Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Donald Winkler runs for cover after submitting the first draft of a translation

The translator of the Scotiabank Giller Prize-longlisted Boundary, written by Andrée A. Michaud, answers eight questions from eight authors.
Donald Winkler is a Canadian filmmaker and award-winning translator of fiction and nonfiction. (

Translator Donald Winkler makes his third appearance on the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist with Boundaryoriginally written and published in French by Andrée A. Michaud. Two of his previous translations, A Secret Between Us by Daniel Poliquin and Arvida by Samuel Archibald, were on the shortlists in 2007 and 2015, respectively.

We asked Winkler to take the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A and answer eight questions from eight writers.

1. Eden Robinson asks, "Who was your most influential mentor?"

My most influential mentor was/is Sheila Fischman, whom I observed, at close quarters, alchemizing words, for years before I was to try my hand at it. The instant of insight that follows on long, painful pondering, I first witnessed in wonder, and only later came intimately to know.

2. Karen Solie asks, "At what stage of composition do you show someone a work in progress?"

I do a first draft of a translation and, usually, one revision, bringing it to a stage where it is readable, but not yet refined. I then pass it on to the author for his or her comments, criticisms, corrections, clarifications… and run for cover.

3. Vincent Lam asks, "For you — what does the 'Ultimate Literary Event' look like?"

The "Ultimate Literary Event" occurs when, in opening a book to its first page, one is instantly drawn into a new and magical world of words.

4. Sharon Butala asks, "What is the main question that you wish somebody would ask you, although nobody ever has?"

Would you be free to come to Stockholm and present a little book report?

5. Bill Richardson asks, "There is no word in English for the horrible feeling of finding a typo or some other grievous error in your finished work. What should that word be?"


6. Pasha Malla asks, "How important is it for a country to have an identifiable, national literature?"

It's important for a country to have a literature that's increasingly unrecognizable. 

7. Shani Mootoo asks, "Do you find that you are influenced by other art forms? If so, which and how. If not, why not?"

Sui generis prose and poetry is, for me, another art form and my meat and potatoes. My responsibility is to do it justice.

8. Claire Holden Rothman asks, "What do you look for when you read? What are the ingredients of a good novel?"

The ingredients for a good novel, like the ingredients for a good recipe, are legion and of infinite variety, but as with a recipe, the result can be "good" only if you've got a good cook.


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