Found in Translation

Congratulations to Sheila Fischman on being awarded The Molson Prize for her contribution to the arts. Fischman has translated over a hundred books - including this one:

The story is The Sweater by Roch Carrier, and if you've got a Canadian fiver in your wallet, you can read an excerpt.


kittenpie said…
No need, we have this one at home. we are Canadian, after all.
Unknown said…
I wonder what Sheila Fischman reads for fun?

I've started to read Volkswagen Blues by Jacques Poulin. Set in the Gaspésie region I'm heading east with Poulin, up and around the hilly roads, out toward to blue water. My memories of my only road trip to Gaspé are blue – the colour blue. Memory plays tricks on us but when I think of this beautiful region in Quebec I think of the colour blue and so many of our family photos feature the coastline villages with the water backdrop. With the except of a few pictures of us standing under wind turbines on wind farms, most of the pictures are of my little family posing at the vast shore. Blue.

I didn't get far in the book before I flipped it closed to consult the cover. I'm reading the translation by Sheila Fischman. I'm not sure why I picked up the English instead of the French original. Poulin's style is fluid and an Anglophone with a fair grasp at French can follow along swimmingly. I don't know if it is fair to describe his style as old fashion story telling but that is my impression - not too many confilicts, not to much word play, lots of imagery, lots of physical description, slow introduction to the characters who might turn out to be secondary to the facts in the story. The story has a lovely cadence.

Now I have to ask myself: is this because Poulin is a great storyteller or is it because Sheila Fischman is a great storyteller?

You'll remember Sheila Fischman as the translator that introduced much of Anglo Canada to the works of Roch Carrier, Michel Tremblay, and Anne Hébert. She has shared the voice of over 125 works by Canadian Francophones, in particular Quebecers... with the rest of Canada.

In May 2008 Fischman was presented with the Molson Prize recognizing her outstanding lifetime contributions to Canadian cultural. The $50,000 Molson prize will buy her A LOT of books.

I wonder what type of books Sheila Fischman takes to the cottage, curls up by the fire with, and piles beside her bed To Be Read later? On the other hand, maybe Sheila Fischman doesn't read for pleasure at all.

Maybe it feels too much like work.

Maybe she writes. When a translator gets paid to interprete and convey to words of others, are they ever tempted to put pen to paper to craft their own prose?

I'm going to ask my translator Gisèle Lamontagne and my copy editor Josée Prud'homme. While they adapted Dining with Death into La Mort au menu I never once in the entire process asked either of them what it was about their craft that drew them in, enabled them to polish the rough bits so that the diamond sparkled through of any given piece by any author.

How does someone develop the skill to make another artist look good, in a completely different language?

If you see Sheila Fischman at the next awards gala, ask her for me.

Kathleen Molloy, author - Dining with Death / La Mort au menu
sf said…
To Kathleen Molloy, thanks for writing about me. i have written another message that seems to have slipped into the void. i would be happy to hear from you directly. sf

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