15 May 2010

Glassco en français

The recent publication of Daniel Bismuth's new French translation of Memoirs of Montparnasse is as welcome as it is unexpected. I believe I'm right in saying that Glassco's masterpiece now holds the distinction of being the only English language Canadian book to have been twice accorded the treatment. Comparisons are unavoidable. Of the two translations, I think Bismuth's Mémoires de Montparnasse, is the superior. This is no slight against Jean-Yves Soucy, whose Souvenirs de Montparnasse appeared in 1983 – Bismuth is a translator, Soucy is a writer.

Equally gifted in both fields, Glassco was a rare talent. He translated close to two hundred French language poems, including all of Hector de Saint Denys-Garneau's verse (then struggled for years to find a publisher). Garneau's Journal was Glassco's first translated book. In later years, he returned to prose, bringing into being English language editions of Monique Bosco's La Femme de Loth (Lot's Wife), Soucy's Un Dieu chasseur (Creatures of the Chase) and Jean-Charles Harvey's Les Demi-civilisés (Fear's Folly).

He lived to see his books translated into Dutch and German, but not French; Soucy's Souvenirs de Montparnasse was published two years too late. Nearly all the French translations published during Glassco's lifetime are found in the 1974 Alain Grandbois/John Glassco issue of ellipse. It's here that we see the very earliest translations of Memoirs in excerpts taken on by Sylvie Thériault and Marc Lebel. The same issue features four translated passages from Harriet Marwood, Governess.

Dutch and German readers have been enjoying Harriet and Richard's love story for nearly four decades. Here's hoping M Bismuth will consider Harriet Marwood, Governess for his next project.

An aside: That's not Glassco on the cover of Mémoires de Montparnasse. Library and Archives Canada holds several photos of the author that were taken during his Montparnassian adventures, yet none have been featured on the now six cover treatments. Another missed opportunity, I'm afraid.

No comments:

Post a Comment