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II. Traduire le(s) sens : exacerber le silence et les sons

Suggestive Sonorities: Representing and Translating Silence in Works by Québécois Poets Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau and Anne Hébert

Agnès Whitfield
p. 75-96

Résumés

Comme mode de communication poétique, le silence est un phénomène contradictoire : comment peut-on donner une « voix » au silence ? Puisque le silence ne peut être représenté en tant que tel autrement que par des espaces blancs, des pauses, des césures, ou des pages blanches, il faut nécessairement « l’évoquer ». En s’appuyant sur des concepts issus de la musicologie et des études sonores (Sound Studies), cet article explore divers enjeux soulevés par la représentation textuelle du silence et sa traduction. Les moyens linguistiques utilisés par deux poètes québécois majeurs, Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau et Anne Hébert, pour « traduire » le silence sont répertoriés et les défis que ces « effets de silence » posent à leurs traducteurs anglophones sont examinés. En conclusion, l’article pose quelques pistes de collaboration prometteuse entre les études sonores et la traductologie.

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1Silence has been an important theme in Québécois poetry and particularly in texts written before the Quiet Revolution, a term used to describe the radical transformation of Québec in the 1960s under Premier Jean Lesage (Linteau, Durocher and Robert, 1991: 307), the break with ultraconservatism and censorship, and the upsurge of secularisation and modernisation, political self-affirmation, and aesthetic renewal. Perhaps this explains in part why critics have primarily interpreted the theme of silence in poetic works before the 1960s in socio-political and psychological terms (Lemire, 1980, Mongeon, 1998), whereas the actual textual manifestations of silence, the rhetorical means these poets used to suggest the (un)sonorous value of silence and their relationship with these broader thematic and contextual issues have gone virtually uncharted.

  • 1 . https://benjamins.com/online/tsb
  • 2 . An article by Hasan Ghazala on translating Arabic allegorical expressions of silence and speech (...)
  • 3 . Recent reflections on rhythmicity open up opportunities for new perceptions of the function and (...)
  • 4 . As noted in the entry “subtext” in The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, “Modern plays such a (...)

2Translation Studies research, too, has focused predominantly on the political and sociological implications of silence. A quick search in the John Benjamins Online Translation Studies Bibliography, under the key word “silence,” yields 44 references1. The vast majority of these studies deal with questions of censorship or invisibility (Tymoczko, 2010), silences in intercultural communication (Petrilli and Ponzio, 2006), or difficulties in building transcultural bridges (Alves, 1995; Sool, 2009). A few address gaps or “silences” in multimedia translation andinterpreters’ speech (Torchitti, 2009), or the translator’s “silence” as a manifestation of lack of engagement (Rao, 2004), but the linguistic and poetic challenges of translating effects of silence as these encoded in textual phenomena are rarely addressed2. Although studies drawing on rhetorical traditions, not necessarily included in the Benjamins Bibliography, may touch on silence, this is mainly in the relatively limited context of rhythmic effects in prosody, the use of caesurae, for instance, to mark a brief “silent” pause within the metrical measurement of verse3, or the role of pauses in theatrical dialogues in revealing hidden meanings or subtexts4.

3This article draws on notions from musicology and the new field of Sound Studies to explore these unmapped issues in the textual representation and translation of silence, the term being understood here not in the strict, or radical, sense of the blank, silent page, and the concomitant complete absence of text, but as a textual phenomenon evoking effects for the reader, achieved through manipulations of language. The means by which two key Québécois poets, Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau and Anne Hébert, translate silence in the text of their poems are identified, and the challenges these “effects of silence” pose for their Anglophone translators explored. In conclusion, the article sketches out some areas of fruitful future collaboration between Sound Studies and Translation Studies.

Silence and Sound Studies

4Jonathan Sterne, one of the leading scholars in the new field, defines Sound Studies as “the interdisciplinary ferment in the human sciences that takes sound as its analytical point of departure or arrival. By analysing both sonic practices and the discourses and institutions that describe them, it redescribes what sound does in the human world, and what humans do in the sonic world” (Sterne, 2012: 2). According to Sterne, “as there was an Enlightenment, so too was there an ‘Ensoniment’”:

Between about 1750 and 1925, sound itself became an object and a domain of thought and practice, where it had previously been conceptualised in terms of particular idealized instances like voice and music. Hearing was reconstructed as a physiological process, a kind of receptivity and capacity based on physics, biology and mechanics. (Sterne, 2003: 2)

5As an area of interdisciplinary reflection, Sound Studies nonetheless developed primarily as a response to an awareness of major modifications in our sonic environment as a result of the new ways of recording and reproducing sound made possible throughout the late 19th century and the 20th century by such important technological advances as the telephone, the phonograph, the radio, and numerous digital techniques. Scholars became interested in the new forms of listening practices and representations of sonic phenomena these technological innovations generated.

6More significantly, Sound Studies has built on the recognition that sound, as much as vision, is an important way of perceiving and understanding the world. As Trevor Pinch and Karin Bijsterveld point out:

Science has traditionally been understood as a visual matter, a study which has historically been undertaken with optical technologies such asslides, graphs, and telescopes. [Sound Studies] questions that notion by showing how listening has contributed to scientific practice. Sounds have always been a part of human experience, shaping and transforming the world in which we live in ways that often go unnoticed. Sounds and music are embedded in the fabric of everyday life, art, commerce, and politics in ways which impact our perception of the world. (Pinch and Bijsterveld, 2013)5

7This new recognition of the importance of sound, as a cultural and material phenomenon in its own right, opens up fresh ways of exploring the significance of sound, in all its forms including silence, from a sonic point of view.

8The composer John Cage captures some of the implications of this change in perspective when he addresses the evolution of traditional uses of silence in music:

Jadis, le silence était le laps de temps entre les sons, utile à diverses fins, parmi lesquelles celle d’un arrangement de bon goût qui faisait que, en séparant deux sons ou deux groupes de sons, leurs différences ou leurs relations seraient renforcées ; ou bien celle de l’expressivité, les silences fournissant au discours musical pause ou ponctuation ; ou encore celle de l’architecture, l’introduction ou l’interruption d’un silence pouvant donner de la netteté soit à une structure prédéterminée, soit à une structure qui se développe organiquement. (Quoted in French by Bosseur, 2013: 172-3)

9However, continues Cage, once one goes beyond these traditional conceptions of silence as a break or pause essentially used to highlight the effects of rhythm or the composition of the sounds that precede or follow, the sonic dimensions and implications of silence shift:

Là où aucun de ces objectifs ni d’autres ne sont présents, le silence devient quelque chose de différent – pas silence du tout, mais sons, les sons ambiants. Leur nature est imprévisible et changeante. Ces sons (appelés silences seulement parce qu’ils ne font pas partie d’une intention musicale) doivent être comptés comme existants. Le monde foisonne de tels sons et il n’est, à vrai dire, aucunement affranchi d’eux. (Ibid.: 173)

10Silence becomes a textual or musical “space” to be (re)redefined, with its own characteristics and functions.

11Descriptions and interpretations of sonic phenomena nevertheless remain difficult due to the priority long given to vision over hearing. Sterne notes that “the language we use to describe sound and hearing comes weighted down with decades or centuries of cultural baggage” (2003: 10), and he lists a number of stereotypical statements or beliefs about sound that continue to haunt descriptions and perceptions of how sound means. These include different set oppositions between hearing and vision, for example, whereby “hearing is primarily a temporal sense, vision is primarily a spatial sense,” “hearing is a sense that immerses us in the world, vision is a sense that removes us from it,” and “hearing is about affect, vision is about intellect” (ibid.: 14-15). By opening up new perspectives on practices of sound including silence as cultural and material phenomena, and by deconstructing conventional discourses on sound, Sound Studies prepares the ground for a consideration of silence not only within its rhythmic and architectural functions but also as a phenomenon worthy of closer examination in itself.

Two Québécois poets of silence: Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau and Anne Hébert

  • 6 . For a complete bibliography of the works of Saint-Denys Garneau, see L’Info centre littéraire de (...)
  • 7 . For a complete bibliography of Hébert’s writing, see the website on Anne Hébert maintained by th (...)
  • 8 . To avoid confusion, italics will be used for the volume Le Tombeau des rois and quotation marks (...)

12Saint-Denys Garneau (1912-1943) wrote all his work, and Anne Hébert (1916-2000) most of her important poetry before the Quiet Revolution. Saint-Denys Garneau started publishing poetry in the 1930s and his major text, Regards et Jeux dans l’espace, first appeared in 1937 in Montréal. After the poet’s death, it was incorporated into his collected works, Poésies complètes, published by Fides in 1949, and then reedited in 1971, under the title Œuvres, by the Presses de l’Université de Montréal6. Hébert’s early poetry circulated during the 1940s in Québec reviews such as Amérique française, La Nouvelle Relève and the Revue dominicaine7. Her first volume, Les Songes en équilibre, was published in 1942 by Les Éditions de L’Arbre (Montréal), but it was really with Le Tombeau des rois8, published in 1953 by the Institut littéraire du Québec (Québec City), with a preface by French poet Pierre Emmanuel, and republished along with another group of poems Mystère de la parole en 1960 by the Éditions du Seuil in Poèmes, that Hébert’s talent as a poet was recognized.

  • 9 . See Jean-Louis Joubert, “HÉBERT ANNE – (1916-2000)”, Encyclopædia Universalis [online] http://ww (...)

13Perhaps the most revealing manifestation of the importance of silence in Québécois poetry in Saint-Denys Garneau and Hébert’s time was the resounding impact of Roland Giguère’s 1965 volume of poetry, L’Âge de la parole, whose programmatic title marked the new wave of political and cultural liberation brought on through the Quiet Revolution. In the works of both Saint-Denys Garneau and Hébert, written before this triumph of “voicefulness” over “muteness”, critics understood silence through its associations with themes of isolation, solitude and death, both individual and collective, as the overview of their works in the Dictionnaire des œuvres littéraires du Québec (Vigneault, 1980; Lemieux, 1980) attests, and the two poets were often connected, as much by their family relationship (they were cousins) and their mal de vivre in Québec (Saint-Denys Garneau withdrew from social life a few years before his premature death and Hébert lived almost all her adult life in exile in France9) as their common themes.

14Jean-Louis Major, for instance, focused on Saint-Denys Garneau’s “drame de l’écriture” (Vigneault, 1980: n.p.) in Regards et Jeux dans l’espace in psychological and ideological terms. Working with the poem “Accompagnement”, Major identifies a:

« [S]tructure » […] marquée d’une angoisse insurmontable parce que la quête d’identité qui la définit ne peut franchir la « distance infranchissable » du sujet lui-même, ne peut réaliser la coïncidence à soi qui permet le libre usage de la conscience de vivre et dont l’échec soumet l’individu à quelque interdit psychologique et idéologique. « Accompagnement » décrit la démarche du locuteur vers et avec la joie. Mais, curieusement, si la « joie » peut revendiquer son autonomie, sa victoire sera réalisée aux dépens du poète devenu un « étranger »… Major s’interroge à savoir si ce résultat ambigu ne souligne pas simplement l’échec du recours à la poésie chez Saint-Denys Garneau. (Ibid.: n.p.)

15In fact, Saint-Denys Garneau would abruptly withdraw Regards et Jeux dans l’espace from circulation (ibid.: n.p.) in a movement of self-silencing. As John Glassco, the translator of his Journal writes:

No sooner had he seen the work in print than he was stricken with horror: he felt he had “exposed” himself in a manner so much at variance with his natural reserve […] He never published again. (Glassco, 1975: 11)

16While Major’s use of the adjective idéologique is perhaps a discreet reference to the collective political context in Québec underlying Saint-Denys Garneau’s poetry, socio-political interpretations of Hébert’s Le Tombeau des rois were more explicit. Critics praised “la fusion réussie d’une écriture toute personnelle et d’une préoccupation collective” (Lemieux, 1980: n.p.). Gilles Marcotte, writing in Le Devoir in 1953, linked the theme of death and silence, and the difficulty of speaking, to the collective context of French Canada, highlighting “le poids de mort et de solitude que nous fait une histoire tissée d’impératifs catégoriques” (quoted in Lemieux, 1980: n.p.). Over a quarter of a century later, Pierre-Hervé Lemieux would argue that Hébert’s poetry was in fact developing in close parallel with the collective transformation of Québec, moving from death and silence in Le Tombeau des rois towards some kind of reconcilation with speaking in her subsequent volume “Mystère de la parole”, published as part of Poèmes in 1960: “La réconciliation avec les morts s’effectuera lors de la parution de “Mystère de la parole”: “Que celui qui a reçu fonction de la parole […] n’ait de cesse que soient justifiés les vivants et les morts en un seul chant parmi l’aube et les herbes” (Lemieux, 1980: n.p.).

Representing Silence

17Certainly, as a mode of poetic communication, silence is a contradictory phenomenon—how can the lack of sound be voiced?—, which also illuminates in part why critics have not yet addressed silence as a poetic mode of (non) expression in Saint-Denys Garneau and Hébert’s writing, and studies of silence as a material and sonic phenomenon in their works are non-existent. Robert Élie, one of the first to recognise the importance of Saint-Denys Garneau’s poetry, captures intuitively something of this paradoxical dimension of silence:

  • 10 . Words in bold face are used in quotations throughout the article to emphasise certain points.

Mais le poète qui livre le secret de sa vie, ne fait que nous révéler un mystère qui est celui de notre destinée autant que de la sienne. Par là son chant nous émeut : c’est une voix fraternelle, et il semble même que nous l’avions déjà entendue prononcer dans le silence des mots que nous lisons pour la première fois. (Élie, 1972: 9)10

18If silence cannot be represented in itself, other than by blank spaces, pauses or caesurae, or ultimately by the blank page, the (un)sonority of silence as a sonic phenomenon must somehow be suggested. An initial exploration of the works of Saint-Denys Garneau and Hébert suggests that both poets use a variety of techniques to suggest effects or impressions of silence. The following list does not purport to be exhaustive, but to provide a preliminary categorisation of techniques which are used alone or in combination.

i) Representing silence symbolically

19In his poem, significantly entitled “Silence”, Saint-Denys Garneau explicitly evokes the symbolic value of silence:

Toutes paroles me deviennent intérieures
Et ma bouche se ferme comme un coffre
   qui contient des trésors
Et ne prononce plus ces paroles dans le temps
   des paroles en passage,
Mais se ferme et garde comme un trésor
   ses paroles
Hors l’atteinte du temps salissant, du temps passager.
Ses paroles qui ne sont pas du temps
Mais qui représentent le temps dans l’éternel
Des manières de représentants
Ailleurs de ce qui passe ici,
Des manières de symboles
Des manières d’évidences de l’éternité qui passe ici,
(Saint-Denys Garneau, 1972: 118)

20Silence is represented here in the form of unspoken words valued as trésors, and qualified explicitly as manières de symboles. If words, once spoken, inevitably become ephemeral, swept along in the passage of time, they can also, when held back, when kept in “silence”, become symbols, or even manières d’évidences of eternity.

ii) Representing silence semantically

21Saint-Denys Garneau’s description of paroles as being intérieures, and therefore soundless, already constitutes a certain use of semantic choices to suggest silence. This technique is more readily perceivable in Hébert’s “Le Tombeau des rois”:

  • 11 . Dialogue sur la traduction – à propos du Tombeau des rois: the book contains the correspondence (...)

J’ai mon cœur au poing,
Comme un faucon aveugle.
Le
taciturne oiseau pris à mes doigts
Lampe gonflée de vin et de sang,
Je descends
Vers les tombeaux des rois
Étonnée
À peine née.
Quel fil d’Ariane me mène
Au long des
dédales sourds ?
(Hébert and Scott
11, 1970: 36)

22Words such as taciturne and sourds explicitly designate the hushed atmosphere of the tomb down into which the young woman subject of the poem descends. Throughout the poem, other terms reinforce this semantic effect of silence through their connotations of immobility or stillness:

L’immobile désir des gisants me tire.
Je regarde avec étonnement
À même les noirs
ossements
Luire les pierres bleues incrustées.
(
Ibid.: 38)

23The young woman’s personification of the gisants and the irresistible attraction they exert on her own movements, as well as the vivacity of her gaze, are presented as a foil to the immobility and silence of the tomb, and the semantic representation of silence continues in the references to the motionless ossements and the frozen mineral aspect of the pierres bleues incrustées.

iii) Representing silence visually

24Through these specific words connotative of silence, Hébert also creates a visual picture of the soundless tomb. Her reader is invited to envision the young woman’s quiet descent, muffled by the dédales sourds into the tomb, and the immobile sarcophagi she discovers inside. In this sense, one can speak of a visual representation of silence. Indeed the choice of this morbid scene is consistent with a mise en scène of silence.

iv) Representing silence spatially

25While a spatial dimension is already present in this kind of visual representation of silence, Saint-Denys Garneau’s well-known poem “Accompagnement” illustrates more clearly how space itself can represent and evoke the lack of communication, the absence of voice and necessarily of sound:

Je marche à côté d’une joie
D’une joie qui n’est pas à moi
D’une joie que je ne puis pas prendre

Je marche à côté de moi en joie
J’entends mon pas en joie qui marche à côté de moi
Mais je ne puis changer de place sur le trottoir
Je ne puis pas mettre mes pieds dans ces pas-là
(Saint-Denys Garneau, 1972: 97)

26In this poem, the speaker walks beside himself, and it is the space between him and his double, or between these two parts of himself, that literally represents and constitutes the failure of their connection, the silence of their communication. Curiously, both effects of sound and silence contribute to staking out this space of silence, at once traversed and defined by the sounds of the steps of that other part of himself the speaker hears walking beside him, and the silence between the steps. This two-part movement is reinforced by rhythmic effects, the repetition of the phoneme /m/ taking on the value of the steps, for instance, in the line: J’entends mon pas en joie qui marche à côté de moi.

v) Representing silence rhythmically

27Hébert’s poem “Le Tombeau des rois” offers numerous other examples of similar uses of rhythm to evoke silence:

Quel fil d’Ariane me mène
Au long des dédales sourds ?
L’écho des pas s’y mange à mesure.
(En quel songe
Cette enfant fut-elle liée par la cheville
Pareille à une esclave fascinée ?)

L’auteur du songe
Presse le fil,
Et viennent les pas nus

Un à un
Comme les premières gouttes de pluie
Au fond du puits.
(Hébert and Scott, 1970: 37-38)

28Here, rhythmic effects closely parallel the compositional, expressive and architectural effects Cage has attributed to traditional uses of silence in music, but in reverse: in this case, it is sound that shapes and defines silence. As in Saint-Denys Garneau’s poem, the repetition of the phoneme /m/ (L’écho des pas s’y mange à mesure) marks the measure of the receding echoes in the ambient silence, while the repeated /p/ (Presse le fil, / Et viennent les pas nus / Un à un / Comme les premières gouttes de pluie / Au fond du puits) calls to mind the almost imperceptible sound of barefoot steps (the young woman’s? The poem is not specific) on the stone floor in the stillness of the tomb.

vi) Representing silence “synesthetically”

29Finally, Saint-Denys Garneau’s poem “La voix des feuilles” illustrates a hybrid representation technique whereby the silence of the leaves (in Cage’s sense of silence as a space containing sounds, if only naturally occurring ones) is evoked through a mingling of senses including hearing (chanson), seeing (de robes plus claires) and touching (un froissement):

Une chanson
Plus claire un froissement
De robes plus claires aux plus transparentes couleurs
(Saint-Denys Garneau, 1972:49)

30The mention of each sense can be direct (chanson) but it is more often richly allusory, with an enfolding of sensations. The chanson plus claire can be heard and seen, and the froissement de robes evokes both the sound and the touch of the dresses. In the final image of the plus transparentes couleurs, the natural “sound/silence” of the leaves is composed of colours invisible yet visible, seen but not seen.

31Although not comprehensive, these categories suffice to illustrate the wide range of rhetorical means Saint-Denys Garneau and Hébert skillfully employ to suggest effects of silence. They also nuance considerably the conventional dichotomies between the visual and the audible critiqued by Sound Studies. On the one hand, the representation of silence in Saint-Denys Garneau’s poem “Silence”, and Hébert’s use of rhythmic effects in “Le Tombeau des rois” maintain the link with temporality, conventionally associated with sound. On the other hand, the presence of visual, spatial and synesthetic techniques evoking silence suggests that the relationship between representations of seeing and hearing can be multifaceted and interconnected, and engage other senses. In these poems, the audible and the visual are not distinct categories, but intermingle, as hearing takes on traits associated traditionally with vision, occupies a space, and becomes visual. Hearing (silence) can immerse the reader, but it can also, like vision, serve to augment distance, and in the symbolical representation of silence, hearing is as much about intellect (or ideas)—a trait generally attributed to seeing—as affect (or emotions). The very density of these intermingling solicitations leads to complex translation challenges.

Translating Silence

  • 12 . See, for instance, the extensive section on Saint-Denys Garneau in The Poetry of French Canada i (...)

32Both Saint-Denys Garneau and Hébert’s poetry have generated considerable interest in English-speaking Canada. Individual poems by Saint-Denys Garneau have been translated by Frank Scott, G.V. Downes, Jean Beaupré and Gael Turnbull, as well as John Glassco12, and in 1975, the latter published his translations of the Complete Poems of Saint Denys Garneau (Saint-Denys Garneau, 1975). Hébert’s success has been quite resounding, as Antoine Sirois points out:

Le Canada anglais fait la connaissance des premières œuvres d’Anne Hébert dans les années cinquante, grâce à un critique important de l’époque, William Edwin Collin, qui en fait la recension dans le University of Toronto Quarterly. Anne Hébert est en voie de consécration dans les années soixante, alors que professeurs et intellectuels commencent à traduire sa poésie. Frank Scott, A.J.M. Smith et Fred Cogswell en particulier. Dans les années soixante-dix, c’est la consécration de l’auteure. Poésie et romans sont traduits, et les journaux et revues de l’ensemble du Canada louangent son œuvre. (Sirois, 2001: n.p.)

  • 13 . All subsequent quotations from these translations are from Brown, 1975: 40-42; Miller, 1967: 87, (...)
  • 14 . For a general study of the English translations of Hébert’s poetry, see Skallerup, 2007.

33Hébert’s poems appeared in French in 1960 in the Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English and in French (A.J.M. Smith, 1960). “Le Tombeau des rois” was translated by Peter Miller in 1967, by Frank Scott in 1970, by Alan Brown in 1975, and by A. Poulin Jr. in 198713. Scott in fact established three versions of his translation, as the result of a dialogue with the poet (Hébert and Scott, 1970)14.

  • 15 . To facilitate the analysis, only the name of the translator is given. All quotes are from the tr (...)

34How have these translators dealt with the representation of silence by Saint-Denys Garneau and Hébert? More specifically, do some forms of representation of silence lead to greater translation challenges than others? At first glance, the semantic representation of silence would appear to offer the fewest translation challenges. However, as the following comparison of the translations of semantic markers of silence in Hébert’s “Le Tombeau des rois” shows, this is only the case when a clear equivalent exists15:

“Le Tombeau des rois”

Translations

Le taciturne oiseau

Taciturn (Brown, Scott, Poulin, Miller)

Au long des dédales sourds

thudding labyrinths (Brown),

muffled labyrinths (Poulin)

sound-killing labyrinths (Scott, first version)

muted labyrinths (Miller, Scott, versions 2 and 3)

L’immobile désir des gisants me tire

still desire (Brown, Miller)

torpid desire (Poulin)

motionless desire (Scott, all versions)

À même les noirs ossements

Luire les pierres bleues incrustées

On the black bones themselves/The glow of blue incrusted stones (Brown)

As set on the black bones/Shine the blue encrusted stones (Miller)

The blue encrusted stones/Shining among black bones (Poulin)

Within the black remains/The shine of blue encrusted stones (Scott, version 1)

Encrusted upon the black bones/The blue stones gleaming (Scott, versions 2 and 3)

35All the translators translate taciturne by taciturn, and pierres bleues by blue stones, and almost all render ossements by bones, although Scott in his initial version chose remains. However, unfamiliar collocations, such as dédales sourds and immobile désir, become more problematic, leading even to mistranslations, such as thudding (Brown), torpid (Poulin) and the syntactically infelicitous and ambiguous still (Brown, Miller).

36The translation of rhythmic evocations of silence appears to be even more complex, as the following comparison of examples from Hébert reveals:

“Le Tombeau des rois”

Translations

L’écho des pas s’y mange à mesure

Echoes of footsteps are swallowed as they fall (Brown)

The echo of footfall is swallowed there step by step (Miller)

Echoes of footsteps swallow themselves (Poulin)

The echo of steps is soon swallowed (Scott, version 1)

The echo of my steps fades away as they fall (Scott, versions 2 and 3)

Presse le fil,

Et viennent les pas nus

Un à un

Comme les premières gouttes de pluie

Au fond du puits.

Tugs at the thread / And naked feet are heard. / One by one/Like the first drops of rain / In a well’s depth. (Brown)

Presses on the thread, / So come the naked footsteps / One by one/Like the first drops of rain / At the bottom of the well. (Miller)

Pulls the thread / And naked steps start coming / One by one/Like the first drops of rain / At the bottom of wells (Poulin)

Tightens the cord, / And the naked steps come / One by one / Like the first drops of rain / At the bottom of a well (Scott, version 1)

Tightens the cord, / And the naked steps come / One by one / Like the first drops of rain / At the bottom of the well (Scott, versions 2 and 3)

37Undoubtedly, one of the complications for the translator lies in the different word sounds in French and English, which makes the alliterative reinforcement of rhythmic effects more difficult. Miller and Scott, in his third version, opt for a repetition of the definite article in the offbeat to catch something of the individual sounds of each raindrop, setting out at the same time the silence between drops. However, the syntactic choices by the other translators reveal that capturing silence in its alternation with sound was not their primary objective, and, consequently, rhythmic effects lead to inappropriate semantic reinforcements, such as Brown’s In a well’s depth and Poulin’s At the bottom of wells, that shift the centre of focus from silence to the well or its depth.

38In contrast, rhythm is a useful guide for Glassco in his translation of spatial representations of silence in Saint-Denys Garneau’s poem “Accompagnement”:

“Accompagnement”

Translations

Je marche à côté d’une joie

D’une joie qui n’est pas à moi

D’une joie que je ne puis pas prendre

Je marche à côté de moi en joie

J’entends mon pas en joie qui marche à côté de moi

Mais je ne puis changer de place sur le trottoir

Je ne puis pas mettre mes pieds dans ces pas-là

Et dire voilà c’est moi

I walk beside a joy

A joy that is not mine

A joy of mine that is not mine to enjoy

I walk beside that joyful I

I hear his joyous step sound at my side

But cannot change places with him on the pavement

I cannot put my feet in his steps and say See, this is I!

(Glassco, 1975: 75)

I walk beside a joy

Beside a joy that is not mine

A joy of mine which I cannot take

I walk beside myself in joy

I hear my footsteps in joy marching beside me

But I cannot change places on the sidewalk

I cannot put my feet in those steps and say

Look it is I

(Hébert and Scott, 1970: 104)

  • 16 . For a general comparison of the translations of Scott and Glassco, see Ryan, 2003.

39Glassco ingeniously uses effects of rhythm reinforced by compensatory semantic repetitions (A joy of mine that is not mine to enjoy) and alliteration (the repetition of /s/ in I cannot put my feet in his steps and say // See, this is I!) to accentuate the double beat and open up a space between the two parts of the speaker walking beside each other. Scott’s more literal translation also works with rhythm, but the overall effect does not quite capture the spatial representation of silence in the original poem16.

Conclusion

40By and large, with the exception of Alan Brown, well-known for his many translations of Francophone Canadian works in prose, the translators of Saint-Denys Garneau and Anne Hébert were themselves poets. André Poulin Jr. was an American poet and founder of the poetry and short fiction press BOA17. Peter Miller was a Toronto poet, and editor of Contact Press18. Scott and Glassco were the best known poets, and they have written the most on their approach to translation19. Significantly, considerations of sound do not figure prominently in their analysis either of the poems themselves or of their perspective on their translation process. Scott had a fruitful correspondence with Hébert about his translation of “Le Tombeau des rois”, an exchange of views which led to some significant revisions of his translation. However, silence as a sonic phenomenon was not part of that discussion. His description of his translation process does highlight, however, some of the oppositions between seeing and hearing critiqued by Sound Studies. For instance, Scott represents his hermeneutical process to Anne Hébert almost completely in terms of “seeing”:

My good fortune is not only to have such a poem beside me as a guide, but yourself too to sharpen my perception when I fail to see what you saw and to feel as you felt. (Hébert and Scott, 1970: 56)

It [Scott’s firstdraft] tried to get the shape and feel of the poem as a whole, as though seen from a distance and in its entirety. You have given me a microscope with which I can scrutinize every detail. (Ibid.: 57)

41Curiously, when Scott and Glassco do mention sound directly, their comments tend to evacuate sound as an element to which they can or need to attend. Glassco is the most dismissive, linking sound to simple sonorities and ineffective verse:

we must conclude that any poem that dies under the hands of the most skillful and sympathetic translator has a prime constitutional defect, and that the poets who rely on verbal hermetics, apocalyptic surprises, typographical innovations and simple sonorities (to the neglect of those essentials of form and meaning which transcend language and are, as it were, the universals of human communication) must resign themselves to cultivating a provincial garden. (Glassco, 1975: 6-7)

42Nonetheless, Glassco’s attention to verbal configurations and rhythms allows him to access, at least partially, the effects of silence, insofar as these are represented rhythmically:

In translating the poems I have followed a course that was bound to result in the intrusion of my own personality. […] These renderings are faithful but not literal. In a few instances, especially in the fragments, they are partial re-creations which hew to their originals only in thought, image and rhythm. But in translating the great majority of the poems, above all those which the poet himself finally approved, I have reproduced his verbal patterns, and particularly his rhythms, with the greatest fidelity. (Ibid.:17)

43Evoking the inevitable differences between languages, Scott sees their word-sounds as belonging to the realm of the untranslatable: “Even if I am able to exploit the resources of English to the utmost there will still remain the element intraduisible—the nuances, overtones and word-sounds which can never be wholly captured, and which make even the best translation so inadequate.” (Hébert and Scott, 1970: 54) Scott nevertheless senses intuitively something of the role that silence plays in Hébert’s poem and its pertinence for the translation process, but he sees it more inabstract terms of oppositions between life and death: “Throughout this poem there is a constant tension between life and death, the active and the passive sense. The dédales sourds do not hear and are not heard; the steps follow one after the other yet die away.” (ibid.: 57)

44In the context of the relative lack of attention that silence as a (un)sonic phenomenon in its own right has received within Translation Studies, and the difficulties translators have experienced in translating silence in Saint-Denys Garneau and Hébert’s poetry, these comments by Glassco and Scott, although they cannot of course speak for all translators, nonetheless underscore, by their lacunae, the usefulness, for translators, of reflecting on silence from the broader perspective of Sound Studies. Such a reflection could enhance methodological considerations within Translation Studies and expand the range of innovative tools or techniques available to translators. At the same time, the discussion of the techniques used by Saint-Denys Garneau and Hébert to evoke silence can nurture debates within Sound Studies by adding complexity to conventionally held dichotomies between vision and hearing. These two ways of apprehending the world can effectively intermingle and enrich each other in the poetic representation of silence. Finally, since evocative techniques inevitably rely on the reader’s participation, an analysis of the poetic representations of silence and the translation challenges they present points to the need for further exploration of the implications of sonic perception for what Clive Scott calls the translator’s “readerly consciousness” (Scott, 2014: 219).

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Bibliographie

Corpus texts

Hébert, Anne, 1942, Les Songes en équilibre, Montréal, Les Éditions de L’Arbre.

, 1953, Le Tombeau des rois, préface de Pierre Emmanuel, Québec, Institut littéraire du Québec.

, 1960, Poèmes, préface de Pierre Emmanuel (“Le Tombeau des rois” suivi de “Mystère de la parole”), Paris, Éditions du Seuil.

, 1967, The Tomb of the Kings, trans. Peter Miller, Toronto, Contact Press.

, 1975, Poems, trans. Alan Brown, Don Mills, Musson Book Co.

, 1987, Anne Hébert—Selected Poems, trans. A. Poulin Jr., Toronto, Stoddart.

, 2013, Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, Poésie, sous la direction de Nathalie Watteyne et Patricia Godbout, Montréal, Presses de l’université de Montréal.

 and Scott, Frank, 1970, Dialogue sur la traduction – à propos du Tombeau des rois, présentation de Jeanne Lapointe, préface de Northrop Frye traduite en français par J. Simard, Montréal, HMH.

Saint-Denys Garneau, Hector de, 1949, Poésies complètes – Regards et Jeux dans l’espace ; les solitudes, introduction de Robert Élie, avertissement de Jean Le Moyne et Robert Élie, Montréal, Fides, collection du Nénuphar.

, 1971, Œuvres, texte établi, annoté et présenté par Jacques Brault et Benoît Lacroix, Montréal, Presses de l’université de Montréal, Bibliothèque des lettres québécoises.

, 1972, Poésies – Regards et jeux dans l’espace ; Les solitudes, introduction de Robert Élie, Montréal, Fides, collection du Nénuphar.

, 1975, Complete Poems of Saint-Denys Garneau, trans. John Glassco, Ottawa, Oberon Press.

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Baldick, Christopher, 2008, The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, London, Oxford University Press. http://www.oxfordreference.com.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/view/10.1093/acref/9780199208272.001.0001/acref-9780199208272-e-1101?rskey=nHMT11&result=1

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Djwa, Sandra, 1987, “The Tomb of the Kings”, in The Politics of the Imagination: a Life of F.R. Scott, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, p. 371-383.

Downes, Gwladys, 1973, When we lie together: Poems from Quebec / and poems by G.V. Downes, Vancouver, Klanak Press.

Élie, Robert, 1972, “Introduction”, in Poésies – Regards et jeux dans l’espace ; Les solitudes, Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau, Fides, collection du Nénuphar.

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Glassco, John, 1970, “Introduction”, in John Glassco (ed.), The Poetry of French Canada in Translation, Toronto, Oxford University Press, p. xvii-xxiv.

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Godbout, Patricia, 2004, Traduction littéraire et sociabilité interculturelle au Canada 1950-1960, Ottawa, Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa.

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Notes

1 . https://benjamins.com/online/tsb

2 . An article by Hasan Ghazala on translating Arabic allegorical expressions of silence and speech (Ghazala, 2002) and an article by Jean Boase-Beier on translating silence in Celan’s Holocaust poetry (Boase-Beier, 2011) examine silence in the sense of what is not said, but neither article explores in depth the issues related to the representation of silence as a sonic phenomenon.

3 . Recent reflections on rhythmicity open up opportunities for new perceptions of the function and presence of silence (Nowell Smith, 2014 and Scott, 2014), but these studies focus on rhythm itself, and not silence per se.

4 . As noted in the entry “subtext” in The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, “Modern plays such as those of Harold Pinter, in which the meaning of the action is sometimes suggested more by silences and pauses than by dialogue alone, are often discussed in terms of their hidden subtexts” (Baldick, 2008: n.p.).

5 . http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199995813.do

6 . For a complete bibliography of the works of Saint-Denys Garneau, see L’Info centre littéraire des écrivains Québécois: http://www.litterature.org/recherche/ecrivains/saint-denys-garneau-hector-de-216

7 . For a complete bibliography of Hébert’s writing, see the website on Anne Hébert maintained by the Centre Anne-Hébert at the University of Sherbrooke (Québec): http://www.anne-hebert.com/p.php?i=207. See also Œuvres complètes d’Anne Hébert, v. 1 : Poésie, suivi de Dialogue sur la traduction à propos du Tombeau des rois, Édition critique établie par Nathalie Watteyne et Patricia Godbout, 2013, Montréal, Presses de l’Université de Montréal.

8 . To avoid confusion, italics will be used for the volume Le Tombeau des rois and quotation marks for the poem.

9 . See Jean-Louis Joubert, “HÉBERT ANNE – (1916-2000)”, Encyclopædia Universalis [online] http://www.universalis.fr/encyclopedie/anne-hebert

10 . Words in bold face are used in quotations throughout the article to emphasise certain points.

11 . Dialogue sur la traduction – à propos du Tombeau des rois: the book contains the correspondence between poet and translator, together with the original poem and the various versions of the translation.

12 . See, for instance, the extensive section on Saint-Denys Garneau in The Poetry of French Canada in Translation (Glassco, 1970: 104-123).

13 . All subsequent quotations from these translations are from Brown, 1975: 40-42; Miller, 1967: 87, 89. 91; Poulin, 1987: 61, 63, 65; Scott and Hébert, 1970: 37, 39, 41, 43, 87-90, 105-108.

14 . For a general study of the English translations of Hébert’s poetry, see Skallerup, 2007.

15 . To facilitate the analysis, only the name of the translator is given. All quotes are from the translations indicated in the bibliography.

16 . For a general comparison of the translations of Scott and Glassco, see Ryan, 2003.

17 . See the BOA website: http://www.boaeditions.org

18 . http://hpcanpub.mcmaster.ca/case-study/poetic-achievement-contact-press-1952-1967

19 . For a bibliography of the work of Scott and Glassco as poets and translators, see Djwa, 1987, and Godbout, 2004 and 2006.

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Agnès Whitfield, « Suggestive Sonorities: Representing and Translating Silence in Works by Québécois Poets Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau and Anne Hébert », Palimpsestes, 28 | 2015, 75-96.

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Agnès Whitfield, « Suggestive Sonorities: Representing and Translating Silence in Works by Québécois Poets Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau and Anne Hébert », Palimpsestes [En ligne], 28 | 2015, mis en ligne le 01 novembre 2015, consulté le 22 février 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/palimpsestes/2180 ; DOI : 10.4000/palimpsestes.2180

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Agnès Whitfield

Agnès Whitfield est professeure titulaire aux départements d’études anglaises et françaises de l’Université York (Toronto, Canada). Elle a publié plus de 80 articles et une dizaine de livres sur la littérature québécoise et la traduction, dont Writing Between the Lines, Le Métier du double et L’écho de nos classiques. Traductrice littéraire et auteure, elle a présidé l’Association canadienne de traductologie pendant deux mandats. Membre fondatrice du Groupe international de recherche, Voice in Translation, elle dirige la collection Vita Traductiva aux Éditions québécoises de l’œuvre.

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