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CORRESPONDENCES

First, an apology. I’ve been more than late with this column, and I hope it won’t happen again. My most heartfelt thanks to Dan for his understanding.

Onward.

I got the manuscript of OLYMPOS late last year, read it in almost one sitting and enjoyed it greatly. Editor Gérard Klein told me I should deliver my translation at the end of 2005, and I remembered this column. You see, I originally intended to devote the first installments to the translating of ILIUM. Unfortunately, that job was done in somewhat frantic conditions, which prevented me to tackle the translator’s diary I had envisioned.


Jean-Daniel Brèque
Photo Credit: Fabienne Rose
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Not so with OLYMPOS. I’m supposed to start working in earnest early September, which leaves time for some preparation. As for you, the book will be out in the States, so you will have read it, and there’s no chance I can spoil it for you.

Getting ready for the job, then.

If you’ve read ILIUM (and you’d better), you couldn’t help but notice the many quotes in the text. Shakespeare, Proust, Browning, and a cast of thousands. Well, let me tell you, it ain’t nothing compared to OLYMPOS. My first job is to mark these quotes in the book – a few weeks ago, I got an uncorrected proof copy – and to look for their French translations.

Proust is easy, I know he’s available in French, but as I noted in my April, 2004 column, Browning’s “Caliban upon Setebos” is not. So what? you’ll say. Translate it yourself. And that’s what I did. But, whenever possible, I like to unearth existing translations and, if they are good ones, quote them while mentioning their references.

Why do I do this?

To quote Dan Simmons, the power of good writing lies, among other things, on “the summoned shared experience behind each word and phrase”. When Dan uses a Shakespeare quote, it is supposed to resonate with the reader. Or, if said quote is unknown to him, well, he can always look it up. It then stands to reason that if the quote comes from a work that has been translated into French, I must use this translation and mention the book it comes from, so that it can resonate with the French-speaking reader, too, who can always look up the translation afterward.

Besides, as a translator, I appreciate it when my work is acknowledged, and the less I can do is acknowledge the work of my colleagues when it’s useful to me.

So, back to OLYMPOS. The picture you see here shows my annotated copy. Each of these Post-Its® marks a page featuring a quote I have to research. Enough to keep me busy in the months ahead.

I did keep busy last Sunday, April 3, when I went to a local Antique Book Fair. A real find was waiting for me there: a French edition of John Keats’ poems, published in 1922, featuring “Hyperion”, “Endymion” and others. I couldn’t resist.

And thereby hangs a tale.

The poems were translated by E. de Clermont-Tonnerre, truly a name to conjure with, the Clermont-Tonnerre being one of the eldest French families, with many members still active today – one is a film producer, another a controversial socialite. I decided to learn more about my esteemed colleague who, according to the introduction, was a member of the fair sex.

Well, to make a long story short, Elisabeth de Clermont-Tonnerre (1875-1954), whose maiden name was Elisabeth de Gramont, was one of the femmes de lettres who made French publishing between WWI and WWII. She translated poetry but also wrote books, including a memoir about one of her dearest friends, Marcel Proust (that memoir was reprinted here as recently as 1999, and Italian writer Francesco Rapazzini wrote a biography of Elisabeth de Gramont in 2004). Besides, it seems Proust used his friend Elisabeth to create the Duchess of Guermantes character. From Simmons to Keats to Proust to Simmons. Everything is connected.

Do you still have to ask yourself what the allnet is? The allnet is literature.

See you in Part Two.

Best,

Post Scriptum 1: Simmons watch
LE CHANT DE KALI (SONG OF KALI) has been reprinted in February by Folio in their “Science Fiction” line.

This month, the same paperback publisher reprints REVANCHE (HARD FREEZE) in their “Policier” line.

Also this month, Editions du Rocher publishes UNE BALLE DANS LA TETE (literally “A Bullet in the Head”, a.k.a. HARD AS NAILS) in trade paperback.

In the months to come, J’ai lu will reprint HORIZONS LOINTAINS (FAR HORIZONS), the Robert Silverberg anthology featuring “Les Orphelins de l’hélice” (“Orphans of the Helix”).

Pocket announces for next fall new paperback edition sof HYPERION and LA CHUTE D’HYPERION (THE FALL OF HYPERION), each novel being published in only one volume.

Post Scriptum 2: Recommended reading
The name David B. may be unknown to you. He’s one of France’s most respected graphic novel authors, and Pantheon Books has just released an English translation of his magnum opus, EPILEPTIC (a somewhat sensational title, the original – “L’Ascension du Haut Mal”, “Climbing the Grand Mal” – is more poetical). This long and engrossing work, originally published here in six volumes, is at once a family story, a terror tale and the evolution chart of an artist. Jean-Christophe, David B.’s elder brother, was epileptic, and this made for a harrowing childhood, a disjointed family life and some strange, strange dreams. David B.s art can be accurately described as expressionistic, his domain is that of the fantastic and his imagination is breathtaking. Have a closer look at: http://www.randomhouse.com/pantheon/graphicnovels/epileptic.html

Post Scriptum 3: Special thanks
To David Crosby and Graham Nash, for the Paris show on March, 23.

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