What I wish I knew before I studied translation

Jun 21st | Translation News

When I was in high school, I became fascinated with the idea of translating books. Beyond improving my acquired languages, I had no idea how to go about making my dream of being a literary translator a reality.

When I started to do research, I found plenty in the way of anecdotes and personal stories, but very little in the way of practical advice. Now that I’m a few years down the road, I’ve written down some of the things I wish someone had told me me way back when!

“Literary translators come from a multitude of backgrounds. Many are authors first of all, for whom translation is a natural extension of their work. Others are literary critics or academics, who translate to give a wider audience access to the works they study. With the growing popularity and visibility of global literature in the English-speaking world, on the other hand, has come increased visibility of literary translation as an art of its own.

Like most artistic vocations, working as a literary translator in theory requires no formal qualification. Anyone with a good command of two languages and a writerly inclination can give it a shot. But a masters-level degree in translation is the fastest, most focused route into the profession. This is true whether you are coming straight out of undergrad like I was, or you left full-time education long ago and are looking to make use of your language skills in a new way.”

Check out the full article at Asymptote Journal.

Book Review: Little Beast by Julie Demers

May 8th | World Literature

One of my favourite things about translated literature is discovering stories which completely change the way I look at some little corner of the world.

Sometimes that happens when I read a book by an author from a language with which I’m not at all familiar. Other times its thanks to a book about a piece of history which didn’t feature in my school textbooks. In Little Beast by Julie Demers (trans. Rhonda Mullins), I found a whole new way of looking at the mind and soul of a little girl who isn’t quite the “girl” she’s supposed to be.

“Julie Demer’s Little Beast (translated by Rhonda Mullins) is a dark fairy tale, more Grimm than Disney, set in the forbidding landscape of wintery rural Quebec. The shape of the story is familiar. A child, an absent parent, a “curse,” fumbling adults to be outwitted, a quest, a return home. Demers never flinches away from her young narrator’s perspective and yet Little Beast slowly emerges as a tale about the end of childhood and the intersection between experience, self-perception, and cultural narrative.

“That was the year Mother couldn’t stand up without help: pregnancy had her by the jugular. The family had turned their backs on her because she and father had gotten caught up in the ultimate sin. Which is to say, they had touched each other’s difference […] A few months before the due date, she lay down on her back and evicted me like a common tapeworm.”


In order to achieve a nuanced and poignant examination of sex, gender and society, Demers focuses with unusual clarity on the particular qualities of a child’s internal narrative. Most strikingly, she captures the way in which a threatened child views the world with a seriousness equal to or greater than that of adults. She reminds us that children are in possession of a complete worldview, built on limited information but no less powerfully held for that fact. And perhaps more importantly, that we adults are the product of our own childhood fairytales, more than we would like to believe.”

Read the full review at Asymptote Journal.