Translation is a Love Affair

A complete impulse at the library, but the book was too cute! I’m a sucker for small books and cover with built in flaps, both of which this book has.Translation is a Love Affair is I think my first translated book of the year, written by French-Canadian author Jacques Poulin and translated by Sheila Fischman. In some ways it made the plot feel a little ironic, which may have been Poulin’s intent.

image from Amazon

The first-person narrator Marine (love that name!) is a vulnerable young woman who works as a translator. She is struck by the prose of French Canadian novelist Jack Waterman and immediately yearns to translate his latest book; she gets the opportunity when she moves to his hometown and they strike up a gentle friendship. Marine is content to stay at the chateau as she works, communing with the words she translates and the nature around her. One day, however, she comes across a small black cat with the name of Famine and a disconcerting message under its collar. Marine and M. Waterman search for the mysterious sender to determine who the girl is and why she needs their help.

The story is really just a novella, coming in at a little over 100 small pages. Not a lot happens necessarily; despite the search for Limolou, M. Poulin has no intent of creating a thriller. Instead it is a gentle character study. My one complaint is that I’m not sure if I completely believed Marine as a female character. She is vulnerable, and likes animals, and generally behaves like an independent young woman, but somehow the voice just didn’t quite ring true. It could be because the author is male, or because the novel was originally written in French.

I wouldn’t call the book great, but it was a pleasant little read. In some ways I felt the book was really trying to have a message or theme, and I can’t put my finger on what it is. I didn’t really understand how all the emphasis on translation related to the plot with Limolou and the process of fragile people finding healing by coming together. Perhaps I am trying to read into it too much, or missing something. Or perhaps I just hoped to love a story with books, cats, Fench, and a small mystery a bit more than I actually did.

Published in: on May 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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