Baraka Books Author Event – Of Translations and Tribulations

Baraka Books Author Event – Of Translations and Tribulations

by Farnell Morisset

“We’re sorry the author couldn’t make it tonight” would usually be a phrase signalling disaster for an event like The Anglo Store’s regular Author Events.  Unless, of course, the second half of that sentence was “his wife just gave birth yesterday” followed-up by “and we’ve got three other authors and the chief editor of the publishing company.”

And so it was on this averted disaster and a healthy supply of wine and chips that the Baraka Books Author Event opened on June 6th, in the cozy basement of Place Naviles.  Some forty people, ranging from aspiring authors to cooing 2-year-olds, showed up for the event and were met by Robin Philpot, owner of Baraka Books, renowned historian Denis Vaugeois, author Nick Fonda, and award-winning literary translator Peter McCambridge.

Robin Philpot opened the evening by explaining the history and reasoning of Baraka Books.  The publishing house carries both original English-language Québecois books as well as many translations of successful French-language Québecois books which would otherwise not have been translated into English.  He sees this, he explained, as a way for the rest of Canada to have first-hand access to Québec’s distinct culture in order to counter the incomplete third-hand accounts from magazines and English-language media.  As a bilingual Canadian who has fully experienced both sides of the twin solitudes, I fully support this endeavour.

As if to reinforce this idea, Denis Vaugeois then spoke – in French (apologizing for his imperfect English) – about the importance of being published in English in Québec, using as a backdrop his historical account of The First Jews of North America: The Story of the Hart Family.  The work chronicles the arrival of Aaron Hart, a Jewish soldier in Wolfe’s army during the conquest, who later made his fortunes and whose family named the famed Hart Trophy.  Vauegois’ book had just been released that very morning.

Nick Fonda followed with emphatic self-praising, which I’ve learned doesn’t count as hubris if you’re simply reading someone else’s glowing reviews about your books with a twinge of irony.  Nick briefly talked about his book Roads to Richmond before reading an excerpt from one of the short stories comprising his collection titled Principals and Other Schoolyard Bullies.  Though most of the stories deal with heavy and morose concepts, this particular short story was given all the humour one could expect from a tale about ten-year-old a boy and his cousin who stumble across a bottle of whisky during a funeral.

Sylvain Hotte, whose newly-acquired paternal duties kept him away from the event, was represented by Philpot for a quick talk about the popular Breakaway series, which spans two books and treats the story of a young hockey star, pushed too hard by his parents until he abandons the sport.

Closing the evening in the same vein of hockey-related stories, Peter McCambridge spoke about his pride at having been the first to translate a François Barcelo novel.  Though Barcelo has published over 40 novels in French, I Hate Hockey is the first of his works to become accessible in English.  The noir-style whodunit follows a man McCambridge best described as “a loser” who replaces his son’s hockey coach while investigating the latter’s murder.  Of particular note is that McCambridge himself is a thick-accented Irishman, who translated the slang-heavy French novel into an English version tailored for North American Audiences.  When questioned about the task, his answer is a simple “I have Canadian friends,” which is certainly a good way to avoid dropping one’s trousers at the petrol station and other such rubbish.

Philpot closed the evening with his take on re-editing A People’s History of Québec into an English version.  The translation itself was not the challenge, he said, but it was rather the cultural baggage associated with it.  Few dyed-in-the-wool French Canadians may think Jos Montferrand needs an introduction, for instance, but without one most English Canadians might be left scratching their heads.

Whether you’re an avid reader or just can’t wait to find out what happens in the next season of Game of Thrones, be sure to drop by the AngloStore for their collection of books, and do drop by the next author event while you’re at it.

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About the author:


Born and raised in Québec City, Farnell Morisset attended English school throughout his primary, secondary, and CEGEP studies, before ultimately choosing to stay in Québec City and study civil engineering at Laval University.

While at Laval, he served as president of the civil engineering student association. It was there that he discovered his affinity for writing and commentary, preparing a weekly column in the student newspaper dealing with the issues he, as president of the association, felt were important and relevant.

Farnell is passionate about discussing (amongst other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québecois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québecois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image.

He is also alarmed by what seems to be an invasive and aggressive polarization of complex social issues for which there are no black-and-white answers. This eventual identity crisis, he feels, will only be solved through good faith in, and honest communication with, all sides pulling on our ever dwindling “pure laine” blanket.

It is with this in mind that he contributes to LifeinQuebec.com as a valued member of our, in-house, writing team.

Categories: News

About Author

Farnell Morisset

Farnell Morisset is passionate about discussing (among other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québécois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québécois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image. He has an engineering degree from Université Laval and is currently a law student at McGill University.