Fiction in Translation
Novels in translation make new means of expression and alternate modes of thought available to readers unfamiliar with the source language. They can, as well, offer readers who are already familiar with the source language new ways of understanding words, ideas, and cultural relationships that they once thought familiar. We hope the essays in this issue will accomplish all these aims.
Katharine Hammit’s review of Island of Shattered Dreams explores author Chantal Spitz’s innovative mingling of poetic Mā’ohi soliloquies with morefamiliar narrative strategies to tell a tale of physical and spiritual displacement in contemporary French Polynesia. Hammitt praises translator Jean Anderson, too, for her ability to render the Oceanic voices that Spitz so creatively reclaims from colonial ambitions. Lucy Swanson takes on the recent translation of Fabienne Kanor’s Humus, which imagines the voices of a dozen women who leapt from a slaving ship in 1774, preferring to drown rather than submit to the forced labor and violence prepared for them. Swanson acknowledges Lynn Palermo’s graceful work, which makes this novel available to an Anglophone audience, but is especially sensitive to how Kanor herself translates the silence of the archives. Samuel Martin explores Annie Strayer’s translation of Nobel Prize-Winner Annie Ernaux’s autofiction, Les Années / The Years. He finds a meeting of minds between the two writers, making visible how Strayer alternately embraces and takes distance from Ernaux’s words and syntax to capture the latter’s distinctive means of expression and way of seeing the world. Fittingly, our concluding text is an interview by associate editor Corine Labridy with translator Nathan Dize, which explores the many ways by which translation operates in literature and in life.
It is our hope that reviews and interview alike will suggest new paths for readers seeking to understand the wider French-speaking world and lend encouragement– and perhaps even suggest a few new tricks– to aspiring translators.
- Reclaiming Voice in Francophone Polynesia: Chantal Spitz’s Island of Shattered Dreams, by Katherine Hammitt, University of Southern California
- Giving Voice to the Enslaved: Fabienne Kanor’s Humus (translated by Lynn Palermo), by Lucy Swanson, University of Arizona
- Annie Ernaux’s The Years in Translation; or, the Art of St(r)aying True, by Samuel Martin, University of Pennsylvania
- Translating as an Act of Care: Interview with Translator Nathan Dize, by Corine Labridy, University of Pennsylvania