Rachel is renamed Sister Anna). Although this technique is meant to imply the continuity and merging of time and of mother with daughter, it is not entirely convincing. The French title comes from the last line of a children's song, quoted on the title page of the Stanke edition and throughout the novel where it functions as a mise en abyme. The closest equivalent Pentland found was 'This little pig went to market,' and accordingly she chose its concluding line, 'All the way home,' for her title, although the Englishnursery rhyme does not pick up the recurring motif of the stuffed doll, symbolizing the ritualistic passionless life hidden behind the convent walls. The translation is fluent, accurate, and sensitive. Like Homel, Pentland has decided to set the novel in the more conventional pasttense, although the original is in the present. In the French text, some of the confusion caused by the shift in time is alleviated by the author's use of the present tense to convey present time, and the past to depict Anna's recollections; however, a number of Anna's narrated memory monologues are also in the present, so the French version is only marginally more lucid. In one powerful passage, when Anna muses about the trapped lives of Quebec heroines, she wants to 'Trancher Ie nreud trop ferme qui emprisonne Maria ajamais derriere la fenetre ou la folie et les reves ne feront jamais que passer, dissipes par des voix impitoyables.' Pentland's translation weakens the attack on the myth ofMaria Chapdelaine: 'Cutthe too-secure knot that holds her there beside the window, where madness and dreams can only pass by, dissolved by the pitiless voices' (p 124). 'Imprison for ever' should replace the weaker 'hold'; 'behind' is more precise than 'beside' the window, and instead of 'dissolved' a stronger verb, even 'dissipated,' would better convey the finality of'dissipes.' There is a confusion of time in the translation 'as like a double image it once appeared to that little girl whom the years have carried off helter-skelter into the past' (p 19) ('apparue un jour comme un double mirage ala petite fille emportee trop vite acloche-pied, dans Ie temps,' p 26). 'Cloche-pied' implies 'hop-scotch' rather than 'helter-skelter,' butmore seriously'dans Ie temps' could mean 'into the future' rather than 'into the past.' An excerpt from this translation, along with an excellent explanatory translator's letter, was published in Matrix, 15 (Spring/Summer 1982). Translated by Michael Harris, Veiled Countries (Vehicule Press, Signal Editions, 181, $9.95 paper) is a bilingual edition of Marie-Claire Blais's collection of poems, Pays voiles/existences, published in 1964 by Les Editions de I'Homme. As Harris points out in his Introduction, these poems were written during the Quiet Revolution; they reflect the sombre coming to consciousness of that period and attack the 'overweening presence of the paternalism of not only the Church but of men.' The 394 LETTERS IN CANADA 1984 timeless, melancholy lyricism of the poems contrasts with the relentless realism of such novels as A Season in the Life of Emmanuel, which she was publishing at that time. Another side ofBlaisis revealed as she unfolds the more cosmological vision that encompasses her later novels, Deaf to the City and Anna's World. The 'Veiled Countries' section presents reflections on a rural and repressive collective past, and a doomed collective destiny ('we' being women, mothers, and daughters) circumscribed by superstition, refusal, yet also relieved by moments of beauty glimpsed in nature. 'Lives/Existences ,' similarin tone, consists of a suite oflong poems, ofwhich 'War' is particularly moving. Michael Harris's translation is a smooth, often eloquent rendition ofthe poems. While he falls prey to a few faux amis, he is generally careful to indicate that the persona is feminine ('Nous, les ainees': 'we, the elder girls,' pp 92-3). But for some reason he consistently breaks Blais's long fluid line into short compressed lines, which creates an interesting problem. Intheir symbolism, tone, and preoccupationwith an oppressive past, Blais's poems are reminiscent of Anne Hebert's Le Tombeau des Rois. Her lines, however, are in contrast to Hebert's abbreviated line with its sense of absence, marking a difference between their poetic voices. An English reader turning to Harris's version, and noting the similar short line, wouldbe tempted to make (unfounded) comparisons. Letus examine the opening lines of a poem from 'Veiled Countries' more cl~sely: L'Ami Nos maisons etaient vastes si vastes que les enfants s'egaraient Dans les remous, Les volets pAles S'agitaient comme des barques sur l'eau fine, Nous etions paisibles car nos membres commandaient aux choses, The Friend Our houses were vast so vast the children would lose their way in the wakes of air The pale shutters feathered slowly like boats on smooth water We were at peace because our limbs governed things Note the difference of effect as the line is broken in English; it is less TRANSLATIONS 395 brooding, less reminiscent. I would also quarrel with translating 'les remous' as 'wakes of air' instead of 'whirlpools,' and 's'agitaient' as 'feathered,' because water is a recurring image, weaving together different strands of the poem. And does not 'nos membres,' given the family theme of the poem, refer to members ofthe family, or perhaps possess the double meaning of both limbs and family members? Later in the poem, 'disaient nos meres' is adeptly rendered by 'so said our mothers,' as is 'il baisait notre front / ala derobee' by 'he would brush his lips / furtively across our foreheads.' In 1980, Marc Plourde published his translations of Gaston Miron, The Agonized Life (Torchy Wharf Press). Now Guernica's Bilingual Editions has brought out this selection from Gaston Miron's celebrated, central L'homme rapaille (Les Presses de l'Universite de Montreal 1970), with translations by D.G. Jones and Marc Plourde, an introduction by Jones previously published in .Ellipse 5 (1970), and a Translator's Commentary by Plourde (from The Insecurity ofArt, Montreal 1982). This new selection is titled Embers and Earth (Selected Poems) (Guernica, 122, $20.00, $9.95 paper). Unfortunately there are only two translations by Jones, 'My Sad One and Serene' and an excerpt from 'La Marche al'amour' (also from Ellipse 5).; the rest, including a prose piece, 'A Long Road,' are revisions from Plourde's 1980 translation. I would have liked to see included Miron's influential 'manifesto,' 'Notes sur Ie non-poeme et Ie poeme' (an extract of which was published in Ellipse 5, translated by C.R.P. May). The ensemble of the poems in this collection leave the reader with an impression of Miron's passionate invocation of the land of Quebec through a language of both desire and enraged impotence, and of the searing dissection of his own 'agonized' (inner) life. As Miron writes in 'A Long Road,' concerning the poems in 'La vie agonique': I tried to locate and define where I belonged ... I strived [sic] to hold myself at an equal distance from regionalism and abstract universalism, those two poles of disembodiment, that double curse which has forever burdened our literature .... What I wanted was to reach concrete things, day-to-day things, to repossess a language and make it universal. (p 107) Jones's translations are quite free, with the consequence that the reader is rewarded with a finely crafted poem in English. Here are the opening lines of 'La marche al'amour': Tu as les yeux pers des champs de rosees tu as des yeux d'aventure et d'annees-Iumieres la douceur du fond des brises au mois de mai pour les acompagnements de rna vie en friche avec cette chaleur d'oiseau aton corps craintif 396 LETTERS IN CANADA 1984 You have the blue-green eyes of fields in dew adventurous eyes in which the light-years shine you have the soft airs of winds in May that birdlike from your timorous body play an accompaniment through my uncleared fields Plourde, although he has carefully (agonizingly) worked over the translations, and investigated the source language and context as he explains in 'On Translating Miron' (pp 113-22), composes a more halting line, a less graceful poetic movement. Here, then, are his translations of the opening lines of 'The Agonized Man': Jamais je n'ai ferme les yeux malgre les vertiges sucres des euphories meme quand mes yeux sentaient Ie roussi meme en butte aux rafales montantes du sommeil Never have I shut my eyes despite the sweet giddiness of euphoria and even when I could feel them smoldering even when I stood in sleep's rioting winds, never (pp 14-15) Exile Editions, which along with Vehicule Press and Guernica Editions is contributing to the much-needed dissemination of contemporary Quebec poetry through their laudable format of bilingual editions, has published a relatively early collection of poems by Michel Beaulieu, Spells of Fury (79, $9.95 paper), translated by Arlette Franciere and containing the sequence 'Spells of Fury' and 'Layers of Time.' The source text is Charmes de la fureur (Les Editions du jour 1970). An introductory note and the translator's comments on her approach would have been a helpful preliminary to this collection. Why these particular poems of a prolific poet? Why is there no indication of the date and publisher of the source text? Beaulieu's poems have a recognizable signature, brief, precise, imagistic designs (desseins) arranged serially in numerical sequence. They are centred in a domestic, phenomenal world (kitchens, urban streets, countryside), but spin simultaneously outwards, inwards to an abstract, ephemeral, impressionistic noumenality, knotted together by the demands of ~ questing love and an enquiring spirit/voice. His style is one in which syntax and language juxtapose contrary worlds, sensual and sensory images and impressions. His poems are themselves translations. Given that the poetic movement is not causal but a reflection of the perceiving mind encountering the world and translatingit through verbal images, the translator must at the same time recreate both the precision TRANSLATIONS 397 and the quality of the imaginary that is Beaulieu's signature. She must walk a fine line between literal (to capture the precision) and free (to capture the imaginary) translation. Arlette Franciere's translation has an effortless, natural quality that encourages the reader to feel he or she is reading poetry, not translation. Here, for example, is number 9 in the 'Spells of Fury' sequence: la tangente joint si brievement Ie cerde tu I'appris jadis dans tes livres de geometrie tu ne savais pas alors Ie sens des objets queles hommes leur ressemblent malgre les apparences avec Ie marteau de leurs poings sans egards qui enfoncent des dous un peu partout l'age t'apprend bientot ce que tu oublies trop vite que Ie sens des veines n'.a pas de sens en lui-meme et que la mer mange ses vaisseaux that the tangent so briefly meets the cirde you were taught long ago in geometry books you did not know the meaning of objects that men resemble them despite appearances with the pitiless hammer of their fists driving nails into everything time teaches too early what is forgotten too quickly the meaning of veins lacking intrinsic meaning and that the sea devours her vessels (pp 18-1 9) (1 would have preferred'that the meaningofveinslacks intrinsicmeaning' to parallel 'that the sea devours.') At times the fine line wavers; for example, 'uncrime sans cesse multiplie' translated as 'acrimeperpetrated over and over again' (pp 4-5) is accurate but without the impact of the original's syntactical arrangement, where 'crime' and 'multiplie' are separated for emphasis by ,sans cesse.' When she translates'souviens-toi de me repeter entre les levres / ceux-Ia meme que je transcris' by 'remember to repeat on mylips / the very words I copy,' 'my' undermines the ambiguity of 'les' (pp 48-9). Beaulieu's deliberate repetitions are not always repeated. For example, in 'un seul de trop sur Ie trop plein de fluides,' the echoing 'trop' is not rendered by 'is there one too many in the overflow of fluids' (pp 8-9); on the other hand 'all that lasts and outlasts' aptly recreates 'tout cela qui dure et perdure' (pp 12-13). One play was published in translation this year, Voiceless People by Marco Micone (Gens du silence, Quebec!Amerique 1982); it appearedin the Guemica Editions 'Drama' Series (92, $7.95 paper), translated by Maur- 398 LETTERS IN CANADA 1984 izia Binda. The play presents the dilemma of 'voiceless people,' Italian immigrants, exploited by their employers, locked in their narrow ghettos, ' whose children belong neither to the Italian community, nor to Quebec society, nor to the English powerstructure. The immigrantexperience has been discussed less in Quebec, which has had other concerns, than elsewhere in Canada, so Micone's play is timely. However, the conflict, thecharacterization, and thedramaticdevelopmentintheform ofmultiple Brechtian scene-shifts seem thin and often confused. Evaluating the translation is problematic because there are substantial additions, omissions, and changes in the English version, and whether these variants are the translator's or the writer's and editor's is unclear . This contributes to the confusion, since crucial references, present in the original French text, are omitted with the result thatcertain sections don't make much sense. For example, the father, Antonio, attacks the Quebecois: A part d'~a 'i Canadesi Francesi,' c'est tous des paresseux. C'est pour <;a qu'i/sont tous des locataires. Tiens, c'est m~me ecrit dans Ie journal itallen. Les journalistes, c'est pas des ignorants, c'est du monde qui a fait des etudes! Et pas n'importe ou: en Italie! en Italie! (P 48) This is translated as: And on top of that, i Canadesi francesi are so lazy. They can't get their asses off the ground. Those newspaper people aren't so dumb, theywentto school. And not just anywhere - in Italy, ItaIia! (P 32) It would be important to include the sentence concerning 'locataires,' since one of the tensions in the play is between the Quebecois tenants and the Italian landlords. The reference 'Those newspaper people aren't so dumb' is meaninglesswithoutthe precedingsentence, omittedin English: 'Tiens, c'est m~me ecrit dans Ie journal italien.' A dialogue between two youths takes place in English in the French text in order to further emphasize the Italian boy's alienation, and this language shift is not indicated in the translation. There are also changes in stage direction and sequence, which do not necessarily improve the translation as performance or as a reader's text. The reader may be interested in obtaining the 1984 issue of Ellipse (number 3.2), which pairs translations of poets Pierre Nepveu and Gary Geddes. Marie Cardinal's dramatic autobiographical novel recounting her experiences with psychoanalysis, Les Mots pour Ie dire, translated as The Words to Say It by Pat Goodheart (VanVactor and Goodheart, 308, $19.95, $11.95 paper), is now distributed by Montreal's Vehicule Press. And finally, a different kind of translation has been publishedby Editions HUMANITIES 399 Naaman. The [roquoiseIL'[roquoise, edited by Guildo Rousseau (77, $6.00 paper), reproduces both the French version (1837) and its American source (1827) of a popular North American legend, whose mysterious· origin has now been unearthed. In conclusion, these translations are, in general, good translations and thoughtful acts of literary criticism. However, in several of these year's publications (The Death ofAndre Breton, Broke City, Selected Tales ofJacques Ferron, the Tremblay novel, Voiceless People), the translations have made a conscious decision to dilute the anglicisms ofthe French text, to ignore the highly symbolic fact thatcertain passages were presentedin English in the original, or not to convey joua!. This tendency is something translators should reconsider; language in Quebecis such a key element ofits culture and self-image that the impact of the original is not passed on to the English reader. There is a danger here of what Ben-Zion Shek (Ellipse, 21, 1977) calls diglossia (the subordination of one language to another), and in which the act of translation is symbolic of the entire socio-political and cultural problem ofthe relations between Canada and Quebec, dominator and dominated. Humanities Anthony J. Podlecki. The Early Greek Poets and Their Times University of British Columbia Press. xiv, 282. $29.00 In the centuries following Homer, preceding the flowering of tragedy at Athens, Greece produced a multiplicity of poets representative of all major dialects and geographical areas, from Asia Minor to Sicily. For variety of genre and richness of poetic personality this age, frequently called the Archaic, or simply Lyric, Age has no peer in antiquity. The vagaries of manuscript transmission have bequeathed us only a tiny fraction ofthe total production ofsome twenty poets. Butas the sands and mummies of Egypt have yielded treasures in our time, our knowledge of these poets and the world they inhabited has increased immeasurably. The necessity offitting new pieces into the puzzle assures a steady stream of books on the early lyric poets of Greece. Professor Podlecki approaches the material primarily as a historian. He is interested in chronology, in the relation of the poets to military and political events, and in the societies in which they often played leading roles. He does for the lyric poets in this book what he earlier did for Aeschylus (The Political Background of Aeschylean Tragedy, 1966). And he does it well. He has an easy familiarity with the texts and a knowledge of the historical background uncommon in purely literary critics. Omnipresent is the spirit of the late C.M. Bowra of Oxford, whose three books, ...

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ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 383-399
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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