I Never Talk About It by Veronique Côté and Steve Gagnon

QC Fiction, which is an imprint of Quebec’s Baraka Books, has never shied away from producing some exceptional titles during its brief existence. I Never Talk About It is no exception, and is even a departure of sorts for them. This collection of 37 short stories (more akin to monologues than actual stories with dialogue, plot, etc) were originally written in French by two authors, Veronique Côté and Steve Gagnon. QC Fiction employed 37 different translators to produce this unique addition to a catalogue that has garnered much critical acclaim.

I Never Talk About It is an ambitious project from QC Fiction that warrants a spot on your “to-read” list.

In the book’s introduction, Peter McCambridge (editor at QC Fiction and the project’s mastermind) tells us the reason behind this book:

“Translations are the product of a set of translators with established routines and practices. With the same tics, favourite words and go-tos as the rest of us. But none of this is ever discussed. Readers are lucky to find the translator’s name on the book let alone learn anything about their approach to it or the questions that keep them up at night. What if? we thought. Let’s have each of the 37 stories translated by a different translator. By a translator with his or her unique approach. By a translator who then reveals a little of what they did and why at the end of each story.”

We may think that translation is as easy as going to a website and plugging in the text, but for conversations or, as in the case here, monologues, it is not so easy as that. As Mr McCambridge states, each translator (including himself) has a unique approach. Take, for instance, the comments of Daniel Grenier, author and translator:

“To translate in a language that is not your own is a destabilizing experience, it brings you back to the humbling feeling that’s such an important part of the job. English, under the easygoing appearance it presents to the world, is so subtle, so difficult, it’s as difficult and as hard as a diamond.”

A good part of the pleasure in reading I Never Talk About It is discovering a little about the translator and his or her comments at the end of each story. Some of them are native French speakers, others are native English speakers and all come from various backgrounds. Some are authors first, translators second. Others are professional translators, some have not even translated before now!
All of the stories are essentially monologues (and were originally written as such). One can readily imagine them being performed at an open mic night in a local establishment or on the small stage. Typically they are Gen X voices of angst, but any generation can find something here to take away. Not a few are manic, stream-of-consciousness thoughts about various subjects such as doing the dishes, trolls (the kind you collect), wearing sunglasses at night, being the only non-pregnant woman at a baby shower, and a crazy one about vacationing lovers getting continually interrupted by a tractor in the Pyrenees. You get the idea. There’s no holding back or shying away from any topic (and I do mean any!).

For me, I Never Talk About It is about coaxing the translators out of the shadows and giving them a space to showcase their talent and talk a bit about it at the same time. And the stories are just as fascinating to read as other titles in the QC Fiction catalogue, such as the myth-like Brothers and the darkly humorous The Unknown Huntsman. I Never Talk about It is yet another ambitious project from QC Fiction that warrants a spot on your “to-read” list. You’ll undoubtedly discover it will be some of the most stimulating, emotional and provocative reading that you’ll do this year.

I Never Talk About It by Veronique Côté and Steve Gagnon
QC Fiction

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