In Search of French Literary Magazines

One substantial piece of advice for both aspiring and experienced translators, especially literary, is to read widely in your source language. For me, that’s French. And since I focus on literature, books are best. Or at least, significant.

It’s also just as important to keep up with current affairs. And again, for me, that’s the world of books. The new releases, the new short stories, the new authors. So for these, literary magazines are best.

But as you can imagine, French literary magazines are hard to find in the States. Pretty thin on the ground. (“Just generally pretty trim,” as Eddie Izzard would say.) So now that I’m back in France for a few months, I figured it was high time to root some of these magazines out. Which is, of course, easy enough, once you’ve gone to both a librarie (bookshop, in English, not a library) and a tabac presse (basically a glorified newsstand mixed with the checkout shelves at a grocery store) and had extensive conversations with the employees.

Having now taken a few weeks and read through all of them, I present to you my highly skewed, biased, and unscientific reviews:

Monthlies

LiRE (March issue): This magazine has it all. Released by the same company as L’Express (a weekly news magazine), it’s bursting with news, features, thematic segments, reviews, five excerpts from upcoming novels, a couple interviews, and editorial content. It covers French books, foreign books, historical non-fiction, scientific books, essays, graphic novels, YA and children’s lit, paperbacks, the works. And everything in this issue is well-written, engaging, varied, intelligent, and well-thought-out, no matter how short. It should be extremely useful both in following industry trends and reading new fiction.

Le Magazine Littéraire (March issue): Maybe I shouldn’t have read this directly after LiRE. All I could do was compare the two, as they both purport to serve the same purpose…and this one fell at the other end of the spectrum. The content wasn’t as varied. There was only one excerpt, and it was middling. The news seemed stale, or not expansive enough, or devoid of emotion. The thematic content (this month: vampires….wheee…..) overshadowed everything else, and didn’t leave enough room for what I really cared about. Even the layout was grating. I was disappointed when I tossed it into the trash can (no recycling here), but not too sad.

Le Tigre (March issue): This is an interesting magazine. I almost didn’t grab a copy because their editorial mission includes the warning that they don’t publish fiction. But no matter; this is a fantastic selection of artistic prowess. Wordplay, photojournalism, illustrations, and twisted essays thrive alongside each other. One spread takes a roadmap, marks out a few towns that have “real word” names, and makes sentences out of them, haunting and sad. I’ve also just discovered that all their archives are free online. Looks like I won’t be reachable for the next week while I read ALL OF THEM.

In-betweener

Marianne (April-May issue): Not actually a real thing, for these purposes. Neat idea, though: an extra publication from a weekly news magazine, treating a different subject every issue. This time is death. Very bright and happy, I assure you. But it’s more of an anthology from older, established texts. Interesting, but unhelpful.

Quarterlies

Muze (Spring issue, April-June): Oh, how lovely this thick tome. Technically a female-oriented cultural revue, this journal really has its finger on the pulse of life. It seems. Everything includes a healthy dose of analysis, which I started skimming when it turned too philosophical, but it doesn’t detract from the wonderful behind-the-scenes look we get at every single topic the journal undertakes. Every theme includes current happenings, cultural tie-ins, movies, psychology, art, poems, and fiction. And the physical thing is a beauty to behold. The cover is even embossed. A tactile and visual dream. Definitely going on the list of not-expensive-enough-to-prevent-me-from-ordering-an-international-subscription.

Longcours (Spring issue): Also a very pretty, thick journal. But, as I realized when I started reading it, dedicated almost exclusively to long-form journalism. Very well-done long-form journalism, from what I’ve read. But only one short story. And although it was fascinating, that one thing is not enough to warrant a subscription. Still, I’ll be flipping through it whenever I walk into a French bookstore.

XXI (Winter issue): Ditto the above, with a heavy sigh. Really well-done long-form journalism (has apparently won scads of awards), including graphic novel journalism, but not what I’m looking for right now. Kudos to them on their Manifesto for a new media, though (if you understand French, it’s a good read).

 

So in the end, I’ve got at least three that I’ll be subscribing to upon my return to the States. What about you, lovely readers? Do you know of any others? Did I forget your favorite? Fall in love with your worst nightmare? Tell me what I’ve missed.

Recap: SAND Journal’s Found in Translation Workshop

There once was a guy from Berlin
Who went to a workshop on a whim
He had so much fun
That when it was done
The SAND Journal meant much more to him

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend the  Found in Translation workshop run by the SAND Journal, Berlin’s English-language literary journal. Because of the support they received from Youth in Action, it was exclusively for translators under the age of 30. This meant that I was joined by a host of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young translat0rs, raring to go. A little nervous about their blossoming or future careers, a little concerned that their work is very niche — too niche, perhaps — but brimming with wit and intelligence. We explored Berlin and ate marvelous food, of course, but the forums and workshops that the SAND team organized were the real highlight of the weekend.

In one workshop, we explored what characteristics of written texts could “give them away” as translations, and it was interesting to realize that even as translators ourselves, we have a notion of “bad” or “off” or “unnatural” vocabulary or punctuation as what marks a translation. And it is high praise for a translated text to read like it was originally written in the target language, that it flows well enough to be considered as belonging to that language’s literature.

The next morning, we played with language. Limericks, Oulipo exercises, snowball poems, Spoonerisms, and anagrams were all fair game. Just to prove that yes, translating puns and humor are hard, but doable. We’re all creative people.

On Saturday night, we joined Naris at Dialogue Books to introduce the new issue of SAND, and we read a little,
Then had a wandering discussion about the future of translation, ending with one guy who led a riddle

(Spoonerisms are hard.)

In the end, we had a lovely brunch on the last day. Because really, what is a weekend of working without brunch? It was a lovely and delicious brunch.

Most important, though, is the network we created. Literary translators from many different languages, all on the cusp of their careers, all looking for jobs to do and magazines to submit to and new things to write and friends to commiserate with. Our support groups have just exploded exponentially. Such connections are even more important for people like us, who work very solitary jobs. It’s reassuring to know that real people are out there on the other side of your Internet connection, who are all going through similar challenges and wonders.

I’m very honored to have been a part of the inaugural year of workshops, and I’m confident they will continue to be an annual event.

I
no
now
more
about
lovely
written
artistry,
wonderful
enchanting
translation,
gloriously
beguiling,
soothing
sparked
energy…
makes
glad
the
me.

(Yeah, okay. Snowball poems are hard, too.)

Makeover!

Call it a face lift, call it spring cleaning, call it an upgrade, call it whatever you want. The blog has gotten a makeover!

And, a complimentary new feature: it’s now linked directly to my website. Which has also gotten its own makeover. Take a look: http://charettetranslations.com/sunshine-abroad/

Now, this dual posting is only temporary. To give all my lovely readers fair warning, I will be exclusively using my website to blog, starting in a few weeks. It’s a new feed, so go sign up (just to the right, once you’re there). See you all there very soon.

Happy spring! Or fall! Or rainy season! Or…April. Happy mid-April, everyone.

Author photos

They bug me.

They’re just too staged. You, with your perfect life, in your country cottage where it’s always either a warm spring or a cool autumn (but never chilly), trees without leaves falling, flowers without bees stinging, a beautiful dog of show quality with no hair or drool or musk or poop. Yes, your bio says you divide your time between Chicago and the country cottage in Colorado, but we don’t see the stress of the city, nor the lonesomeness of the country.

Most importantly, though, we don’t see you writing.

And because of this, many adoring children and idolizing adults think that writing is easy for you. Without any evidence to the contrary, writing must slide neatly into place within your perfect life, where sweaters drape just so and tweed is cool again. You must just sit on your porch where it never rains, where wind never blows your research and scribbled notes away, and type away until dinnertime. No blocks, no grief, no heartaches. No sight of how dreadfully hard writing is. Every. Single. Day.

How hard it is to find your characters’ voices. How hard it is to create perfect descriptions of a place you’ve never seen. How much you ache to see words appear on the blank page. How desperate you feel when you can’t figure out what happens next — or worse, how to get to somewhere you know exists.

But look. I’m just as guilty of this as the rest of you. I’ve got my nature-filled shot up on my website, because it’s the only thing I feel comfortable with. Because there’s an image to control. Because writing is also private. No one is allowed in our zone, in our soul, let alone someone armed with and hiding behind a camera. Just…

Just know, readers and admirers and all the curious, that it’s hard. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t be deceived.

Proofreading after the fact

It doesn’t work. It just makes you look like a donkey’s rear end. And about as intelligent as its front end.

Example 1:

"i" instead of "y", except after "Chr"...

“i” instead of “y”, except after “Chr”…

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a picture of the Chrysler Building, labeled “Chrisler Building.”

It was found in an exhibit called “New York, New York!” at a big expo just outside of Lyon, France. A French person’s take on New York City, if you will. So of course, it opened with a scale model of the Statue of Liberty’s torch — gotta highlight the ties between the two great nations! Then it continued on to the jazz era, stock market crash, taxicabs, etc. Including a large swath of skyscrapers.

But what’s even more adorable about this hilarious typo is that they actually tried to fix it after the fact. If you look closely, you’ll see a faint overlay of a slightly translucent “y” over the much clearer “i” in the picture.

And as if that wasn’t enough, there was an even bigger problem. In the same lineup of iconic New York City skyscrapers, we saw, proudly displayed, a picture of the Tribune Tower.

In Chicago.

I’m sure they meant the Tribune Building. But by then, I had lost all hope. Gave up. Too depressed to take a picture. Even though it was a hilarious picture, with the first part of the “Chicago Tribune” logo on the building next door still visible.

So what, though? Most French people won’t know the difference. And it’s not going to have any sort of detrimental effect on their daily lives.

But it’s still wrong. And there will be people who notice. Probably a couple of important people. Maybe even clients. Or potential clients. If I had any relevant power, I’d be firing (or not ever hiring) the people who created that exhibit.

In conclusion, please be careful. Like I was, reading over this post four times before sending it off into the ether.

Don’t complain. The tables will turn.

Every time I come to France, I struggle with the…well, what should we call it…the brash entitlement of customers in the face of stubborn bureaucracy of administrations. And it’s inbred. They’re born with it. Whereas Americans have online articles explaining how to complain about poor service, the French just naturally push back against authority. Maybe they have to, because of the ridiculous red tape here. But that’s another idea for another time.

So I take it in stride when we’re applying for my monthly bus pass and the woman hands over a protective plastic sleeve for my card, which my companion immediately also asks for, since she never got one. And another man storms over, out of turn, to demand his own, complaining about how damaged and worn out the cards get without one, and then you have to pay for a new one, and you’d think with all that money they’re getting, they could at least provide protective plastic sleeves for everyone…whew.

I also take it in stride that the biggest sporting goods store in the biggest mall in town would have two workers manning the four self-checkout registers, which only take credit cards, and one lone cashier for the 20-minute-long line of other customers waiting to pay with cash or check. And the mumbling and grumbling that everyone in line is doing. Including my companion. Including her son, whom the trip was for. And I take in stride that everyone, including my companion, will express their displeasure orally with the lone cashier, who I’m starting to pity. And that my companion will grumble even more when a manager is called for a price check, which takes another few minutes.

And all of this, after half an hour of being wonderfully helped by the staff on the floor. But nevermind that.

But the tables do turn sometimes. After all of that, and after ringing up a whole cart’s worth of goods…her wallet isn’t in her purse.

Panic. Ever so slightly. (We don’t have the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with us, of course. We might panic.)

But instead of turning their backs when the tables have turned, everyone in the store willingly and generously rallies to help. Team members are dispatched to the areas where we were, the cashier works with us to accept another method of payment, and the reception desk explains how to contact them if it’s discovered that her wallet isn’t at home.

Which of course it is. Sitting on the kitchen table.

We all thanked them profusely for their help.

 

(P.S. Seriously, thank you, Decathlon. You were very helpful.)