Recipient of the Gabrielle Roy Prize 2006
Translating Montreal: Episodes in the Life of a Divided City, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006.
The Association for Canadian and Quebec Literatures (ACQL) is pleased to award the Gabrielle Roy Prize (anglophone section), which each year honours the best work of literary criticism published in English, to Sherry Simon, for Translating Montreal: Episodes in the Life of a Divided City, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Of the eighteen books submitted to the jury by presses across the country, the work of Sherry Simon distinguished itself by its originality, scope, and interdisciplinary rigour. Simon’s exhaustive analysis of linguistic and cultural transfers in Montreal’s writing communities is informed by her keen understanding of the spatial, political, and cultural dynamics of the city, its history, and its intersection of languages. By examining various “moments of translation,” Simon demonstrates how these communities speak for and to each other in a work that historicizes the changing face of Montreal, from a colonial city neatly divided by the English and French solitudes, to the “reconquest” of the city by the emerging Québécois identity during the Quiet Revolution, and finally, to the inter-cultural and inter-lingual cosmopolitan city of today. Simon chronicles the first “crossings” of the linguistic and cultural divide that was Montreal in the early 1960′s between the Partis Pris writers and Anglo writers such as Malcolm Reid and F.R. Scott. A.M. Klein’s influence is also crucial to an understanding of Montreal, and the “confluence of languages” in his poetry is brilliantly analysed in chapters dedicated to the city’s sizeable body of Jewish writing. These, Simon argues, initiated the city’s “culture of translation” which would have influence for decades to come. Simon then examines the inheritors of this culture of translation through the writing of Gail Scott, Jacques Brault, Nicole Brossard, and Erin Mouré, among many others. She also provides a penetrating analysis of the littérature migrante movement in the 1980′s, including writers such as Emile Olivier, Marco Micone, and Dany Laferrière. Simon argues that the points of contact between communities in this unique city offer up productive and stimulating tensions which emerge in the rich writing of Montreal, and her engaging, lively, and personal work is a testament to and example of this productive tension.