Translating Montreal: Episodes in the Life of a Divided City


280 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-3108-4
DDC 809'.8971428




Reviewed by Bruce Grainger

Bruce Grainger is head of the Public Services Department, Macdonald
Library, McGill University.


Sherry Simon is author/editor of several books and a professor at
Concordia University, where she occupies the Canada Research Chair in
Translation and Cultural History. In her preface, she describes how she
turned her back on the Montreal anglophone community and immersed
herself in French culture in Montreal and Paris, while adopting
“Marxist vocabulary.” As a result, her views are coloured by a
Quebec nationalist outlook.

Translating Montreal focuses on the period from the 1950s to the
present, highlighting the literary activities of such writers as F.R.
Scott, A.M. Klein, Malcolm Reid, Jacques Ferron, and Gabrielle Roy as
well as contemporary writers and translators, among them Pierre Anctil,
who is noted for his translations from Yiddish to French. The author’s
presentation and commentary on the views of the various writers provide
some interesting opinions on the challenges of translation in general
and of translating in Montreal in particular.

Simon chooses to define translation a “writing that is inspired by
the encounter with other tongues, including the efforts of creative
interference,” thereby giving herself great latitude in what she
chooses to discuss. By her own admission she has been highly selective
in her sources to the point that “this study cannot claim to be a
historical interview.”

Simon’s claim that Montreal is “no longer partitioned between two
strong identities, it is now a place of diversity where populations are
fully visible” is questionable. It would be more accurate to say that
there is much more communication between the English and French
communities in Montreal and that many more immigrants are now being
absorbed into the French community, since by law most of their children
are now required to attend the French school system. Had Simon chosen to
integrate historical and social science studies into Translating
Montreal, the result would have been a more valuable and informative


Simon, Sherry., “Translating Montreal: Episodes in the Life of a Divided City,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 25, 2024,