Found in translation: discovering Canadian literary translations

By Liane Belway

Discovering new and exciting books and authors is a rewarding experience for most readers. In Published Heritage—the library side of Library and Archives Canada (LAC)—we connect with the publishers who bring us these works and make our diverse published Canadian heritage accessible to a wider audience.

When Canadian publishers make material available, they deposit copies with LAC with the help of our Legal Deposit team. What kinds of material do we acquire in Legal Deposit? A wealth of Canadian content: books, music, spoken-word recordings, magazines and other serials, and digital material as well. Each offers a unique perspective on Canadian society and culture, reflecting the publisher’s vision, interests and identity. One source of new knowledge and literary artistry is the translation of such works, making these publications available to a completely new audience.

Canadian Translations

One way of making great literature available to wider audiences is through literary translation, an often overlooked literary skill but a highly valuable one in a multicultural and multilingual society. Translations offer a window into new perspectives and styles, and a chance to discover literary traditions and innovations often not otherwise easily accessible. In fact, the Governor General’s Awards have a category for Translation, acknowledging the value of bringing French-language works to new readers in English when they would not ordinarily have the chance to read them. Each year, this award recognizes the translation of a work into English for its literary excellence and cultural contribution.

Award Winners

The 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation was awarded to Readopolis, translated into English by Oana Avasilichioaei and published by BookThug in Toronto. It is a translation of Lectodôme by Bertrand Laverdure, published by Le Quartanier, a francophone publishing house in Montreal. The Peer Assessment Committee had high praise for Avasilichioaei: “In Readopolis, Oana Avasilichioaei has risen to and matched the stylistic acrobatics of Bertrand Laverdure’s Lectodôme. The many voices of Quebecois writing sing through in this intelligent translation – a vertiginous ode to the pure, if rarely rewarded, pursuit of literature.”

David Clerson’s Brothers, a worthy finalist for the same award in 2017, also offers an excellent introduction to a new publisher’s vision. QC Fiction, an imprint of Baraka Books with a fresh perspective, is a Quebec-based English-language book publisher in Montreal. Recognizing the value of translations, QC Fiction’s goal is to publish contemporary Quebec fiction originally published in French, in English translations for a wider Canadian and international audience. Another QC Fiction title, I Never Talk About It, contains 37 stories and as many translators. As Fiction editor Peter McCambridge states, “37 different translators to translate each of the short stories published in a collection by Véronique Côté and Steve Gagnon. It’s a reminder that there are at least 37 different ways to translate an author’s voice—something to consider the next time you pick up a book in translation!”

Six colourful book covers with similar designs laid out side by side, displaying all titles: Listening for Jupiter, I Never Talk About It, Behind the Eyes We Meet, Brothers, The Unknown Huntsman, Life in the Court of Matane.

A selection of publications from QC Fiction, including Brothers (2016), the finalist of the Governor General prize for translation. Image used with permission from QC Fiction.

Providing works in translation allows audiences outside of Canada access to a large and, in our ever more connected world, growing national literature, and Canadian authors are enjoying an increasingly international audience. QC Fiction is also a great example of Canadian fiction’s global appeal. Says McCambridge: “So far the formula seems to be working: 3 of our first 5 books have been mentioned in The Guardian newspaper in England and bloggers from Scotland to Australia have picked up on what we’re doing and praised our ‘intriguing light reads.’”

With these award-winning publishers—just two examples of the innovative work in the world of Canadian literary translations—Canadian publishing remains a creative, varied, and thriving world that LAC strives to collect and preserve for readers now and in the future. To see what else LAC has in its collections, try our new search tool at: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/lac-bac/search/all.


Liane Belway is the Acquisitions Librarian for English monographs in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.