I am in Paris to continue the series of interviews with Oulipian writers I started filming this winter.
This month, I am meeting Olivier Salon and Frédéric Forte. In February, Marcel Benabou, Paul Fournel, Ian Monk and Hervé le Tellier very kindly answered all my questions on their experience of writing and on translation.
In these interviews, I asked them about the materiality of writing, the way they work and most importantly, about the way they perceive translation. Each of them gave a very different/individual answer. Marcel Benabou works directly with his translator, to explain the constraints he used, and goes through the translated text with him when he knows the target language
Paul Fournel’s book Besoin de Vélo/ Need for the Bike had to be translated into English twice: once for the USA and once again for the UK, because of the differences in vocabulary between British and American English when it comes to the world of cycling.
Hervé Le Tellier had another sort of experience which highlighted the importance of cultural references: for Joconde jusqu’à cent his translator into the Greek suggested replacing the Joconde with the discobolus as, he said, that sculpture represents in Greek culture what the Mona Lisa represents for the French.
Ian Monk is British and lives in Lille (France). He writes both in English and in French and is a well-known translator, especially of Oulipian texts, as he translated into English Perec’s famous novel Les Revenentes/ The Exeter Text. He spoke about one of the books he wrote in French, Plouk Town (the title is misleading!), which is set in the very specific suburb of Lille and based on the language used only by its inhabitants. It was clear for him that an English translation wasn’t possible and that an English version should be an entire recreation set in a similar British background.
I’ll come back to these issues in next post on professor Patterson’s translation of Marcel Benabou’s poem Les Chats.
The editing of the interviews takes a lot of time, but I hope I’ll be able to show them to you very soon !
Many thanks to Theano Petrou for her help with the English version of this text