French Translation with Dr Jenny Higgins

On the evening of Wednesday 4 October, the French Department was delighted to welcome Dr Jenny Higgins to School to hold a translation workshop for French pupils. Dr Higgins has published many translations of literary fiction and non-fiction work, and her co-translation of Emmanuelle Pagano’s book The Faces on the Tip of my Tongue was longlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2020.

Pupils and Dr Higgins explored the differences between literal and dynamic translations, the freedom to be creative whilst retaining tone and style, and the various possibilities available to translators. Starting with the challenges of bandes dessinées such as Astérix and Les Sisters, Sixth Form pupils compared different approaches and discussed the choices they made in their own translations. They then moved onto the famous opening passage of Camus’ L’Etranger, and after drafting their own translations, compared these to the very different versions published in 1946 and 1989.

It was a fascinating workshop, which highlighted how complex the intriguing process of literary translation is, bringing into play as it does the influence of social and historical context, cultural differences, and personal preference. We are very grateful to Dr Higgins for this creative and instructive workshop, and with translation competitions such as the Anthea Bell Translation Prize and the Stephen Spender Poetry Translation competition open to pupils of all ages, there is plenty of scope for creativity and originality across a whole range of languages.

Mrs Lucy Nott
Head of Modern Languages

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