Shit and stupid and aggravating – the lack of funding for Québec literature in translation

“Shit and stupid and aggravating” is how Chad W. Post of Open Letter Books describes the current situation facing Québec literature in translation, in typically colourful language.

As far as everybody understands it, at least, funding for translations into English from the Canada Council for the Arts is limited to Canadian publishers. Which means that there is no money to entice American publishers.

On top of that, says Chad, “next to no information about Québécois writers makes its way to American publishers and editors. A million things are to blame for this. Agents who don’t see profit in these writers, the lack of a Québec Book Foundation similar to the German Book Office, etc., the aforementioned lack of funding, poor distribution of Canadian presses into America, and the American lack of interest in things Up North. (Which is shit and stupid and aggravating, but no different than the lack of interest in Mexican art, or the art from any other number of countries.)”

All depressing stuff. But, says Chad, “this situation could change on a dime. Announce a fund to subsidize translations into English from Québécois writers. Send a monthly newsletter to 100 select American editors and tastemakers highlighting a range of Québec works. Set up a substantial, well-organized meeting/conference/festival introducing American and Québec publishing houses to one another. Sure, this may only result in five to ten books a year being published in America, but that’s more than there is now…”

Depressing indeed. But there is some hope in the thought that, as so often, all it would take is a little bit of funding to help turn things around.