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.
David Warriner is a French-to-English translator who nurtures a healthy passion for crime fiction and thrillers from Quebec and beyond. More than a decade into the rat race of a career in corporate and creative translation, he listened to his heart and turned his hand again to the delicate art of literary translation they tried to teach him at Oxford. David lived in Quebec City and Montreal for ten years before moving to British Columbia. These days, any excuse is a good one for him to hop on a plane and soak up some culture in Quebec every few months or so. David’s translation of Roxanne Bouchard’s We Were the Salt of the Sea was published with Orenda Books in London in 2018
What are you reading/translating at the minute?
I’m in the final pages of La Mort Nomade, volume three in Ian Manook’s gritty yet laugh-out-loud Yeruldelgger trilogy set in the vast Mongolian steppe, which I’m hoping to find an English publisher for soon. Not a Quebec author, I know, but I did meet him at a crime fiction festival in Quebec, if that counts. Next up on my reading list is Johanne Seymour’s Rinzen: la beauté intérieure, which should feed my crime fiction addiction nicely. I’ve also been reading Roxanne Bouchard’s nonfiction book 5 balles dans la tête, which is about PTSD in the Canadian armed forces. Roxanne’s writing is a joy to translate, and I’m keen to help her find a home for some of her other work until the second volume in her DS Moralès series is ready for me to translate. As for what I’m translating, I just delivered the MS for Dr. Gaétan Brouillard’s Rethinking Pain to Greystone Books in Vancouver with a boatload of blood, sweat and tears, so I’m happily between literary translation projects at the moment. I’m also pitching Marie-Ève Bourassa’s Red Light trilogy set in prohibition-era Montreal to select publishers and trying to find the right publisher to pitch Roxanne’s 5 balles to. With Yeruldelgger on my plate too, it’s almost a full-time job in itself pitching what I want to translate. Such is the life of an emerging literary translator!
Is there anything you’re especially looking forward to reading this year?
I can’t wait to read Patrick Sénécal’s Seven Days when Howard Scott and Phyllis Aronoff’s translation is published by Simon and Schuster Canada in the New Year.
Call me a geek, but I love reading translations to see how well they manage to convey the atmosphere and flavour of the original.
I’m also looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of François Lévesque’s Neiges Rouges.
What is your relationship to Quebec writing?
Surprisingly, I’m something of a late bloomer when it comes to Quebec writing, or my awareness of it at least. I think the first Quebec novel I consciously read was Martin Michaud’s Je me souviens all of five years ago and that was the first time I really thought about moving away from commercial and creative translation and toward literary translation. I feel like I used to read nothing but English books when I lived in Quebec, but now that I’m based in BC, I can’t get enough books to read in French.
What, if anything, would you say defines Quebec literature?
A strong sense of place and identity. And a hint of the exotic you don’t find anywhere else in North America. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t quite exotic enough though to really draw readers away from pure CanLit and incite publishers to invest in translation. The same goes for Quebec crime fiction: the authors I’ve read seem to share many similarities with their cousins in the Nordic Noir genre (perhaps it’s the climate and sense of isolation). But to draw new readers and, dare I dream, foster the emergence of Quebec Noir as a recognized genre, we need more publishers to step up and commission translations. Fortunately, it looks like that’s beginning to happen.