amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Spring Edition of the Ottawa International Writers' Festival-Tues

Patrick Watson, Ludwig Laher and Felicia Mihali are three very different writers brought together to discuss their work and writing process. Laher's book is not yet fully translated into English, but he read a passage. In his talk, he mentioned that the translator was British. This was very evident with the use of words such as "washing up" (dishes), "circular" (flyer) and "skive off" (slack off). I was wondering whether publishers consider the target market when they choose a translator. I know North Americans can understand British English, but it always surprises me to read British heavy translations from European sources. You'd think publishers would want to cater to the larger North American market. Just musing.

Felicia Mahli's revelation that she has renounced her Romanian language now that she lives in Quebec because she lives and works in French was a sad point of the evening. She admitted that she doesn't feel her writing is as strong or effective in French as it is in Romanian. Her books are not yet translated into English.

Before taking part in the Writing Life segment, Patrick Watson was interviewed by Ken Rockburn about his memoir, "This Hour Has Seven Decades." There were some fascinating tidbits about Ezra Pound and Robert Service. Later he read from his fable, Wittgenstein and the Goshawk. He has a documetarian's skill for detail and this book proved amusing . His real ambition though is to write a poem.

Sean Wilson, who hosted the segment, asked the writers about the idea of truth in fiction. From the audience came the idea that sometimes truth is more palpable than fiction. This is particularly the case for books such as Laher's, which depict the structure of a Nazi German labour camp, through a world that the author has created. Patrick Watson said that he wrote stories. Considering that fables are usually allegorical, this gave me pause.

The Max Middle Sound Project was fascinating as always with Max decked out in a tux, Peter Norman in shades, and Jason Sonier, the multifarious musician with his pile of instruments on his lap and at his feet. Max experiments with sound and therefore with meaning. This performance included Max's experiments and some more comprehensible work by Peter Norman. It's good to see experimentation in the Ottawa literary scene, even if these instances are rare.

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