Can I say that this was the most fun contest I’ve ever judged? All the submissions bore some flavour, either as response or as translation or as a combination, of the mind that wrote them, and of the poem by Nicole Brossard. It was lovely to enter the currents of those minds. Thank you, all!
said, how to choose? I did look in the translation for:
1) soundscape: do the cadences of the English version sound like Brossard? Are the sinews of the movement within lines and between lines evocative of the Brossard original? This eliminated some versions, which despite having many clever solutions in places, still read as translations in English, with stickiness between the words and no flow that evoked Brossard.
2) alliterations of au présent du présent prenant possession… en pleine narrative…
The best translation captured these movements of sound in English so well. The others only partly….
3) critically: the translation had to capture the quirk of Brossard’s two italicized phrases that enact a grammatical decoupling: de les bébés (which should be “des bébés” in normal French!) and de les étés… Both of these phrases also locate a micro-soundscape… they sound the same! The sound alas, is lost when été becomes summer and bébé becomes babe or baby… but how to mark the decoupling! Two of the translations did it best… and it is essential to the piece.
Here, then, are the winning entries!
Extracts from Le Désert Mauve by Laure Angestelle,
in translation by Maude Laure (1987) [Amy Butcher]
-- This one, embedded in a paratranslational environment that pays homage to the translatory gestures in Brossard’s Mauve Desert, was the best translation overall of all the entries. It didn’t really need its paratranslational aura, but that is well done too, right up to the winkish misspelling or respelling of the names in the title, so that they’re “translated” as well, and aren’t really Brossard characters any more.
Of the real we know only what happens to our body [Karen Ocaña]
-- This one for me captured the overall soundscape of the Brossard poem extremely well, or that aspect of a Brossard soundscape which reads very smoothly (while performing very disruptive acts on syntax) and did address that key challenge number 3. It does, though, alter the poem in small ways, so I place it second, as altering can be a way of making it easier on yourself as a translator… or it could just be a way of privileging the soundscape… regardless, it is a beautiful version and poem.
we know not what will come to our bodies become (after Nicole Brossard) [Lary Bremner/Timewell]
-- This version is marked by the author as an altered text, fairly enough. Yet it responds and corresponds with the Brossard text in exacting ways, and succeeds in creating another type of very accurate soundscape of a Brossard poem, this one digging and digging in syntax and in the movements of the language, and it most clearly represents, perhaps, the sensorial experience of reading a Brossard poem in the original.
In closing, it was an honour to read everyone’s work, and I hope you keep translating!
2 April 2014
[Read the translations in the LANGUAGES issue due out in early May 2014.]