A Case of Serendipity?

By Georgia de Chamberet

In one week, I bumped into a writer I had the pleasure of publishing in 1994, and his first translator in English, neither of whom I had seen for over ten years. Daniel Pennac (winner of this year's Prix Renaudot for Chagrin d'école) and the first Children's Laureate, Quentin Blake, were in conversation at the Institut Français — a rare treat. Despite not speaking each other's language, (in public anyway), their delight in each other's company was clear — whether joking about Blake's fearsome crocodile, or discussing how Pennac overcame his childhood dunce complex through writing. Pennac's current translator, Sarah Adams, (winner of the Scott Moncrieff prize for Just Like Tomorrow, or Kiffe, Kiffe Demain, by Faïza Guène) acted as interpreter. It was a launch event of this year's Youth Festival programmed by Siân Williams — her translation of My Brother Johnny by Francesco d'Adamo has just been published by Aurora Metro.

Then at Daunt Books in Holland Park Avenue, there was Daniel Gunn — energetic and enthusiastic as ever about translation, and now reviewing for the TLS (new fiction and texts on literary theory). I was there to celebrate the publication of two poems by Alan Jenkins, along with his translation of a Rimbaud classic, in one gorgeous slim volume called Drunken Boats — íI first read Rimbaud as a schoolboy, thirty-five years ago; and I have been trying to translate Le Bateau ivre for the last fifteen.ë It is the fourth title of The Cahiers Series which is published jointly by Sylph Editions and the Center for Writers & Translators at the Arts Arena of The American University of Paris.

I returned home to find emails from various writer friends in Paris, indignant about the way in which Le Monde íeditedë (or ícensoredë to some) a line in a piece by Emmanuelle Béart about the women camping out on the pavement opposite the Bourse, in the rue de la Banque, in protest at the housing crisis. Sarkozy's ministre du logement, Christine Boutin, had used an offensive term with reference to the protesters — íla meuteë (pack of hounds etc). On the second page of the issue of Le Monde in which Béart's piece appeared, the dirécteur adjoint of the newspaper criticized women like Emmanuelle Béart, Carole Bouquet and Valérie Lang for a lack of credibility when taking a stand on social issues, largely because of being pretty and rich — a case of ësoit belle et tais-toië? So much for íserendipityë…


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