Paul Bossé

Translated by Sarah MacNeil

The First Victim

these days
ya can’t even go into town

without gettin’ splattered by pranks
without trippin’ over hypocrites
without wipin’ out on white lies
without chokin’ on euphemisms
without gettin’ steamrolled by exaggerations

loaded with options
no hassle
nine doctors out of ten
do more with less
one of a kind
any more cutting edge than that
and you’d bleed

makes it hard not to think
of that good ol’ Pinocchio
poor li’l guy
his first gig
whatta fiasco

hired by a marketing company
his job was to write a bunch of words
that would make all kinds of local businesses
come off pretty good

Acadie Dry Wall: you can see our walls from outer space
Sagouine Park: come check out our tyrannical grannies

with his golly gee enthusiasm
he dove headfirst into his work
‘cept every day
the minute he’d jot somethin’ down
no matter what it was
his nose
ya know

it got so’s he couldn’t even write in front of a screen
‘cause of how scared he was he’d shatter it
‘specially as they’d only just given him
his fourth laptop

It’s not the intention that will soften her heart
it’s the carats

so even if he was an eager keener full of ideas
and even if he never never called in sick
his company
had no other choice really
but to give him the pink slip
poor li’l guy

if only he’d stuck it out in the field
today who knows where he’d be
‘cause in the here and now of doin’ things live
the minute you turn on the TV or the nanosecond you’re online
you get carpet-bombed by lies
without a pause for shock and awe

If it’s too good to be true
it just means your truth needs
a little makeover


Sarah MacNeil

Sarah MacNeil is an Ottawa-based but Maritimer-at-heart writer and translator, currently finishing her Masters in Literary Translation at the University of Ottawa. Her work has been published in journals such as K1N, Ancrages, Astheure, and The Antigonish Review. She usually finds herself torn between home and faraway places, but wherever she may be, she can usually be found with a notebook and pen on her person.



A Note on Translating Chiac into English

I’m going to assume that you’ve taken the time to read the poem by Paul Bossé in its original version. I’m sure you’ll agree that what he’s offered us is a very rhythmic, punchy, dynamic text that weaves in and out of French and English with an abundance of grace. But the pulling in of both these languages is not really the point of his writing; it’s how a lot of us speak naturally in southeastern New Brunswick.

I’ve spoken at length with many people at various occasions about what should be done to translate the hybrid nature of Chiac, the French vernacular spoken in Moncton and its surrounding area. None of us are big fans of working elements of the French language into the English matrix in order to replicate the graceful code-switching acrobatics inherent to Chiac. To our ears and eyes, it feels forced, experimental, not true to life.

You’ll notice that Sarah MacNeil’s strategy for translating Chiac in Paul’s poetry is quite different from what you’ll have seen done by someone like Robert Majzels, for example, in his English translation of novels by France Daigle, another Acadian writer who uses Chiac in her work. (I’m thinking here of Just Fine [2002], A Fine Passage [2002], Life’s Little Difficulties [2004] and For Sure [2013], all published by House of Anansi Press.) Though I understand and respect how Robert chooses to handle the challenge of translating France’s use of the French language, injecting a feeling of Frenchness (through borrowed syntax and terms) into the English language, I’m much more drawn to a translation such as Sarah’s. Her strategy offers the reader a text that rolls and pitches in time with Paul’s, except it sticks to one language and features the strong lilt that characterizes the English language as it is spoken in Atlantic Canada. Her translation does away with the hybridity of the Chiac, but the informal register matches up perfectly with Paul’s. If you’ve addressed him in English, it’s actually very close to how you might hear Paul speak to you in his not-quite-native tongue.

I would like to leave you here with a reminder that there is no one way to translate, no single solution to this beautiful dilemma we wrestle with as translators. And that, perhaps, is what makes our work both so frustrating and so immensely addictive. —Sonya Malaborza

Sonya Malaborza

Sonya Malaborza has translated many contemporary authors working in various genres, including Michael Healey’s Plan B (Tarragon Theatre, 2001) and Beth Powning’s The Sea Captain’s Wife (Perce-Neige, 2014). Most recently, she was awarded a spot at the Banff International Literary Translation Centre, where she worked on her translation into French of Ami McKay’s The Birth House. Sonya’s scholarly endeavours run parallel to her more practical professional activities; she has written and translated several articles on the sociology of translation and is currently editing an anthology of short stories in translation by contemporary writer