I’ve just spent a fun half-hour putting off translating more of my book reading the French version of Breakaway: Jessie on my mind by Sylvain Hotte (Aréna: Panache). I read the book in English first because I was curious about the types of books Baraka Books of Montréal published and seeing this novel on their list convinced me they were the publisher to pitch my translation of I Hate Hockey to.
I wasn’t disappointed, by Baraka or by Jessie on my mind. No wonder Casey Roberts won the John Glassco prize for his translation.
For those who are interested, here’s the blurb:
Alexandre McKenzie lives on North Shore of the St. Lawrence River. In summer he rides the logging trails on his quad. Come winter he is a promising young hockey star who seeks solitude at a bush camp by the frozen lake. But when he plunges into a relationship with a girl plagued by tragedy, things turn ugly. Fighting his own demons Alex fights to hold his head high, like the bull moose that haunts him from the moment he meets Jessie. Break Away, Jessie on my mind tells of friendship, family, pride and love. It’s a story that could happen wherever winter, hockey, and young people come together.
As I read the English, I wrote down all the great, slangy English expressions that made me wonder what on earth the French had been. And tonight I found out. Nice job, Casey! To pick just a few examples, “menait 2-1” became “nursed a 2-1 lead”, “n’importe quoi” became “a crock”, and “wicked” was used to add a bit of flavor to “magnifique” and even “très”.
I doubt very much that any French-English dictionary would ever suggest “wicked” as a translation for “très” and yet it couldn’t have worked better here.
All in all, it was a fun way to spend half an hour and I think I’m going to start my own lexicon of literary translations terms, the way I would for any other client. It could all come in very handy in the future, and not just for my next hockey novel.