Robert Majzels, who teaches
creative writing in our English Department, heard about his Governor-Generals
Literary Award for Translation through an e-mail from the Canada Council
to where he is staying in Beijing.
Naturally, I was extremely pleased and excited, Majzels said
in a message from the Chinese capital, where he has returned. However,
he probably would not have come back to Canada for the gala awards ceremony
on November 14, except that he also received news that his father had
died, and he came home to attend the funeral.
Im in China to write, Majzels explained. I was
finding it difficult to concentrate back at home, teaching and doing commercial
translations while trying to write.
Im working on a difficult project, a Talmudic murder mystery
(using Talmudic form and investigative methodology to solve the mystery
of the others death), which requires a great deal of concentration
When my partner, Claire Huot, was offered a job at the Canadian
embassy in Beijing on a two-year contract, I agreed to come along. I can
write in peace here, plus stay in touch with my translation clients via
Im also taking advantage of the opportunity to study Chinese.
So far, I can buy rice, and carry on a more or less erudite discussion
on fruits and vegetables. Ive travelled a bit, to Shanghai and Manchuria,
and plan to do more in the next couple of years. I get around Beijing
on my old five-speed Raleigh bicycle.
Majzels is both a novelist and a translator. In 1998, his novel City
of Forgetting was shortlisted for the QSPELL award for fiction, and
last week the Quebec Writers Federation gave Claire Dé this years
Translation Prize for Montréal Barbare, her French version
of Majzels novel.
However, the Governor-Generals award was for Just Fine, his
translation of France Daigles Pas Pire.
It was a challenging task, especially to get the different tones
and voices right. I had to invent an English version of Acadian, without
making the characters sound like they were speaking poor English, and
without losing the musicality of the original French.
The book is hilariously funny, in a sophisticated and intelligent
way. Im especially happy that my winning the GG will afford Daigle
more of the respect and attention she deserves. In Just Fine, she
manages to combine fiction, autobiography, memoir and essay without losing
the reader. Its a real tour de force.