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Sheila Fischman, French-to-English translator

The Story

Sheila Fischman is recognized as one of Canada's finest translators of contemporary Quebec literature, with over 125 translated novels to her name and a 1998 Governor General's Award for translation. As we hear in this 1980 interview with Eleanor Wachtel, she is translating Michel Tremblay's La grosse femme d'à côté est enceinte: The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant. She uses examples of this and other Tremblay works to illustrate the many challenges in the translating process. The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant is the third of Fischman's translations to appear in Canada Reads. The first two were Jacques Poulin's Volkswagen Blues (2005 finalist) and Hubert Aquin's Next Episode (2003 winner).

Medium: Radio
Program: Audience
Broadcast Date: Jan. 5, 1980
Guest(s): Sheila Fischman
Host: Stan Peters
Interviewer: Eleanor Wachtel
Duration: 21:21

Did You know?

• Sheila Fischman was born in Saskatchewan, raised in Ontario and now lives in Montreal.


• In addition to her 1998 Governor General's Award, Fischman has won prizes from the Canada Council and Columbia University, among others, and has received honourary doctorates from the Universities of Ottawa and Waterloo.


• In her 1999 address at the University of Ottawa, Fischman said that the most important thing one can do to become a good translator is to read, "voraciously, indiscriminately. Novels, newspapers, poems, journals, ads, plays, magazines, junk." She went on to say that for her, "translation is a kind of quest: I see us as prospectors who seek beyond the gold, searching for what lies behind what lies behind the words."


• Fischman was invested into the Order of Canada in 2000 and the National order of Quebec in 2008.


• In the course of his 1981 interview with Michel Tremblay , Morningside host Don Harron asks whether Fischman has to call Tremblay for help understanding his work. His response: "No! She's incredible, that woman; she knows everything! And she really did respect all the breathing in the sentences."


• One of Sheila Fischman's most prized possessions is the bilingual content of a Chinese fortune cookie. In English it says: "One must choose the lesser of two evils." In French: "De deux mots il faut choisir le moindre."



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