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Montreal translator on longlist for Man Booker International

Jessica Moore's translation of the novel by Maylis de Kerangal, Réparer les vivants, is on the longlist for the Man Booker International Prize - one of the most prestigious book prizes in the world.

Jessica Moore's translation of novel by Maylis de Kerangal makes prestigious longlist

Jessica Moore was recognized for her translation of a novel by French writer Maylis de Kerangal. (Courtesy of Talonbooks)

A conversation about favourite novels at a French embassy party in Toronto led Canadian translator Jessica Moore to her first translation of a book by French writer Maylis de Kerangal.

That novel, Naissance d'un pont, went on to win the Médicis Prize in France.

Now Moore's translation of a second novel by de Kerangal, Réparer les vivants, is on the longlist for the Man Booker International Prize, one of the most prestigious book prizes in the world.

Thirteen books are in contention for the 2016 prize, which celebrates the finest in global fiction in translation. The £50,000 prize (more than $90,000 Cdn) will be divided equally between the author of the winning book and its translator.

Moore's translation, titled Mend the Living, was published by Talonbooks.

The Man Booker International Prize shortlist will be announced on April 14, and the winner will be announced on May 16.

Moore spoke to Jeanette Kelly, host of Cinq à Six, about the challenges of translating Mend the Living, including how to tackle the 300-word opening sentence and how to present the French text's use of English scattered throughout the French novel.

Q: How did you find out Mend the Living is on the longlist for the Man Booker International Prize?

I actually found out because my oldest, dearest friend sent me a Facebook message saying she was so proud of me, so she had seen the release of the list before I had.

I think I felt a shiver over my whole body, but then I went home and was mostly by myself for a day before I started talking about it.

Q: What would you tell our readers about the subject of Mend the Living?

I usually say it's about a heart transplant and that it's mostly centred around the boy whose heart is given and his family and their grief and shock. Looking back through the book for segments to read at the launch, you could equally say that it's about the surgical team that does the operation.

[De Kerangal] is an author who really goes into the story of each character in the book, so there's a lot of dropping down into different people's lives and histories.

Q: How did you become involved in translating novels by this very well-known French writer?

I was looking for a book to translate.

It must have been in 2010 [Moore graduated with a Masters in Translation from Concordia University in 2007] and I met someone by chance. His name is David Gressot, and he was working in the literary department of the French consulate in Toronto. I met him at a party and asked him what books he liked, and he raved about her.

He absolutely adores this author, and so he was the one to recommend Naissance d'un pont, and then I pitched it to my publisher. 

That was quite lucky.

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