In the beginning, there was chaos.

In 1975, on the banks of Chaleur Bay on the Gaspé Peninsula, at Stanley House near Richmond, a conference of literary translators was organized by Philip Stratford and funded by the Canada Council for the Arts. From this conference emerged the idea of an association of literary translators.

At the time, while there were associations for translators and for authors, literary translators had no organization of their own, even though their interests did not always correspond to those of the other “wordsmiths”.

Although the Council for the Arts already had a translation program, the working conditions were extremely tough. Translators were simply considered as cogs in an industrial machine. Some editors saw them as advanced typists and thus imposed impossible deadlines on them. Furthermore, unilingual editors felt free to treat the translator’s work in a cavalier fashion with no regard for the source language. It was unheard of to think that a book’s translator could have any rights, even the right to approve of the final version of the translation. Any contract that was issued was merely for services, and, more often than not, the literary translator had to forego a contract altogether.

After long discussions, those at the conference concluded that literary translators would benefit from establishing their own association to improve their image and their working conditions, as well as the quality of literary translation in Canada. A founding congress was organized in Montreal to which all the translators known to be interested in the literary domain were invited. Many related associations also participated.

Thanks to the sustained efforts of the LTAC, translations are now recognized by Canada’s Copyright Act. Canadian literary translators have gained the respect of both the national and international literary community. And the work continues…

(Summary of a text of the same title written by Michel Buttiens for Circuit, no. 61, Autumn 1998. Translated from French by Linda Lui)


  • Jennifer Dummer

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