Translators reviewing their own work


It’s a tricky one, this category. You spend ages reading until you have a book that really stands out from the rest. You pitch it to a publisher who agrees that it really is outstanding. You translate the thing and suddenly you lose all credibility and can never recommend the book ever again because you’re biased and just plugging your own work. It’s a bit of a shame – you translated the book in the first place because you thought it deserved a wider audience. So, bearing all that in mind, here are the top three picks from my own work so far, not because I think my translation is outstanding, but because I think the books themselves are great.

1. I Hate Hockey

The first book I translated and for this reason alone it will probably always be my favourite. Just as my daughter will always be my favourite (don’t tell the son who’s on his way). This was also the first book I’d read of François Barcelo’s. There was something about the voice, the whole noir thing that really appealed to me. The narrator is a real loser, but we can’t help rooting for him all the same.

Antoine Vachon blames Canada’s national game for killing his marriage with his beautiful ex-wife (well, that and the power outage that brought her home unexpectedly to find him in bed with her intern). But hockey is a pretext for unlikely adventure in this sardonic roman noir that at times flirts with the outrageous.

2. The Adventures of Radisson 1

Spring 1651: a young man from Paris lands in Trois-Rivières on the St. Lawrence River. Within weeks, the course of his life changes drastically when Iroquois braves capture him. Pierre-Esprit Radisson, then 15 years old, begins a new life. Canoeing rivers and lakes and portaging over mountains, Radisson’s captors take him to distant lands where first they torture him and adopt him as their brother. Radisson then becomes the Iroquois Orinha, goes to war with his new brothers, and learns the life and the ways of his new family.

Action-packed is an understatement. I can’t wait to read and translate the second installment later this year.

3. The Orphanage

Richard Bergeron is a politician in Montréal and this is his account of his childhood, the early years of which were spent growing up in an orphanage, even though both parents were still alive.

“I was a big boy. Soon, I would be four years old. The four of us—the four oldest—were in the back seat of our father’s car. The baby was just six months old. He wasn’t with us.
Everything felt heavy and sad. We could feel it from the back seat. We didn’t dare move, didn’t dare open our mouths. But where were we going anyway? They must have told us, the older children, but we didn’t understand…”