Interview with Marcel Garro, 2022 Andreu Febrer Translation Prize Winner

Marcel Garro

We interviewed Marcel Garro Ricart, a student in our Master’s Degree in Specialised Translation programme at the University of Vic – Central University of Catalonia. Awarded this year’s Andreu Febrer Translation Prize in both categories (into Catalan and Spanish), he talks to us about the works he chose and the translations that he submitted for the competition.

Further details and complete texts:


How did you find these texts and why did you choose them? (“Little French Mary” by Sarah Orne Jewett; English-Spanish) (“L’oncle Sambuq” by Paul Arène; French-Catalan)

There is an added satisfaction in reading a story from beginning to end. So, I chose to look only for unabridged texts, although the guidelines of the prize stated that it was possible to submit a translation of an excerpt if the original work exceeded the 2,500-word limit. I drew up a short list of lesser-known authors that I liked or found interesting and systematically reviewed their work in search of short stories that would fit the required length. For this task, I used the digital archives of National or University-sponsored libraries and some public domain Internet collections, such as Project Gutenberg, Gallica, the Internet Archive, and the Online Books Page. Since I worked in digital format, making a preliminary selection of about twenty stories was easy. I read them and discarded those that were already translated or that I did not like.

My first choice was L’oncle Sambuq. It was funny, daring, and dealt with a subject that interests me: cultural prejudice and stereotypes. I liked the way Paul Arène satirized clichés about Provençal, French and American cultures. However, the only possible target language was Catalan, as I found out — from a secondary source — that the story had been translated into Spanish in 1896 — although with many omissions and an odd title, El tío Bernardo.

For the other language pair, I finally decided on Little French Mary. I was going to translate the two stories simultaneously, and Jewett’s seemed an excellent companion to L’oncle Sambuq. It was also published in 1895 and, in a much more subtle way, reflected the stereotypes in the opposite direction. In addition, Jewett’s style had the flavour of the 19th-century English classics.

What were the biggest challenges or difficulties that you had to overcome in rendering these texts into Spanish and Catalan?

I was concerned about how I should convey the satiric tone of L’oncle Sambuq while ensuring that the Catalan reader would be able to distinguish the culture-specific references of the different languages involved, despite the proximity between Provençal and the target culture. So, I decided to transfer the Provençal words as exoticisms, restoring their spelling since Arène had adapted them to French orthography. I used footnotes to locate the story in Marseilles and explain intertextual references, homonymic associations, and the meaning of Provençal words. Given that the narrator describes Patron Tréfume’s French as “bizarre,” I stressed the syntactic disorder of some of the protagonist’s sentences.

Sarah Orne Jewett sets her story in a small fictional town in southern Maine, and footnotes seem unnecessary. My main concern was to convey the warm and local colour of American literary regionalism into a Spanish text that evokes the style of the English classics but maintains restraint in archaizing vocabulary and syntactical structures. Even so, I used expressions such as “con prontitud,” “aspecto recio” or “asombrosa premura.” I checked Jewett’s latest translations by Raquel G. Rojas (La tierra de los árboles puntiagudos and Historias de Dunnet Landing), where I found some excellent suggestions (for example, “tupido jardincito”).

Jewett uses numerous aphaereses and apocopes to emphasize the differences between the formal register of the narrative passages and the colloquial register of the dialogues. I have employed only simple syntax and basic vocabulary to avoid parody in the translation.

Can you remark on a particular passage that you find interesting from the point of view of translation? (for example, culture-specific references or idiomatic expressions)

In Little French Mary a sentence I find interesting is the one Jewett puts in the girl’s mouth: “I go to Canada in ze cars!” I had to imagine what pronunciation errors a French-speaking little girl would make in a similar sentence in Spanish. The r sound seemed like an obvious one. And because of the similarities between French and Spanish, I understand that another common mistake would be to pronounce the end of “vagones” as if it were a French word: “—¡Yo irgr a Canadá en los vagons!”

In the first sentence of this story, which sets the tone and style, I chose to syntactically reorder the text to capture the reader’s attention from the very beginning (“No estaba acostumbrado el pueblo”). I also turned most of it into an anaphoric reference of a demonstrative pronoun (used as an anaphoric device) that would allow me to move the rheme to the end of the sequence (“aquello se convirtió de alguna manera en un asunto de interés público”).

In L’oncle Sambuq I find skilful Paul Arène’s use of the pronoun “ce” to express the protagonist’s disdain for American culture in the sentence “si je n’allais pas voir un peu de quoi il retourne à ce New-York !” At the end of the story, he uses a similar strategy with the personal pronoun “leur” (“il commençait à en avoir assez de leur New-York”). In both cases, I decided to emphasize the derisive use by employing colloquial collocations in Catalan.

However, my most challenging decision was an emotional one. I knew that “Patró Trefume” was a literal and appropriate choice for “Patron Tréfume,” but I translated it from the beginning as “Mestre Trefume.” I liked the sonority and associative meaning of “Mestre Trefume” in Catalan. I became so attached to that name that I did not change mestre to patró until the last moment. It’s funny, but when I think of Arène’s protagonist, even in French, I call him “Mestre Trefume” in my mind.

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