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Ferrier and Frankland’s double translation

Translator Marie Frankland and spoken word artist Ian Ferrier came together at the Banff International Literary Translation Centre to work on Ferrier's first French manuscript. Photo: Don Lee

Translator Marie Frankland and spoken word artist Ian Ferrier came together at the Banff International Literary Translation Centre to work on Ferrier’s first French manuscript. Photo: Don Lee

Writer-translator team Ian Ferrier and Marie Frankland have a unique task, a project of double translation. Ferrier is a spoken word artist, and Frankland is working on translating Ferrier’s first manuscript of poems for a French Canadian audience. Although this is Ferrier’s first book to be published in French, he’s garnered a significant francophone fan base in Montreal, where he lives and performs regularly. “Lot’s of French people go to his shows even if they don’t understand a word, because they like the whispery feel and intimacy,” explains Frankland. Recreating the meaning of a text in a new language is one challenge, but finding a way to translate from the mouth to the page is another. “In the book its only words,” says Frankland, “so I have to find ways to make it very rhythmic and [create] a new musicality.”

Ferrier and Frankland have developed a relationship that makes them exceptionally suited for such a challenge. They often meet up in their neighbourhood in Montreal, but even when they don’t Frankland says she never hesitates to call Ferrier up with questions. “We’ve been hearing that some [translators] do not speak to their authors at all, or they prefer dead authors,” she says, “but we choose to work very closely.”

Both have been thankful for the opportunity to develop relationships and learn from the other translators they’ve been surrounded by here at the Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC). “What we’re all here for is that we love what language can do – that’s what we live with, that’s what we work with,” says Ferrier.

To hear the bilingual version of Ferrier’s poem “Emma’s Country” performed by the writer and translator pair during their stay at The Banff Centre, click here:

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To hear an interview with Ferrier and Frankland, and more from their performance in The Club check out The Banff Centre’s podcast.

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Tweeting with Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood was recently here at The Banff Centre and out of sheer admiration we couldn’t help but see what she was tweeting about…

 Graphics by Shiori Saito, interactive designer work study.

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Alistair MacLeod: “I’m kind of superstitious”

Monique Limoges and Alistair MacLeod. Photo: Kim Williams.

“I like working in the morning,” he tells me, “because I feel that I am freshest – if that’s a word one can use.” I think to myself – you are ALISTAIR MACLEOD – you can use any word you want!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Alistair MacLeod while he was here last week – and when I say I had the pleasure, I mean I had the nerve-racking, sweaty-palm, hard-to-be-natural, privilege of sitting across from a Canadian literary icon. Upon introduction he removed his cap to shake my hand, eyes smiling in the way of a person who has spent a life by the sea. 

He’s truly lovely. As a previous faculty member here at The Banff Centre, he taught writing workshops for 11 years, with W.O Mitchel, Adele Wiseman, Greg Hollingshead, and Rachel Wyatt. I asked him how his career has evolved since those days. “Since I first started coming here I’ve won major awards. So I think if perhaps if I had not been here these major awards would not have come my way. Because the major awards come because you’ve written something” his eyes twinkle at me, “and so I wrote a modest amount while I was here.” Part way through the interview he tells me he still does all his writing with a ballpoint pen.

I feel if I work on computers that fairies wrote the work, leprechauns or something, but when I stick my little ballpoint pen in, I know it was me.”

Writing workshop with Alistair Macleod, 1986.

Fairies!  Working with his pen and paper, he is here this time to work with Violeta Tauragiene, the Lithuanian translator for No Great Mischief.  Having had it translated into 30+ languages MacLeod is not new to this process. As part of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC) writers and translators meet and work together. 

According to MacLeod, “It’s a lot of fun being around the translators. They have concerns that I would never think of.” Translating the words, tone, and sentiment can prove to be a challenge, especially when dealing with abstractions. “I am interested in clichés like a ‘stitch in time saves nine.’” For example, one of the translation concerns he faced was the translation of the Rock a Bye Baby lullaby. “The words are not important – what’s important is that she’s singing to her child.”

“One of things that you are hopefully doing as a writer is that you’re trying to communicate with other people,” MacLeod shares. “Somebody says, I imagine them, ‘my people, would understand what this man is trying to say and so I’m going to translate it into my Lithuanian or my Israeli because I think it’s worthwhile.’ So that’s nice for an author, it’s nice for me anyway, it means you’re communicating, you’re not just writing about your neighbors for your neighbors. That you’re saying something that will travel.”

As for his future work?  “Well I’m kind of superstitious but I’m writing something that I hope to have ready for the Vancouver International Readers and Writers Festival in October so I don’t want to say very much about it. In case it doesn’t turn out as splendidly as I hoped it would.”  I for one have complete faith it will be as splendid as everything MacLeod writes.

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Message from the 5th century A.D.

Sometimes Andrew Barrett wishes he could sit down with Nonnus and have a chat – he’s got plenty of questions for the guy. Unfortunately, Nonnus has been dead for 1600 years, give or take a century or two. Barrett is in Banff working on an English translation of Nonnus’ monumental Ancient Greek text as part of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC), an epic called the Dionysiaca that’s made up of 48 books, written in the 5th century AD – it’s the longest surviving poem from antiquity.

Translator Andrew Barrett, with the tools of his translating trade. Photo: Kim Williams.

Barrett, an M.A. student from the University of Rochester, has immersed himself in the myth and mystery of the work, slowly creating a translation that will brush some of the dust off the text (the previous English translation was done in the 1930s, but that one is dense, scholarly, and outdated). One of the last of the Greek epic poets, there’s almost no record of Nonnus’ life. Barrett tells me he lived and worked in the Egyptian city of Panopolis, which was a hotbed of Greco-Egyptian syncretic cults and Christianity, and that the writer himself was likely both a Christian and a pagan, which wasn’t unusual at the time. “The 5th century was a huge moment for the Greeks, whether the people living then knew it or not,” he says. “I sometimes wonder if this was the last gasp of paganism, that the Dionysiaca was a last-ditch attempt to preserve the myths. That’s purely speculative, though.”

Many of the BILTC writers work directly with the authors whose work they’re translating, and Barrett is torn about whether or not he’d prefer the one-on-one. “Sometimes I’d really like to be able to ask Nonnus some questions,” he says. “But other times I’m glad he’s not there hovering over my shoulder while I do this.”

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Awards and accolades

The Banff Centre salutes the following Banff Centre alumni, faculty, and staff for these recent awards and accomplishments:

Flutist Robert Aitken, winner of the 2009 Canada Council Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts

Writer and musician Paul Quarrington, winner of the Writers’ Trust of Canada Matt Cohen Award

Vancouver artistic director, producer, and choreographer Judith Marcuse, winner of the Canada Council for the Arts Jacqueline Lemieux Prize

The Centre’s director of music Barry Shiffman, recipient of an Honourary Doctorate of Laws at the University of Calgary

Choreographer Christopher House, winner of a 2009 Toronto Arts Award

Playwright Judith Thompson, winner of a 2009 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award

Former Centre vice president of Mountain Culture Bernadette McDonald, recipient of an 2009 Alberta Order of Excellence award

Elder Tom Crane Bear, cultural advisor for the Centre’s Aboriginal Leadership and Management, recipient of a 2010 National Aboriginal Achievement Award

2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist Kim Echlin, Annabel Lyon, Colin McAdam

2009 Governor General’s Literary Award winners Suzanne Lebeau (French Drama), Kevin Loring (English Drama), Susan Ouriou (English translation)

Canada Council Instrument Bank 2009 winners Judy Kang, Veronique Mathieu, Andrea Tyniec, Min-Jeong Koh, Chloe Dominguez, Jessica Linnebach, Jin Wang

Appointed to the Order of Canada: Tantoo Cardinal, Joan F. Clark, Judy Gingell, Peter Hinton, David Adams Richards, Wayne Strongman, Bob White

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