Translation into Fiction


71 pages
ISBN 0-86492-035-0




Reviewed by Nora Drutz

Nora Drutz was a Toronto-based freelance writer.


Claire Harris was born in Trinidad and attended universities in Ireland, Jamaica, and Nigeria. She moved to Calgary in 1966 where she now teaches in the separate school system. She began to write in Nigeria in 1975. Translation into Fiction is her first published book.

Consisting of poems and prose poems, this is a book that is strong, vibrant, concrete, and assured in tone. Claire Harris has an uncanny awareness of man’s psyche, his feelings and motives. She can take you into the mind of a native soldier, inexperienced and power hungry with his first gun; to her grandmother “in her bright cluttered room /while she cut our pale Sunday dresses /from ancient rustling skirts.” There is a vibrant lyricism to her work; whether in loving descriptions of her grandmother (“There was another /who went whirling through /the green streets of that town /in silk underthings...her hair a tangle /of hibiscus and ixora”; the beauties of the tropical or Canadian landscape; or even in a description of a man who died while trapped under the ice: “His face framed in the river’s /face his breath bated with the river’s breath his eye in the river’s eye /How had this come to pass could he perhaps one autumn /afternoon fishing from a bank of slippery chance have fallen /into the river’s green heart into the river’s secret heart /and shared the mystery of its murmuring.” Many of the poems reflect the horror of modern civilization — the bomb, poverty, the multiple deaths of young soldiers in Argentina. In spite of the overwhelming brutalities of life, Claire Harris refuses to remain passive. “In the end /this life is shared /with the lidless eyes /of dreams bones of fact /shells of words /...I insist on my small particular dance /dark /I move into the enormous dusk /my hands held out /to catch the actual names of things.”

This is a translation into fiction of all her experience and all human experience. It is a book that invites reading and re-reading.


Harris, Claire, “Translation into Fiction,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,