Translators will read a book “with more care than anybody else, more demandingly, more enquiringly” writes Daniel Hahn in the spring 2014 edition of The Author. In translating Saint-Boniface et ses Juifs by Nathalie and Ladislas Gara into Welcome to the Free Zone, I discovered a lot of things which were not apparent at first reading. Even as I write this, I have just had a new insight into the authors’ use of lucky and unlucky numbers.
My talk on 3 June will take us from Paris to Marseille, to the Ardèche, and then to a street in the 7th arrondissement near the American Library. I will read extracts from the novel, speak about the authors and the background in occupied France, and illustrate the inspiration for some of the characters and episodes.
David Bellos, in “Is that a Fish in your Ear?” writes: “Any utterance of more than trivial length has no one translation. All utterances have innumerably many acceptable translations.”
If you would like to compare your version with mine, have a go at this paragraph, prompted by the authors’ observation of the bizarre results of food rationing in 1942:
“Joseph se rappela l’histoire des navets en saumure. En temps normal, seul un fou pourrait concevoir une idée aussi grotesque que celle de mettre en conserve ce légume robuste qui ne réclame aucun artifice pour se maintenir en bon état d’une récolte à l’autre.“