The Leap of Translation

Committing to publish a translation requires a leap of faith—at least it required one of us when we decided to publish an English translation of Désormais, ma demeure, by Québécois-Chilean poet Nicholas Dawson.

We’d been wanting to embark on a translation program at Brick Books for a while—it felt important to us, as Canada’s longest standing poetry-only press, to join other small Canadian presses in reaching across our country’s language divides. I casually approached D.M. Bradford; we were in the midst of production on his first book, Dream of No One but Myself, and I’d heard he had experience as a literary translator and was interested in going deeper with it. He proposed we think about Dawson’s book and translated a short sample on spec.

The sample created a small clearing in my busy week. I remember exiting the bustle of my workday and entering the stillness of recognition as I read it: here was a lucid, nuanced rendering of an experience that is inherently lonely and difficult to describe, an experience I’d shared: depression. On the strength of the grateful frisson I felt reading that short sample (plus the accolades the original French book had received in Quebec, and a trust in Bradford’s beautiful sensibilities), we leapt.

Then I watched from the sidelines as Bradford embarked on the translation in intricate conversation with Dawson, and then in even more intricate conversation with the brilliant Erín Moure as editor.

I confess it was a bit nerve-wracking… Would the finished translation be something we were proud to publish? Would we land the leap?

Well, earlier this month we celebrated the official pub date of House Within a House. It will be launched in Montreal at Librairie Le Port de tėte on May 20th. It is a remarkable work, a deftly executed feat of emotional labour on Nicholas Dawson’s part (translating an experience of depression to the page), and a similarly elegant accomplishment on D.M Bradford and Erín Moure’s part (translating Dawson’s lyrical French into moving English). We are beyond proud to have published this book (and excited for more leaps across language barriers in the future!).

— Alayna Munce, Publisher

You can read more about the subtleties of the translation process in Bradford’s words on Periodicities and Open Book.