Last summer, as the first books were being delivered to my place where they would wait to be paired up with their originals before I could cross-read them while taking notes in preparation for this article, I could not help but notice there was not a single children's or young adult (YA) book. Why, I wondered, especially since such literary awards as the Governor General's do recognize and showcase the work of talented translators working in children's literature. I contacted several publishers whose books had been translated and published in 2017 and I have decided to devote this whole article to Canadian children's literature in translation, with a particular emphasis on the translation of Canadian picture books.
In the first chapter of Translating Picturebooks, Revoicing the Verbal, the Visual and the Aural for a Child Audience,1 one can read:
While picture books have interested researchers for decades, relatively little attention has been paid to the study of their translation. So far, research on picturebook translation has been published mainly in the form of individual articles, which by necessity approach the subject from a very limited point of [End Page 87] view. The most comprehensive monograph written about the translation of picturebooks so far has been Riitta Oittinen's Kuvakirja kääntäjän kädessä ("Picturebook in the Hand of a Translator") published in Finnish in 2004, which has served as the inspiration for the book you are reading now.
Yet, researchers such as Perry Nodelman in Canada and Sophie Van der Linden in France have extensively investigated and then published thorough reference books2 on the specifics of the reading of picture books and their narrative art, the complex network of possible relationships between images and texts in such books, the multiplicity of addressees, etc. Keeping in mind that translating and reading are two inextricable activities, such topics cannot be overlooked by the translator of picture books.
As I was reading Rachel Martinez's brilliant translation of Lisa Bowes and James Hearne's Lucy Tries Hockey, I started researching her background and came across an interview she had given to Les libraires3 and where she was asked for her opinion on Translations Made in Québec:
Mais que pense notre traductrice des traductions faites au Québec? « Elles sont impeccables! Par contre, pour les traductions faites en Europe, lorsqu'il est question de traduire des romans canadiens ou américains, je grince des dents. Peut-être est-ce parce qu'on est un petit peuple francophone dans un grand océan anglophone, mais on semble avoir davantage le souci d'être compris de tous les lecteurs, sans perdre la saveur américaine… »
At a time when Susin Nielsen's Optimists Die First is no longer translated and published in France by hélium publishing house but by Rachel Martinez for la courte échelle, the translation of Heather O'Neill's Daydreams of Angels is looked after by critically-acclaimed Montréal-based writer Dominique Fortier and published by Alto (after the translation of Lullabies for Little Criminals into La ballade de Baby by French publisher 10–18 was largely criticized for being too Parisian), Mordecai Richler's work is undergoing a major "retranslation make-over" by the famous duet Saint-Martin/Gagné, and Michael Ondaatje's last novel was not, as usual, translated by Michel Lederer overseas but by Saint-Martin and Gagné, it is obvious that Canadian translations are becoming more and more domestic (if not Québec-based or even Montréal-based).
While I understand the need to preserve Canadian literature from the risk of extreme domestication that it sometimes undergoes abroad (particularly in France), it also seems to denote a certain linguistic confinement within [End Page 88] Québec's borders which, in 2019, when cultures, languages, stories and traditions should travel internationally with ease, is somewhat paradoxical.
gros plan sur la littérature pour enfants: le cas de l'album
La traduction d'un album pour enfants s'accompagne d'un certain nombre de contraintes liées notamment à la prosodie, aux sonorités et à la mise en page, du fait...