The things a translator has to cope with
That novel takes Paris police Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg and his colleagues to Quebec, where tension ensues with their Canadian counterparts. Among the sources of the tension is misunderstanding due to idiomatic differences between Quebecois French and the French spoken in France. Reynolds explains that she excluded that aspect of the misunderstanding from her translation, fearing (probably rightly) that it would be impossible to render successfully into English.
Debout les Morts (The Three Evangelists), also a Dagger winner, contains a similar necessary loss in translation, though on a smaller scale. Readers may recall that the novel begins when a worried singer finds that a beech tree has materialized overnight in her yard. Who or what, poor Sophia wonders, is haunting her in this strange manner? The uncanniness of the situation is magnified by the identical pronunciation in French of the words for beech (hêtre) and a being (être). Perhaps, Sophia wonders, she is being confronted by something less innocent than a tree. ("Un hêtre. Un être?")
© Peter Rozovsky 2007
French crime fiction
Crime fiction in translation