Tag Archives: french

Argimou_cover

Argimou: A Legend of the Micmac by S. Douglas S. Huyghue

Argimou_coverSet in 1755 at the fall of Fort Beausejour to the British, Argimou: A Legend of the Micmac first appeared in print in serialized form in The Amaranth (a New Brunswick literary journal) in 1842. It was very popular since “historical fiction was enjoying wide international popularity” at the time, according to Gwendolyn Davies informative Afterword. Sir Walter Scott’s novels were quite popular at the time and publishers were looking for similar writings to publish for their reader’s entertainment.

“Argimou not only reflected the social conscience and citizen engagement of its author but also reminds us of the role played by our national literature in heightening our cultural awareness of nineteenth-century Canada.”

Gwendolyn Davies
S.D.S. Huyghue was born in PEI in 1816 and lived in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick at different times in his life. Argimou is notable, not only for its story set at the time of the fall of French rule in Acadia but for its sympathetic attitude towards the Mi’kmaw nation and how admirable their uncomplicated way of life was:

“…he [Edward, an English soldier] thought how little, after all, the luxury, the advantages of a civilized state of society, were capable of ameliorating the moral or physical condition of man. What benefit had art and intellectual culture, after the lapse of thousands of years, conferred upon his nation that these simple children of Nature did not receive from their mother’s hand, unsolicited?”

The story of Argimou is fairly straightforward: after the fall of Fort Beausejour, Maliseet warriors kidnap Clarence Forbes, the betrothed of Edward Molesworth, the aforementioned English soldier. Argimou, a Mi’kmaq warrior who was captured by the British at the Fort, offers to help Edward find Clarence in return for his freedom. The Maliseet also have Argimou’s love interest Waswetchcul captive. So both men work together along with Argimou’s father Pansaway to retrieve the women. What transpires is a trip from Nova Scotia through present-day southern New Brunswick to the Bay of Fundy where the story reaches its climax.

As I was reading this story, I couldn’t help but think of James Fenimore Cooper, a contemporary of Mr. Huyghue’s and his extremely popular Last of the Mohicans which was published in 1826, less than two decades prior to Argimou. Both stories are examples of “captivity narratives” which were popular at the time.

Argimou: A Legend of the Micmac holds a unique place in early Canadian literature, for it is certainly descriptive of a historical time, filled with historical places and was published at a time when there was a scarce availability of literature of the “homegrown” variety. It may be a simple story, but it retains a certain timelessness about it as it surfaces again (thanks to Wilfred Laurier University Press) in a time of promised healing and reconciliation toward Canada’s indigenous peoples.

Argimou: A Legend of the Micmacs by S. Douglass S. Huyghue
Wilfred Laurier University Press

This article has been Digiproved © 2018 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: WLU Press
Some Rights Reserved  

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

This article has been Digiproved © 2017-2018 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

English is Not a Magic Language by Jacques Poulin

This small treasure of a book (130 pages) was first published in French in 2009, and Véhicule Press has had it translated (by Sheila Fischman) and released it as English is Not a Magic Language under their Esplanade Books fiction imprint. It is the story of two brothers, Jack, the elder brother and Francis the younger one. In between the two is their sister (who goes unnamed, but Francis refers to her as “Little Sister” even though she is a little older than him). Jack is a successful writer who is working on a new book based on the history of the French in North America. He lives in the same apartment building as Francis, who is a professional reader and is quite successful at that calling. The sister loves to travel and is a sprightly go-between with her two brothers, always helping, especially Jack who toils away day and night to complete his book, much to the detriment of his health and well-being. On the other hand, Francis’ work as a reader greatly benefits the people he reads to: a girl with a tragic past, a woman in a coma, and a little boy awaiting a heart operation. All respond positively in some way to his continued visits.

Themes

This little book might be considered a ‘quick read’, but it is by no means bereft of themes; it takes a little contemplating to tie some things together. Mr Poulin has artfully distilled down a story to the bare essentials, but in doing so, compels the reader to use their powers of thought to interpret certain circumstances. For example, the apparent dichotomy of the written word that is represented by Jack the author and Francis the reader. Jack, in writing his novels, is reclusive, talking to no one and shunning all media. He believes his books should speak for themselves. His health, ignored as he labors over words, begins to decline and his sister and brother must continually check in on him, bringing him food, cleaning up his apartment and so on. He laments: “the words come drop by drop.”

English is Not a Magic Language is a delightfully magical story. It is one book that will certainly enhance your love of reading.

Francis, by his reading to others, has not only helped them to improve mentally and physically but has helped Francis grow as a person too. “It was the reading sessions that had enhanced my awareness and made me think,” he tells Jack’s girlfriend Marine.

However, there are underlying themes of love throughout English is Not a Magic Language. A love for books, for reading them, for writing them. There is the love for the characters in a book, who Francis says have all become a part of him now. There is also familial love and erotic love, when I say erotic love I mean like the kind you find in naughty movies on https://www.watchmygf.xxx/. There is something engulfing and sensual about erotic love that is utterly transfixing. Without a doubt, using sex toys bought from a website similar to Wink Wink Sex Toys would help set the scene so to speak.

An amazing breakthrough for one of Francis’ clients is that of Limoilou, the girl with a sad past (Francis notes the scars on her wrists). Oddly enough, it is the journals of Lewis and Clark, and Francis’ skilled reading of them that draws out Limoilou as she begins to change from a passive listener to an active one, asking questions about the characters, and showing a particular interest in Sacagawea, the Bird Woman who helps Lewis and Clark acquire horses from the Shoshones: “Limoilou’s eyes were shining. I realized that she was simply happy. There were streaks of light on her face,” Francis comments. You can sense Limoilou’s love and heartfelt appreciation for what Francis has done for her over their many reading sessions. Marine, Jack’s girlfriend and Limoilou’s caretaker through this difficult time has come to love Francis too, albeit in a different sense.

To sum up, English is Not a Magic Language is a delightfully magical story with several themes to be found within its pages, and it is one book that will certainly enhance your love of reading.


Jacques Poulin, born in 1938 in Saint-Gédéon-de-Beauce, Quebec, is one of the leading novelists of his generation. The author of over a dozen novels, including Volkswagen Blues which introduced him to a wider American and Canadian audience, he has received many prizes. He lives in Québec City.

Award-winning translator Sheila Fischman has translated over 150 Quebec novels from French to English, including Michel Tremblay, Marie-Claire Blais and Kim Thúy. She is a recipient of the Molson Prize for the Arts. She lives in Montreal.

This article has been Digiproved © 2016 James FisherSome Rights Reserved