Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I visited the Librairie de France in the New Year en route to the Seurat show at MoMA. While browsing through their selection downstairs (which apparently will be slowly gleaned as the bookstore begins its year-long process of closing. Actually, the woman there told me they probably will be shutting down in August.), I was struck by how much French literature has not been translated into English. I guess this always surprises me because I think of French as one of the more translated languages. So if French books and letters, say, by major French literary figures such as Proust (the letters of André Gide and Marcel Proust was one Librairie find), and Apollinaire (Le Flâneur des deux rives was another) remain untranslated, then what troves of riches remain untranslated in more obscure (to English audiences) languages such as Polish, Japanese, Wolof?

It's shocking. I'm shocked. Where are all the translators? I don't even want to ask about the audiences. A publisher once told me that while poetry is close to the bottom of what publishers want to publish, translations are le pire (and no, that's not French for pinnacle).

I'll be going back, as there were many other books by Apollinaire unfamiliar to me (and most not mentioned on the Academy of American Poet's page on Apollinaire, which features an extremely truncated bibliography) that I think I'm going to have to have. Interesting, a brief Google of "Proust," "Gide," and "letters," reveals that Gide advised Gallimard to reject Swann's Way. The letters between them must really testify to a certain endurance of literary friendship, in that case.

I feel rather helpless in the situation--if only I were a polyglot! But alas, French is my only other language (and my accent is terrible), which is why I'm pondering reorienting this blog toward primarily French-language topics.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home