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NANCY HUSTON AND SAMUEL BECKET: BILINGUAL WRITERS AND SELVES- TRANSLATORS

Par   •  14 Juin 2018  •  3 049 Mots (13 Pages)  •  107 Vues

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Beckett is the only writer in the world who wrote his entire work in two languages, English and French. He is not the only bilingual writer in the world, but he is one of the few who wrote in two languages at the same time. Beckett’s bilingualism was entirely voluntary, considering the fact that he was not persecuted for political, economic or religious reasons, as many exiled artists have been. His need for French can be seen as driven partly by aesthetic and partly by psychological needs (Beer 1994: 214).

Attar states: "Self translators cannot reproduce in one language what they have created in another. Ultimately, what they produce through self translation is a complementary literary text which does not simply echo the original, but has its own echo and effect in the target language and culture. Unlike conventional translation contexts, self translators do not usually engage in the two-stage process of reading-writing activity (their reading activity is of a different nature), but rather in a double writing process. Thus, their translated text becomes a version or a variant of the original text, indeed an original work in its own right" (Attar 2005:139).

Because French was a language acquired at school and university, Huston found that the combination of her command of the language and her distance from it as a non-native speaker helped her to find her literary voice. Since 1980, Huston published over 45 books of fiction and non-fiction, including theatre and children's books. Some of her publications are self-translations of previously published works. Essentially she writes in French and subsequently self-translates into English but Plainsong (1993) was written first in English and then self-translated to French as Cantique des plaines (1993) - it was, however, the French version which first found a publisher.

Huston's controversial works of non-fiction were well-received but her fiction was earned critical acclaim. Her first novel, Les variations Goldberg (1981), was awarded the Prix Contrepoint and was shortlisted for the Prix Femina. She translated this novel into English as The Goldberg Variations (1996).

Her next major award came in 1993 when she received the Canadian Governor General’s Awardfor Fiction in French for Cantique des Plaines (1993). This was initially contested as it was a translation of Plainsong (1993), but Huston demonstrated that it was an adaptation and kept the prize. A subsequent novel, La virevolte (1994), won the Prix "L" and the Prix Louis-Hémon. It was published in English in 1996 as Slow Emergencies.

Her work between the two languages actually became so intense that from the creation of Instruments des ténèbres (published in 1996), all of her fiction is composed in both languages simultaneously (Huston, Victorian Writer 13). Huston's novel was her most successful and was shortlisted for the Prix Femina, and the Governor General's Award. It was awarded the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens.

As the winner of the Prix du Gouverneur Général du Canada (1993), Cantique des plaines became the first of her novels to elicit an emotional response from French-Canadian readers, in a positive and negative manner. The scandal that ensued in the French-speaking community in Canada after Huston received this prestigious award was due to the fact that the novel, Cantique des plaines, was a self-translation of her novel, Plainsong, which was written in English. Régine Robin defended Nancy Huston and took the position that translating [one’s own work] is an act of creation in itself (Potvin, “Inventer l’histoire” 9).

Cantique des plaines holds a special place in the corpus of Nancy Huston’s works, and in her own search for identity, since writing this novel took her back to her native English-speaking Canada: “She made the bonds of heredity central to the text’s narrative structure” (Holmes, “No Common Places” 2010:39-40). She positions her characters between the aspects of identity that are given (that we inherit and that we cannot change) and those that are chosen (Holmes, “No Common Places” 2010:41).

Several of Nancy Huston’s other novels also explore the theme of exile; for example, L’Empreinte de l’ange (1988) and Une Adoration (2003) speak to exile because of war or colonization; La Virevolte (1994) explores exile as a form of escape from traditional gender roles; in Prodige (1999) exile is in the form of madness (Holmes, “No Common Places” 2010:33).

Nancy Huston uses her exile “as a source of creativity, and [to provide] a vantage point” from which to see herself as another (Holmes, “No Common Places” 2010:34). Not only does Nancy Huston seem to create doubles of herself in her fiction, but she also has characters in her novels who creates their own other characters through the act of crafted metafiction (Bond 2001:62).

In 1998, she was nominated for a Governor General's Award for her novel L'Empreinte de l'ange. The next year she was nominated for a Governor General's Award for translating the work into English as The mark of the Angel. In 2005, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and she received the Prix Femina in 2006 for the novel Lignes de faille and which, as Fault Lines, was published by Atlantic Books and is shortlisted for the 2008 Orange Prize.

In Losing North, and its counterpart Nord Perdu Nancy Huston explains why she became a writer in French. In the chapter called Orientation she writes: “Even with a French childhood, there is a number of people who have a hard time feeling French! Without one, it's impossible” (p. 7). “I have come to the conclusion that I feel my character to be more German than American, because I spent my formative years in Germany. However, until I saw it in writing, I was unsure if my analysis was isolated, i.e., limited to my own experience, or more general. In the chapter Disorientation Huston expresses the thought that “here you set aside what you used to be..., there you set aside what you've become...” (p. 11).

She considers herself a 'false bilingual,' to use her own term, with which she means that she reached bilingualism at a later stage in life and not as a child. For her, the two languages are completely separate: “I often have the feeling that they “sleep apart” in my brain. Far from being comfortably settled in face to face or back to back or side by side, they are distinct and hierarchized: first English then French in my life, first English then French in my writing. The words say it well: your native or “mother” tongue, the one you acquire in earliest childhood enfolds and envelops you so that you belong to it, whereas with

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