Thursday, March 10, 2016

TRANSLATION IS A LOVE AFFAIR...Jacques Poulin does everything right, so *his* translator doesn't have to

(tr. Sheila Fischman)
Archipelago Books
$14.00 trade paper, available now

Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: A quietly affecting modern fairy tale told with humor and warmth, Translation is a Love Affair is a slender volume of immense humanity. A Quebecois novelist with a bad back and his vivacious translator discover a stray cat with an SOS attached to its collar. They embark upon a search for its owner, and when they discover a young girl with bandaged wrists they are drawn into a mystery they don't dare neglect. The world Poulin creates is haunted by dark memories, isolation, and tragedy, yet it is one in which languageand love are the most immediate and vital forces, where one human being hearing a cry of distress of another is compelled to shed one's own inhibitions to respond.

My Review: What a joy it is to discover such a famous novelist, he said with irony dripping onto his keyboard. In a properly order world, Poulin would be as well known in the US as in Canada, and just as justly celebrated. I mean, really, can you resist reading the work of someone who curmudges this eloquently?
“Organic grow-your-own-granola food is not my style. When a style or a trend wants to impose a way of behaving on me, I do the exact opposite; I might even develop a particular fondness for potassium sorbate and sodium erythorbate.”
(Those're real food additives; I checked.)

This tale was a joy to read from "Naked as a trout, I was stepping out of the pond..." to the last spoilery paragraph. I finished it in a few hours, and read about half of it a second time. I am a sucker for stories of made families, as opposed to birth families; I love the idea of the love affair consummated by the intimate connection and tender caring actions of both people despite the long lifetime's difference in their ages. (Well, I would, wouldn't I, being the companion animal of a guy born less than half my lifetime ago?)
After work he often called me to talk about this and that, or because he'd forgotten a word or the title of a book, or to ask me a question, such as: 'How can I keep brown rice from tasting like shrimp shells?'
Simple and direct, no ornamentation, a short passage sums up the flavor of a deep and cherished connection. That is fine philosophizing as well as deep thinking. This definition made me sit up straight when I read it:
Under the word refuge, I found this definition: "Small structure high in the mountains where climbers can spend the night."

In my opinion that was the best definition of a novel.
In mine too, M le Auteur.

August is Women in Translation Month. I know it's meant to be about women writers whose wor is translated, but the woman who translated this novel, Sheila Fischman, is a monadnock among Quebecois translators...she's brought more than 150 titles into English!...and is also advanced in years, born in 1937. I think it's only right and proper to celebrate her enormous achievement while we can.

Please make time to procure and absorb this lovely tale of finding connection in a fragmenting world as told in words chosen by a true master of her art.

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