Saturday, 7 April 2012

Quai du Polar

I was lucky enough to be invited to France's Quai du Polar festival the other weekend, which was held in the beautiful city of Lyon. I'd never been to Lyon before, and as usual on these trips I didn't really get the opportunity to explore much of the city, but what I did see (mostly from the back of a car as I was being driven from one of my events (a discussion
panel about thriller fiction) to another (my introduction to the film Fight Club at cinéma Lumière) was stunning. The city sits at the convergence of two rivers, and I was told that a lot of work has recently been done to improve the appearance of the banks of the rivers, which are now a destination in themselves.

 I had a lot of fun at Quai du Polar. The festival is held in the huge Palais du Commerce with a few of the larger sessions held in the Trinity Chapel. Both stunning buildings, and it was an honour to be invited to speak alongside a whole raft of well known French and International crime writers. Of those I managed to speak to I got on particularly well with Paul Cleave, a New Zealand writer also published by Sonatine Editions in France, and I'm looking forward to checking out his books.

The sessions were held in French of course, which caused few problems (not because my French is good - I have an 'O' level, which means I can have a conversation about shopping or how old I am or where I live, as long as the person to whom I'm speaking speaks REALLY SLOWLY and doesn't mind if I get my tenses wrong. There was a rather embarrassing moment when I went into a restaurant for lunch and upon enquiring, in French, whether the waiter spoke English, and hearing he didn't, for some reason I lapsed into Spanish. I know even less Spanish than I do French). The simultaneous interpreting, through discreet headphones, was wonderful, though during one of my sessions the wireless technology must've temporarily malfunctioned and for a few brief moments I could hear what sounded like a local radio station. It did mean that it was difficult to be spontaneous, though, and humour was difficult (my jokes are rarely hilarious, but when they're delivered to no reaction WHATSOEVER it can be disconcerting. I consoled myself with the thought that the audience were just waiting for my oh-so-witty comment to be translated into French, not that it wasn't funny in the least.)

I also got to meet my French translator, Sophie (pictured right). She was absolutely lovely and told me it'd been a joy to work on the book, which was very gratifying to hear. Friends who have read  the book in both English and French tell me it's a very good translation - I think translators rarely get the credit they deserve. Their job is to tell the same story of course, but also to choose language that mirrors the emotions and rhythms in the source material. It's not easy, and it must be upsetting that the original author gets their name on the front of the book and all the credit. The least I could do was buy Sophie a coffee, though even that will have to wait until next time - the cafe we chose didn't take credit cards and I had no Euros. A great excuse to go back to France, though...


Lizz Poulter said...

Congratulations on so many great reviews and award nominations. I'm delighted you're so pleased with the French translation, in particular, as I think I will have to read this version. I have been forced to abandon the English language version I bought from because it has, mystifyingly, been 'translated' into American English. I lived in North London for 20 years but cannot recognise this Crouch End because apparently one can be flung over the 'hood' of a car, wear a rain 'slicker', look forward to activities 'on' the weekend, and dozens of other really jarring examples. This is utterly pointless and patronising - when I read an American novel the differences in vocabulary help to set the scene. In this book all sense of place is muddled.
I am a teacher of English as a foreign language and I encourage my students to learn some of the differences of grammar, vocabulary and spelling,and to use the form that is most suitable for their needs, so this is in no way an anti-American stance but a cry of frustration that I cannot read the novel I assume you wrote. I don't suppose you had any say in the decision to create this bastardised version of your work, but I would encourage you to resist any future attempts. It diminishes your work.
In sorrow and disappointment

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