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MUSINGS

Chapter One

Censorship

So, what news from France?

First, this:

A COMMUNIQUE FROM DENIS GUIOT,
EDITOR OF THE YOUNG ADULT SF LINE “AUTRES MONDES”

The editorial board of Fleurus/Mango Jeunesse has censored Nathalie Le Gendre’s novel, Les Orphelins de Naja (“The Orphans of Naja”), which I had scheduled for a May, 2007 publication in the “Autres Mondes” line.

The book shall not be published.

The reason why? Nathalie’s novel denounces pedophilia in a future Church, on a newly-colonized planet.

The editorial board “doesn’t want any trouble with the shareholders.”

Granted, the line is put out by a publishing group otherwise known for its religious output, the number one publisher of missals in Europe, and such a book would surely look unsightly.

Unless the editorial board changes its mind–which is highly unlikely–I am thinking of quitting.

Denis Guiot

 

 Why am I telling you this?

Beside being a friend of mine, Denis Guiot is a critic, essayist and editor, who launched the “Autres Mondes” line in 2000 for Mango Publishing. Since then, he’s published more than forty books, all written by French or French-speaking writers, mostly novels but also a few anthologies (with afterwords by scientists like Yves Coppens, Joël de Rosnay, and Albert Jacquard).

The line is a true success story and a lot of the books have won awards, from the SF community as well as institutions and YA literary festivals.

Guiot published the works of seasoned YA writers (Danielle Martinigol, Christian Grenier, Christian Léourier), mixed with “adult” writers who tried their hand at YA fiction, with notable success (Jean-Pierre Andrevon, Fabrice Colin, the late Jean-Pierre Hubert), and, most importantly, writers he discovered and/or developed, like Christophe Lambert and the aforementioned Nathalie Le Gendre.

Mango was bought in 2004 by Fleurus, a part of the Média Participations Group, formerly known, as Groupe Ampère, the creation of conservative catholic Remy Montagne (1917-1991). In its various incarnations, the group had already made the news in “bande dessinée” (comics) circles, first in 1987 when it bought Dargaud, then, more recently, in 2004, when it bought Dupuis. A lot of resignations ensued in the editorial personnel, and a lot of creators switched houses.

Denis wrote this communiqué in early February and has not heard from the publisher since then. French websites ActuSF and Le Cafard Cosmique have launched a petition in favor of Denis, with close to 1,000 thousand signatures as I write this (late March). A group of “Autres Mondes” writers have publicly expressed their support of Denis and Nathalie Le Gendre.

In my humble opinion, the Fleurus/Mango Jeunesse people intend to play dead until Denis resigns, although he’s repeatedly said that he’s still willing to discuss. His departure would mean the end of the most successful YA SF line in France.

I’ll keep you posted.

Go to the line’s official site:
http://www.noosfere.com/autres-mondes/

Chapter Two
Meanwhile, back on the ship

Believe it or not, it’s been snowing here these past few days, which is frankly astounding, after the sunny vacation I enjoyed last week–more on that later. I don’t know about you, but I feel like snuggling in my hammock and listening to the ice crackling and the struts snapping.

Yeah, I’m still working on The Terror. I’ve started to pick up speed and to get more and more assured as I learn more and more about things glacial and nautical.

For instance, VEZI asked me in the forum how I would render the term “sea lawyer.” It happens that my father, now retired, was a merchant marine engineer, and when it comes to sailor’s slang, I’m only a phone call away from an answer. So, how do you say “sea lawyer” in French?

Answer: you don’t. There is no equivalent. I had to write my way around this one.

As if to compensate, I found French terms when Dan could only use descriptions. A sailor who is “good in the rigging” is “un bon gabier,” for instance.

So, you see, I’m still sailing along.

I hoped good old Jules Verne could give me a few pointers, but reading his Capitaine Hatteras (see my previous column) showed me that, most of the time, he was faking. The most helpful book I found was Pierre Vernay’s Tragédies polaires, a splendid little book, profusely illustrated, about Polar expeditions which went wrong. Monsieur Vernay knows whereof he speaks, and I urge you to have a look at his website (in French, but the pictures alone are worth it):

http://www.pierre-vernay.com/home.asp

Chapter Three
Translation Island

Now, about that vacation…

My lady friend and I went away from it all–no TV, no web, a shut down mobile phone–and enjoyed ourselves on the most beautiful little island you’ll ever see. Look up “Bréhat” on Google maps, and you’ll find it easily. Two miles from north to south, a bit less from west to east, no cars, and only 300 inhabitants–off-season, of course.

This is one of our favorite places in the world, where we repeatedly go, and, this year, the weather was so fine that we spent five to six hours each day hiking or biking along the coast, among a profusion of flowering gorse. Sunburn City.

Why am I telling you this? Because Bréhat is, in a strange way, connected to the translation trade, and to Dan Simmons, too.

During the 60s, a man named Gilles Chahine, a translator by trade, was living there. A French publisher contacted him and asked him to translate Ada, or Ardor, by Vladimir Nabokov, a book you’re all familiar with after you read Ilium and Olympos.

Foolishly, he accepted.

The following years were sheer hell. Nabokov’s prose was so beautiful, so multi-leveled, that he couldn’t hope to be worthy of it. He missed a deadline. Then another. Nabokov started to fret.

Finally, a lady living on the island, Madame de Saint-Exupéry–a familiar name, isn’t it?–decided to help him. She asked for all the young people vacationing in Bréhat to translate parts of the work.

Young Erik Orsenna, who was quite popular with the girls, got the more erotic scenes to translate, a real eye-opener for a teenager.

Unfortunately, the work was lost at sea. The publisher hired another translator to finish up Gilles Chahine’s work, and Nabokov–who was fluent in French–got to read and approve the finished product.

Erik Orsenna later became a writer, quite popular here–he won the Prix Goncourt, got to ghostwrite François Mitterrand’s speeches and ended up at the Académie Française–and, a few years ago, he decided to tell the story of Ada’s storied translation. His book, Deux étés (“Two Summers”–the time it took Chahine and Co to come up with a first draft) wasn’t translated into English, which is a shame, but Spanish- and German-speaking readers can enjoy it.

Orsenna quotes a poem about translators written by Nabokov, and, after a quick search on the web, I came up with this piece, which proved that the author of Lolita was no stranger to my trade:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,874017-1,00.html

Too bad the review isn’t signed. We need more connoisseurs like its author. I mean, 1,850 pages, and a happy reviewer!

Chapter Four
Teach Your Children

This I’ve got to share with you. My six-year old nephew told his mother the other day: “When I’m of legal age, I’ll eat my children so that I never get old.” She was appalled, which I can understand. When she told me this, I remembered that the little tyke was a mythology buff. Seems to me he dug the tale of Saturn/Chronos.

Tell you what, I’m going to put aside one copy of Ilium and one of Olympos, which I’ll give him for his birthday when he’s of legal age–or sooner, more probably.

Best,

PS: New covers to report:
Sparth, whose work you can see on this site, did the covers for a new printing of L’Echiquier du mal (Carrion Comfort)
Volume One: http://www.sparth.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=47&pos=63
Volume Two: http://www.sparth.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=47&pos=62
Full view: http://www.sparth.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=47&pos=64
Go and have a look to the whole of his site–the man is talented.

New covers for the Hyperion books from paperback publisher Pocket–go and have a look on the http://www.pocket.fr website. Unfortunately, the artist’s name isn’t mentioned.

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