​Heteropolis, Adaptive Actions

I was asked to translate several pieces from this collection, three pieces, different authors, different voices, different translating puzzles to solve.

The shortest and most literary piece was a short parable illustrating how someone was being treated in the same way he had treated others. In French, it was titled L'Arroseur arrosé, which I decided to translate as "The Biter Bit." The context for the original French is the Cameroun region. One particular puzzle had to do with the word "waetizing," in French "waétiser," which, the author explains in a footnote, "is a common jargon word meaning “to speak like a white man.” The Cameroonian, of bilingual nationality, develops many anglicisms such as this one. Here...

Another fun piece in this collection of Heteropolis was a fascinating semiotic study by Patrice Loubier, "Se bricoler un signe et partir. Notes sur une série photographique de Martin Désilets." The author studies a then recent photographic series by Martin Désilets, who documented that peculiar habit we sometimes have of "reserving" street parking in front of our home with random objects from our house. I often think of this piece and Loubier's analysis: my uphill neighbors trade in junk, removing, reusing, reselling tons of junk, and they often load their trucks out front. A few years ago, while these luxury condos were being built, parking got tough, and the neighbors got cagey. I was annoyed, with the city especially, but with the neighbors...

In this same collection, I really enjoyed translating an article by Elisabeth Mercier, "Étrangères dans la ville : femmes voilées et espaces urbains," on the perception of veiled women in Montreal. Given that I teach in a French and Francophone department, and France is currently going through growing pains with its shifting population -- no longer exclusively white, and Catholic or Jewish. I've used her remarks several times in contemporary France class. 

Ultimately, the woman wearing the veil at Costco, at the Nun's Island, or at the Jean-Talon market is automatically recognized as the foreign figure, the one not in its place, who transgressed a border and reifies it by that very fact. Her veil is the visible sign of this differenc...

This article by Olivier Asselin, from the Université de Montreal, looked at the history of this colored logo and its political destiny in the Occupy movement that gripped Quebec during the spring of 2012.

​L’histoire officielle du carré rouge est courte. Il paraît pour la première fois publiquement au Québec le 5 octobre 2004  lors d’une présentation du Collectif pour un Québec sans pauvreté à la Commission des affaires sociales de l’Assemblée nationale au sujet d’un projet de réforme de l’aide sociale déposé par le gouvernement Charest (qui est alors durant son premier mandat): pour marquer leur opposition au projet de loi, les délégués du collectif portent alors un carré de ruban gommé (duct tape) rouge[i]. Dans leur déclaration à la Commissio...

For several years at Bates College where I teach, I participated in a translation festival: we invited poets from all corners of the world to recite their work in the original language, while simultaneously on a screen behind them spectators could read a translation of their poem. This was a fantastic opportunity to showcase language arts and the very creative process of translation. The first year of Translations: Bates International Poetry Festival, we invited the French poet Emeric de Monteynard. I had the pleasure of translating some of his poems. 

The beautiful picture at left was one of many posters for the festival, each showcasing the poets invited. The beautiful work was created by Hakusan Creation, led by William Ash and Naomi O...

This was the first and only and only collaboration I did with Simon Krysl. A piece by Alain Badiou, the French philosopher. We both came to the translation from very different areas of strength: Simon, a deep thorough knowledge of marxist philosphy; me, French language. I was living in Maine, my first year out of graduate school. He had moved back to Prague, so all our communications were online, and even more specifically, in our footnotes. Have you ever looked for a translation of a word you thought you knew the meaning, but find instead online forums where translators debate the finer points of the word "to draw," (for instance)? This was our footnotes: comments back and forth on the subtle meaning of many words. One of the more joyous trans...

I first discovered the enigmatic "Antoine Volodine" while translating this essay by Lionel Ruffel on the function of interrogations in his various novels. It took me thirteen years, but I finally included his novel Le Nom des singes (Naming the Jungle) in my Science and Literature class, Winter 2016. My students are rock stars: they read this in French! If you like puzzling dystopian worlds that comment on our fucked up world, then read Volodine. Here is a good taste of the author's fiction.

Lionel Ruffel, Interrogation: A Post Exotic Device, Substance, 2003

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