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Feb 2004
Who’s this guy
and what is he doing on Dan Simmons’s web site?

My name is Jean-Daniel Brèque, I’m a professional translator by trade, and I’ve translated into French several of Dan’s books (CARRION COMFORT, PHASES OF GRAVITY, THE CROOK FACTORY…). Since I check out his website every day – or nearly so –, sometimes answering queries on the forum, he’s asked me to write a column for the new, revamped version.

Our exchange took place on December, 11th, 2003, Saint Daniel’s day on the calendar over here, which I find fitting.

Some information about my humble self, for those of you who care: I’m pushing fifty, I’ve been a professional translator for seventeen years now, and I’ve also worked as a publisher’s reader for Editions Albin Michel, as assistant editor for the late Alain Dorémieux when he edited the Territoires de l’Inquiétude series of horror anthologies for Editions Denoël (he published two stories by Dan, “The River Styx Runs Upstream” and “Shave and a Haircut, Two Bites”), as an assistant editor to the French SF quarterly Galaxies (which published Dan’s “The Death of the Centaur” as well as his talk “Science Fiction: A Window on the Future”), and as a line editor for French SF publisher Imaginaires Sans Frontières. Since last year, I’ve cut on my workload in order to get a breather. A few years ago, I was a World Fantasy Award judge, and for the past three years I’ve been a judge for France’s Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire.

Yeah, but what are you doing here?
A lot of you are living in Europe, and Dan has asked me to give you Simmons-related news about publications, appearances, book tours, and so on. He gave me free rein to write what I want, and I can already tell you that, in the coming weeks, I’ll post here something in which a lot of you have expressed interest: the story notes he wrote especially for the collection LE STYX COULE À L’ENVERS, and which are only available in French. I’ve kept the English text of these notes and will post it here.
>read the introductions

Afterward, I think I’ll tell you about all my travails translating ILIUM. This wonderful novel taps into many veins, literary and otherwise, and I’ve had to master the data-gathering process like never before. Dan did his homework before he wrote it, and I’ve had to follow suit in order to produce a French text that was worthy of the original.

For instance…
I had to spend three or four hours googling in order to locate a website that would explain bronze-melding in French to translate one mere page of the novel.

When I realized the early passages about Ada and Daeman were a postmodern riff on Vladimir Nabokov’s ADA, I had to read the French translation of the book with pencil in hand, so as to give my translation a Nabokovian slant.

ILIUM, of course, alludes to Homer’s ILIAD; there are several translations of this work in French, and I had to get the most canonical as a reference. Plus, I had to consider the variant spellings of the heroes’ and gods’ names, and get a consistent “scorecard”.

So, the bulk of this column – at least in the foreseeable future – will be a behind-the-scenes look at the translator’s craft.

See you soon,

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