Brian Stableford on Translating French SF
Author and translator Brian Stableford is interviewed in Locus Online:
You’ve been tirelessly promoting works of French proto-SF. What’s your fascination with that subject?
I’ve been translating them in profusion; there’s not much I can do to promote them. The fascination stems, originally, from the days when I produced a history of Scientific Romance in Britain 1890-1950, when I became very interested in comparisons and contrasts between the early development of the British and American traditions of speculative fiction – and, as a corollary, further comparisons and contrasts between those and the early evolution of Europeans traditions. The latter interest was hampered by the lack of available translations, until I had learned to translate French myself, and Jean-Marc Lofficier generously offered to publish my translations through Black Coat Press. Since then I’ve been trying to translate as much as I can, as fast as I can (racing against the gradual deterioration of my eyesight), in the hope of getting the bulk of the job done in time to cultivate a general appreciation of the pattern.
Which particular works stand out for you?
When I began the project, the authors whose work I most wanted to investigate and make available were J.H. Rosny, Maurice Renard, Albert Robida, and André Couvreur – although Couvreur’s work won’t fall into the public domain until 2014. Judging by second-hand sources, they looked to be the most enterprising pioneers of the post-Vernian era. I’ve picked out other individual target works with the aid of the Versins Encyclopédie and the excellent exploratory work being done by a number of French collectors and researchers – Marc Madouraud, Guy Costes, Joseph Altairac, Jean-Pierre Moumon, Francis Valery and others – which is gradually making its way on to the web through such sites as Sur l’Autre Face de le Monde. Periodicals likeRocambole and Philippe Gontier’s Le Boudoir des Gorgones have also been very useful in helping me to map the field and directing me to promising materials. The Bibliothéque Nationale’s website gallica has been enormously useful as a source of downloadable texts that are otherwise unavailable. Some things I’ve found just by random browsing, like Marcel Rouff’s Journey to the Inverted World – a wonderful item of anarchist sf. There are several other authors whose speculative fiction I’ve been highly delighted to discover, including Henri Falk, Jules Lermina and Han Ryner. – continue reading.
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