Interview with Aleshia Jensen

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with people who are closely involved with Quebec literature on a daily basis as we continue to talk to publishers, readers, bookstore owners, and translators to get a feel for today’s publishing scene in Quebec.

Aleshia Jensen is a French-to-English freelance translator and former bookseller who lives in Montreal. In her spare time, she co-runs Writers Bloc, a small community of translators centered around continued learning and knowledge exchange. Her first translation of a novel, Explosions: Michael Bay and the Pyrotechnics of the Imagination by Mathieu Poulin, is forthcoming from QC Fiction, September 15.

PETINF14-QuebecReads-Favicon-32x32What are you reading/translating at the minute?

I’m currently reading Daria Colonna’s book of poetry Ne faites pas honte à votre siècle; Les sentiments du prince Charles, a French translation of a graphic novel by Swedish cartoonist Liv Strömquist (her work will be available in English soon with Fantagraphics); and Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel.


PETINF14-QuebecReads-Favicon-32x32Is there anything you’re especially looking forward to reading this year?

So many things! But I’m especially looking forward to starting Deborah Levy’s memoir The Cost of Living.


PETINF14-QuebecReads-Favicon-32x32What is your relationship to Quebec writing?

I grew up in various Canadian provinces and attended French immersion. My parents made me read for an hour in English and an hour in French every night, and I absolutely hated reading in French so I’d hide extra English books under my bed slats. It wasn’t until moving to Montréal for university that I learned to love reading in French. I had a teacher who is a literary translator, and she not only introduced me to some wonderful books but is also the reason why I started studying translation. Then I worked at Librairie Drawn and Quarterly for several years, where I discovered some really wonderful Quebec novels and comics.


PETINF14-QuebecReads-Favicon-32x32What, if anything, would you say defines Quebec literature?

I’m not sure there’s one thing that defines it. As individual readers we are attracted to certain kinds of books, and patterns and themes emerge through those readings.

I’m interested in Quebec’s strong female voices and, lately, books on the themes of creating art, motherhood, and friendship between women.


PETINF14-QuebecReads-Favicon-32x32And finally, if you were to recommend that someone who has never read anything from Quebec pick up a book and start reading it today, which book would it be?

It’s too hard to pick just one! For a more classic book, Le libraire by Gérard Bessette. One of my favourite English-language Quebec novels is Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill. For graphic novels, Susceptible by Geneviève Castrée and anything by Julie Doucet.



Image by Julie Delporte