The Trope of the Translator: (Re)Writing History in Heather O’Neill’s The Girl Who Was Saturday Night and Claire Holden Rothman’s My October

Abstract:

Over the past several decades, the relationship between anglophones and francophones in Québec has become increasingly depolarized. The waning tension can be correlated to the rise of multiculturalism and globalization: immigration, particularly in Montreal, has created a “polyglot and hybrid culture” in which “the old epics of identity” are no longer viable (Simon 8). The effects of globalization have moreover made nationalist discourse “more difficult to maintain” (Di Sciullo). Given this context, it is surprising to note the sudden proliferation of novels and films dealing with two of the most volatile moments in Québec’s history, namely the October Crisis of 1970 and the 1995 sovereignty referendum. This paper focuses on one such novel, Claire Holden Rothman's My October (2014). I argue that, like several other contemporary Anglo-Montreal writers including Zoe Whittall and Heather O'Neill, Holden Rothman uses the trope of translation to revisit, and rewrite, the dichotomous cultural narrative of this conflict. Analyzing the role of the translator in My October provides insight into the zeitgeist of contemporary Anglo-Québecers, pointing to both the opportunities and challenges of Québec’s evolving sociopolitical landscape.


This article “The Trope of the Translator: (Re)Writing History in Heather O’Neill’s The Girl Who Was Saturday Night and Claire Holden Rothman’s My October” originally appeared in Literary History. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 233 (Summer 2017): 51-68.

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