A French Librarian in Wales…

This is the last guest blog post from Brigitte, our visiting French librarian, as she is returning to France shortly. Hope you like it!

“Lost in translation….Oh yeah, I’ve been lost in it for two and a half months now, being a French librarian in a Welsh library.

In fact, I’ve been lost in translation for a long time – since my childhood. The reason being that French is spoken in France, some parts of Africa, one part of Canada and that is it. Even if we’ve got great writers and artists, it is a tiny part in the world production of literature.

Perhaps it is the reason why we are so keen on discovering new voices. When you want a book and go into one of the very nice bookshops we have in France, you can choose between novels in French or pick from a variety of other languages available from other countries. My bookshop in Brest made a book list for travelers  helping them find a novel about a country they may be visiting or written in that country’s language you can.

In our libraries, we are not so well organised. One library in Lyon, one of our biggest towns after Paris and Marseille, does shelve the novels by country, but instead of the nice display in bookshop, you’ve got shelves and shelves of different countries, and sometimes it is hard to tell if you want a specific novel from Chile, or just a novel whose subject is South-America. I felt that it was organised like an academic library and not for members of the public.

The reason I became a public librarian was the fault of a great publisher of children’s literature, Pierre Marchand, who created the children’s department in Gallimard Publishing, the year of my birth, in 1972. I don’t know why we are so curious (well, maybe a bit nosy) about others’ culture, but I remember so well “Mille Soleils”, and later Folio Jeunesse. The idea was to offer to children the greatest books in the world, beautifully illustrated by artists of the time. As a result, I read Roald Dahl (what a shock!), Anne Frank, Frances Hodgson Burnett (how many times did I read The Secret Garden?). But I was helped in my reading experience by other publishers, for example, Hachette, with whom I discovered Daddy Long Legs, Flammarion and Little Women. I, then became addicted to reading, especially translations.

How could books, written in another language and culture, speak so much to me in my own language? It was so brilliant and so weird at the same time. Books really were magic! I have to say that the best translated children’s collection is “Bibliotheque internationale” (international library!), which was created a few years before my birth by Isabelle Jan. A genius indeed to have created one collection in Nathan Publishing dedicated to translated works. My greatest discovery was “le secret du verre bleu” written by Tomiko Inui, a Japanese novel. Japan seemed to me as far as the moon and as exotic as the Moonlander at that time. And yet, I had the book in my library. Magic indeed!

Nowadays, I don’t know if the young readers are so aware of the translation skill, but I’m sure it is due to these great publishers I am so keen on reading.

Please give me something which wasn’t written originally in French – I need something more exotic!”

Brigitte

If you want to join in our Twitter reading group, we will be chatting on Tuesday 30th April at 8 p.m. Use #NPTLost and join in!

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