With “Plas-la”, Annie Ernaux becomes the first non-Caribbean writer translated into Creole during her lifetime

Another great first for Annie Ernaux. The French novelist, Nobel Prize for Literature 2022, finds herself a pioneer once again, being the first non-Caribbean writer published in her lifetime in Creole.

Plas it appears Wednesday at Caraïbéditions, translation of his book Renaudot prize 1984, The place. Thus the author describes her parents, owners of a café-grocery store: “She was a full-fledged boss, in a white coat. He kept his blue to serve. In Creole, this gives: “Manman, abiyé èvè blouz blan ay si-y, té toutafètman on patwòn. Papa, li té ka gadé wheat has worked ay asi-y pou sèvi moun”.

Creole is “an active language”

The translation is by Hector Poullet, a Guadeloupean writer who is celebrating his 85th birthday on the day of the book’s release. “A beautiful birthday present! “, he told AFP. “I have been moving from Creole to French for a long time and vice versa. Translating Annie Ernaux was stimulating but not easy. She has a very special style. When it is said that she simply writes, it is not true. It’s not flat,” he adds.

He wants proof of this, The place, the variety of sentence types, from the longest to the shortest, nominal… a puzzle. “A sentence without a verb in Creole, which is not at all a passive language but an active language, requires adding words! “, explains Hector Poullet.

One of the translator’s regrets is not having been able to keep these “he” and “she” which most often designate the parents, as if to put some distance between the narrator and them. Because Creole has the same personal pronoun for both genders. It was necessary to forge neologisms for French terms without equivalent. Example: “It was summer” has become “Sa té sézon-lété”.

Crucial choice of translator

The initiative for this translation came from Gallimard editions, which had already sold the rights to key writers in their catalog. After take it (The little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Moun-andewo (The Stranger) by Albert Camus, Caraïbéditions carried out in 2022 the first world translation, just before German, of War by Louis-Ferdinand Celine (Ladjè-a), translated by the Martinican Raphaël Confiant.

“It made me happy that Gallimard offered because, usually, it’s the opposite”, comments the general manager of Caraïbéditions, Florent Charbonnier. “And Annie Ernaux agreed, knowing that she has the right to look over everything”. “I said yes right away, without having the translator. But I knew I would find it,” he continues.

The choice is crucial. This publisher had learned from that of Asterix, at a time when he had had an adventure of the Gaul translated into Creole, that readers of regional languages ​​were first of all attentive to the name of the translator. He must be unanimous, and in this case master both Guadeloupe and Martinique Creole, the hybrid chosen by Caraïbéditions.

More than 10 million people speaking Creole

Hector Poullet had another advantage: he grew up in metropolitan France at the same time as Annie Ernaux, who is two years younger than him. The buyers of these translations of the classics of French literature are traditionally students and teachers in Creole, curious Creole speakers, and West Indians who, if they do not usually read in this language, like to have this type of work in their library.

Official statistics estimated in 1999 that French-based creoles had more than 10 million native speakers, including 1.6 million in French overseas territories.

Annie Ernaux was already published in 42 languages ​​at the time of her Nobel Prize six months ago. The total should rise to around fifty once all the translation projects in progress have been completed.

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