Excerpt In Translation

Pour réussir un poulet

by Fabien Cloutier

L’instant scène, 2014

Fabien Cloutier won a first Governor General’s Literary Award in 2015 with Pour réussir un poulet, a raw and cruel portrait of the exploitation of human misery. Marie-Claude Plourde’s translation brings across the gritty, rhythmic language of the original in working-class English that verges on broken.



CARL — Geez man

’zat a job or a lunch?


JUDITH GILBERT — Oh dear just enjoy it

It’s oysters



CARL — Not sure I want any


MÉLISSA — You’re not ashamed a’ yourself?

Your lil’ sister can open ’em up on the first try

An’ you, you’ve been messin’ with that one for five minutes


CARL — Shut up


STEVEN  — I like ’em plain


MÉLISSA — Pepper lime vodka for me

Best mix

I tried so far


JUDITH GILBERT — Careful not to maim yerself with that


CARL — It’s disgusting


STEVEN — You gotta eat some to develop the taste

Like blue cheese

With time

It starts to taste good


CARL — Blue cheese

First time I ate that

It felt like I was bitin’ straight into a boil on a dick


STEVEN — For fuck’s sake


JUDITH GILBERT — Well when there’s a boil on a dick

I ain’t bitin’ into it


STEVEN — Mom for fuck’s sake

I don’t wanna hear that


JUDITH GILBERT — S’ just a joke

I’m so happy to eat oysters

Free oysters to boot

It’s almost enough to make me forget bein’ pissed off ’bout my stolen plant


STEVEN — Stolen plant?


JUDITH GILBERT — Someone stole a hibiscus from my balcony


CARL — Huh?


STEVEN — An’ I bet your door wasn’t even locked, eh?

You gotta keep your doors locked Mom

In the world we live in today

You gotta keep your doors locked


CARL — It takes a real asshole to steal a plant


JUDITH GILBERT — An asshole or an Arab


MÉLISSA — There you go again


CARL — I ain’t so sure ’bout an Arab stealin’ a plant


That’s what they’ve got a reputation for

Not stealin’


MÉLISSA — This shit ain’t funny one bit


CARL — They’re just jokes


STEVEN — But those people, they don’t get that jokes are jokes


JUDITH GILBERT — I called 911 for my plant

They tell us to do that when somethin’ happens

But they din’t do nothin’

I thought a policeman dressed as the police woulda come

That’s all

At least it’d send a signal to ’em scumbags

Out stealin’ plants

Show ’em the police give a shit ’bout that


CARL — It wasn’t an emergency


JUDITH GILBERT — Damn right it was an emergency

If that scumbag is running out onna streets

With my hibiscus in ’is hands

S’ right now they oughta go after ’im

Not tomorrow


MÉLISSA — Let’s just eat ok?


CARL — That doesn’t look good

It can’t taste good


STEVEN — Come on


JUDITH GILBERT — Do you eat shrimp?


CARL — Yeah


JUDITH GILBERT — They’re damn ugly too


MÉLISSA — An’ you eat shrimp anyway

Same thing


CARL — You’ll never see me eat an ugly snatch tho


STEVEN — That ain’t true

An’ you know it


CARL — There’s no way you’re telling that now you jerk


STEVEN — You kept sayin’ yourself that your ex’s snatch

Looked kinda like someone had punched a shepherd’s pie

Din’t stop you from having two kids with ’er


MÉLISSA — Hey you jackasses

You just don’t say snatch in front of your mother

Have some basic decency you two


JUDITH GILBERT — Stop starin’ at it

It’s not like it’s gonna jump into your mouth by itself


CARL — Man that shit tastes so bad


STEVEN — Come on

Swallow it down


MÉLISSA — Wow you’re laying it on thick




CARL — D’you have to eat it raw?


JUDITH GILBERT — It’s better raw


CARL — I’ll fuckin’ know what to eat

Whenever I need to throw up


JUDITH GILBERT — But just outta curiosity

Who is it who gave you such a big fat gift?


CARL — The guy who owns the mall


STEVEN — Mario Vaillancourt


JUDITH GILBERT — Ain’t that the shoppin’ centre with the restaurant you work at?



He comes to the restaurant sometimes

I see him when I wait his table


JUDITH GILBERT — An’ what did he give you that for?



There are cheap ones

At the dock in Caraquet

They’re cheaper there

It’s like shrimp

They’re cheaper in Matane


CARL — He knows a fisherman who’s gettin’ oysters onna side

An’ he’s givin’ me that ’cause he’d like us

To be partners sort of
We’d buy a whole lot

An’ then sell that here an’ split profits

But I don’ trust ’im


STEVEN — It’s ’cause he’s not goin’ through a distributor

It’s a fisherman who’s sellin’ some for cheap for regular folks

I think it could work


JUDITH GILBERT — Cheap cheap how cheap?


STEVEN — Real cheap


CARL — Cheap but what if it tastes like ass?

I’m regular folk but I still can’t bring myself to swallow that


STEVEN — You looked willing earlier tho?


CARL — I thought it could be nice ’nuf

But since I’ve tasted the stuff

Who’s gonna buy it if it tastes awful?


JUDITH GILBERT — Hey now you’ll have to get it outta your head

That just because ya don’t like oysters

Nobody else does




STEVEN — Wut you doin’ this Friday?


CARL — What’s this now?


STEVEN — Answer me

Wut you doin’ this Friday?


CARL — Fuck you


STEVEN — What is it you’re doin’ Friday night?


JUDITH GILBERT — Come on answer


CARL — I’m gonna see “Tribute to Queen”


MÉLISSA — Again?


STEVEN — An’ just how many times have you seen “Tribute to Queen”?


CARL — Fuck you


STEVEN — How many?


CARL — Fuck you


STEVEN — You told me you’ve seen “Tribute to Queen” twenty-seven times

So your fuckin’ lessons on taste

You c’n shove ’em up your ass!


CARL — It tastes like ass!


JUDITH GILBERT — A deal like that’d work with restaurants

Or maybe fish markets


MÉLISSA — Under the table to boot?





I’d go to Caraquet



You gotta work for a livin’


CARL — Usin’ up gas

An’ missin’ “Tribute to Queen”

To go an’ end up bored to tears in Caraquet

Can’t wrap my head ’round that


STEVEN — We won’t be goin’ there as tourists


CARL — It takes a special license to drive a truck


STEVEN — I c’n find one

I drove a school bus onna side for three years

D’ya think I took the course for that?


CARL — Dude you change your mind on a fuckin’ whim

You din’t wanna see ’is face again

An’ now you’re ready to deal oysters with the guy


MÉLISSA — Ever buy knives at Dollorama?


CARL — Like everybody else


MÉLISSA — But they’re shitty the knives from Dollorama

You cut three ’r four carrots an’ they don’t cut anymore


JUDITH GILBERT — Yeah that’s right


STEVEN — Damn right

They’re fuckin’ shit


JUDITH GILBERT — It’s like the garlic from China

It makes you burp more than the garlic from here


MÉLISSA — Anyway

The Chinese dude makin’ the knives

He’s not thinkin’

“I’m not makin’ this

It’s useless”

He makes ’em

He sells ’em


CARL — So?


STEVEN — You’re so damn slow


MÉLISSA — That’s all


If they’re willin’ to sell knives that don’t work well

Someone can go sell oysters

Even if they don’t like the taste


CARL — It’s just/




CARL — It’s goin’ a lil’ fast I think


JUDITH GILBERT — It’s not too fast at all

It’s a sign

Damn you don’t believe in signs sometimes?






JUDITH GILBERT — Back in the day

Fellas with no diploma who ended up with government jobs

With pension funds an’ all

There was plenty of ’em

But that’s over now

Even the guy out puttin’ the cones inna streets

So that they c’n paint the lines onna side of the road

He has to have a diploma


MÉLISSA — Takin’ a cone outta the pickup

Dumpin’ it onna ground every three ’r four feet

A retard could do that


JUDITH GILBERT — An’ it’d be way cheaper ’irin’ that retard

Or prisoners

You have them put the fuckin’ cones out

’stead of paying their cable

An’ private trailers to fuck their girlfriends in

But it doesn’t work like that

The government nowadays

If ya don’t have the right paper

They don’t give a shit about ya

So you two

Who din’t even finish secondary three

C’n we jus’ agree that

When somethin’ comes your way

You have to make the most of it




JUDITH GILBERT — You don’t like it

You think it tastes like shit

That’s fine we get it

You c’n eat all the crap you want

An’ die from a heart attack in a couple of years

That’s your right

But to make a quick buck off the best oysters inna world

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing


CARL — Would you let me bring my Queen cassette?


PETINF14-QuebecReads-Favicon-32x32Translation by Marie-Claude Plourde