Pages I Have Trouble With 3: Grappa

By George Bowering | October 5, 2013


          After the airplane takes off, the first thing I do is to turn off the screen in front of me. Then I get out my book and join the minority. But if I am on Air Canada, and if it is my first flight of the month, I like to see whether there is anything to read in En Route magazine. It is a pretty classy mag as far as airline mags go, and sometimes there are even articles written by someone I know.

You can’t help noticing that there is a kind of contiguity going on in those pages. I mean that if there is an article about Beijing, for example, you will probably find some advertisements for hotels or stores in Beijing. It’s something you get used to.

On the way to Edmonton, for example, I had a look through the September 2013 issue. On pages 63 and 64 there was an article entitled “No Sour Grappa,” and a translation titled “Lâche pas la grappa.” Now, I like grappa. My friend Robert Kroetsch liked grappa. My wife likes grappa, especially in the early afternoon.

So I read the article. It was by someone with a well-known Canadian literary name. Even though the article was shorter than what I would have liked, I enjoyed it. So I tried reading the French translation as well. That’s where I ran into a glitch that might have been picked up in proofreading.

In the translation we are told by the author that one night in Venice a novelist friend appeared and invited “ma femme et moi” to his apartment to drink grappa. But in the original English it clearly says that the novelist “invited my wife and I to his apartment.”

Clearly, the translator, whose name is not indicated, should have been paying attention. His version should have said that the novelist invited “ma åfemme et je” to his place. The translator’s job is to pay close attention to the original author’s understanding of the workings of his native language.

Tut, tut, Air Canada.


350 words  October 4, 2013


  • George Bowering

    George Bowering lives in Vancouver, and dreams of Trieste. Poet laureate of Canada (emeritus), and twice winner of the Governor-General's Award for literature, he's the author of many books, including, recently, "Pinboy" (Cormorant, 2012).

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