Sunday, August 05, 2018

I Never Talk About It

I Never Talk About It / Véronique Coté & Steve Gagnon; translated from the French by a mix of 37 different translators!
Montreal: QC Fiction, 2017, c2012.
235 p.

This one is a bit of a square peg in a round hole in this month of women in translation. It's not a 100% fit. But I am counting in my WIT reads, as it is as much about the act of translation itself as about the actual content.

The original monologues (performed in various spots along the streets of Quebec City) were written by Véronique Coté and Steve Gagnon - and among the 37 translators, 21 of them are women.

I think this is a great effort to make sure women were represented here. now if QC Fiction's entire translation line can show the same parity I'll be very happy.

In the foreword, editor Peter McCambridge says the following about this collection:
We hope it will be fun to read each of these stories. To compare them. To compare X's approach to Y's. To have each particular approach set out for all to see. And, most of all, the next time you pick up a book in translation, to wonder "What approach did this translator take?" Because there's always an approach, always a slant, always a distortion or deviation from the original, however slight or well-intentioned.... Because any translation is a question and then an answer. A series of decisions that all lead to different places. 

The choice of translators is very interesting as well - some are professional translators, some are amateur bilingual readers, some are authors in their own right. The very first piece is translated by regular #WITMonth participant and reviewer Tony Malone of TonysReadingList!

Each contributor takes one piece, translates it, and follows that with a bio and a short paragraph as to why they made the translation decisions that they did. It brings the act of translation to the forefront; if anything, I'd have preferred an even more in-depth statement from each of the translators about their choices.

The monologues themselves are short, colloquial and energetic. Made for performance, they are often stream of consciousness style, giving the impression of breathlessness. There's a lot of energy here; whether the confessional style reveals humour, pathos, self-importance, sexual self-aggrandization, confusion or resignation, the short form and the rapid progression of the storytelling keeps you reading. This was a fascinating project and one that really made me think. I think it would be great to hear these aloud as originally conceived - it's an entertaining book for sure.

2 comments:

  1. The title of this book says a lot! This WIT selection sounds different and interesting. I enjoyed your concise review.

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  2. It was really different! I was lucky enough to get a copy from the publisher, or I might never have heard of it. Really good, really refreshing collection.

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