(Extrait du texte original en anglais).
Let me first thank the organizers of this meeting for their welcome. The name of this City , Gerona, is closely linked to Linguistic rights, the Catalan PEN centre is closely linked to great PEN causes. We, in Quebec PEN, and all Quebec writers, in fact, feel a particular proximity to Catalunha as both our peoples have been living and writing in a minority language surrounded by a large culture.
As you know, we in Quebec PEN have launched a reflexion on translation; we want it to be the theme of our 81st Congress in Quebec City in October 2015 and we’re so ambitious as to hope that we can make the Assembly of delegates approve a Déclaration de Québec sur les traducteurs et la traduction. The process for this is, of course, to present in due time a draft which could be commented upon and blessed at the next meeting of the Committee on translation and Linguistic Rights.
You will have noticed that I said, Déclaration de Québec sur les traducteurs et la traduction. It is my conviction that the profession of translator should be exalted, valued, admired and recognized much more than it has until now. We’ll endeavour to make this clear in the draft declaration.
There is a small group of us who have put a few sentences together, but we’re not quite ready to show it to you yet. But I can tell you already, about that document, that it will address two fundamental truths: the first one is that the translator is a creator and not just a messenger carrying words from one side of the river of knowledge and art to the other shore; and the second one is that translation is profoundly linked to freedom of expression, a fundamental and essential tenet of PEN.
Another aspect of the Quebec Congress in general is that it is our intention that it endeavour to bring the French language in the centre of our dialogue. It’ll be a trilingual Congress, of course, but we have been feeling for a few years that English has been used as an obvious means of communication between us in PEN. It may be obvious because it is the most common language among us, but when we can afford it, French must be a natural way of communicating, it should not be perceived as a burden. It should not be ‘tolerated’, or ‘accepted’, it should be natural and there, just there. Tolerance is, as I understand, a measure of bridled impatience and reluctant generosity. We, and I believe all French speaking members of PEN across the world, wish to feel at home in our organization, while recognizing that a large proportion of our colleagues from non French and non Spanish and non English speaking backgrounds are more likely to understand English. Thus an efficient system of simultaneous translation is anticipated for the Quebec Congress.
As a writer and a translator, I’m often interested in the difference between creation and translation, even wondering if there is any difference at all. From an image in the mind, from a concept which is imprecise, what is it that pushes a human being to finding words to express it? This is the first translation. This is giving birth to language, this is allowing words to hit the sheet of paper or the screen, or be heard by somebody, and this is where literature occurs. Later on, maybe, a translator will come along and start the process from the minute after the birth of language and the work he or she sets on to translate will have a totally new future, a new and different life. Literature reborn.
There is a concept, or rather a poetic image that has occurred to me, and it is that in translation, contrary to other artistic expressions, like, say, pottery or the visual arts, you can undo what you have done and decide to break up the puzzle you had assembled and put the pieces in a different way while still remaining faithful to the picture on the top of the box. You can do it with fewer words or with more words, you can change the shapes and the colors and still come up with roughly the same picture. What other art form puts the artist at such a high risk, what work of art is so inherently fragile?
The writer is the interpreter of his own mind, the translator of his own heart and the language he uses is the threshold of literature, where the first translation takes place, this is where the birth is staged and a piece of paper or the screen of a computer welcome the new arrival and make it exist and speak.