Vol.16 No. 1-2, 1995, Spring and Fall/ Printemps et Automne



This paper explores some of the political effects of intercultural exchange through drama translation by examining the Scots translations, in text and production, of Michel Tremblay's plays. It is centrally concerned with national identity and with mapping the potential effects of translation and transculturation on the political efficacy of drama concerned precisely with language, place, and culture. Choosing as its sites of investigation Quebec and Scotland, it departs from more common intercultural analysis of imperial relations to consider some of the effects of intercultural exchange in relationships which are not strictly those of imperial power to colony. It concludes that despite these two nations' cultural similarities and sympathies, and despite the many values of intercultural exchange, the Scots Tremblay translations reconstitute the plays in ways which potentially compromise their political efficacy.

Cet article explore certains des effets politiques des échanges interculturels à partir des traductions écossaises des pièces de Michel Tremblay, dans leur texte et dans leur production. Il y sera d'abord question d'identité nationale et des effets possibles de la traduction et du transculturalisme sur l'efficacité politique d'un théâtre centré surtout sur la langue, le lieu et la culture. Ayant choisi le Québec et l'Écosse comme lieux d'investigation, l'article délaisse les analyses interculturelles habituelles des relations impériales pour s'intéresser à certains des effets des échanges interculturels dans ces rapports qui ne sont pas à strictement parler ceux des puissances impériales avec leurs colonies. Il conclut que malgré les similarités culturelles et les sympathies qui existent entre ces deux nations, et malgré les multiples valeurs de l'échange interculturel, les traductions écossaises de Tremblay reconstituent les pièces de façon à éventuellement en compromettre l'efficacité politique.

Since the first Scots language production of The Guid Sisters (Les Belles-soeurs) at Glasgow' s Tron Theatre in 1989, the eminent and prolific québécois playwright Michel Tremblay has enjoyed ever-increasing success in Scotland and in Scots translation. The Tron has twice re-mounted The Guid Sisters, and has toured the show to both the 1990 World Stage Festival in Toronto and the Centaur Theatre in 1992, as part of Britain's contribution to Montreal's 350th anniversary celebrations. For Glasgow's 1991 Mayfest, the Tron produced Scots translations of Hosanna and The Real Wurld? (Le Vrai Monde?), touring the latter to the Stony Brook International Theatre Festival on Long Island, New York. Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre premièred the Scots translation of The House Among the Stars (La Maison suspendue) in 1992, and the Perth Theatre joined the Tremblay fray with a production of The House Among the Stars in the autumn of 1993. Most recently, LadderMan Productions staged the Scots translation of Tremblay's Forever Yours, Marie-Lou (A toi, pour toujours, ta Marie-Lou) at Glasgow's Tron Theatre and London's Old Red Lion in the spring of 1994. 2

With this flurry of Scots language productions to his credit, Tremblay has become, according to one of his translators Bill Findlay, "the most popular contemporary playwright in Scotland." And with editions published in Toronto, Glasgow, and London, The Guid Sisters is "the most published 'Scottish' play text" of the 90s ("Translating Tremblay" 138). For Mark Fisher, reviewing the Traverse's House Among the Stars for the Guardian, Tremblay is "the best playwright Scotland never had."3 Fisher-managing editor of the journal Theatre Scotland and theatre critic for the Glasgow and Edinburgh listings magazine, The List-perhaps wistfully invokes various ambivalences: first, a seemingly prevalent ambivalence about Scottish cultural superiority/inferiority familiar from the (often ironic) toast, "Here's tae us. Wha's like us? Damn few and a' deid," but an ambivalence perhaps loaded towards self-deprecation and, here, despondency over Scottish theatre's, underdevelopment; and second, an ambivalence about Scotland's claim to Tremblay. Despite the differences and ambivalences of their claims, however, both Fisher and Findlay lay Scottish claim to Tremblay, unfixing the national identity represented by Tremblay's work and rendering it as international public property, available, up for grabs.

I quote Findlay and Fisher not simply to indicate the popularity in Scotland of Tremblay's plays, but more importantly to show that through their success in Scotland, the plays have come to signify in a centrally important way what they did not prior to their translation: they have come to signify Scottish national identity. This article asks what happens to the québécois national identity of Tremblay's plays when they are translated and transculturated to fill Fisher's implied Scottish cultural and theatrical vacuum. Questions concerning cultural migration, identity, and power are, of course, pertinent to all instances of intercultural translation and exchange. In Tremblay's case, and for Québec, they are perhaps particularly urgent given the significance of his plays in québécois cultural expression and, even, emancipation. Les Belles-soeurs, for example, was first produced in Montreal in 1968 and quickly became canonized in Québec theatre history as the play with which joual, a form of québécois French, gained ascendancy over standard French in Québec's cultural, and particularly theatrical, expression. Renate Usmiani notes that "radical critics (eg. Michel Bélair) acclaimed" the première production of Les Belles-soeurs as "the first manifestation of a genuine québécois theatre" (569). And Le Devoir theatre critic Robert Lévesque has described the play as "cette tragédie bouffe qui est à la source du théâtre québécois moderne."4 My analysis is not intended to privilege Tremblay's original texts-which I consider original in a temporal and not necessarily originative sense, and which I identify as "source" texts through the technical vocabulary of translation, and not (through transliteration) through Lévesque's metaphoric vocabulary, above. But my analysis is intended to investigate how the source texts- precisely because I acknowledge they are not stable, let alone sacred-are affected by what Tejaswini Niranjana has called translation's "intertextual web" (60).Much contemporary translation theory claims exact translation is impossible. It argues not simply that all translation generates new meanings, but that all translation is manipulation.5 It emphasizes that all translation is inevitably inflected and formed not only by the linguistic characteristics of different languages, but also by cultural, literary, historical, geographical, and political contexts and, importantly, ideological biases. Simply, as André Lefevere writes, "the translation [of a play] projects a certain image of the play in the service of a certain ideology" (42).6 The purpose of this article, therefore, is to examine what and how the Scots Tremblay translations and their productions have been constructed to mean, and to what ideological effects. My central concern is how Scottish and québécois cultural identities interact on translation's "intertextual web." Do the Scots translations enhance, preserve, assimilate, appropriate, or misappropriate Québec's cultural otherness? How do these translations differ from English Canadian Tremblay translations, which risk cultural imperialism by enacting a linguistic relationship where power distribution is more clearly asymmetrical? Do the Scots translations commit or avoid what Kathy Mezei identifies in many English Canadian translations of québécois texts: diglossia, which she defines as the "hazardous linguistic (and cultural) situation, in which one language and linguistic group dominates and attempts to assimilate the other language and group" (12)? And what can these translations tell us about Scots/Québec intercultural exchange in general, especially when that exchange seems to be increasing with the Canada/Canadien season at the 1993 Glasgow Mayfest, and the recent establishment of the Government of Québec's "Network Fund" intended to facilitate Scots/Québec artistic exchange and co-production (Brogan)?

Importantly, this investigation diverges from more common practices of studying cultural exchange between two "partners" which are obviously economically and culturally disparate, operating on obviously uneven cultural, political, and economic playing fields; that is, where the direction of exchange (appropriation) is more obviously from underprivileged to privileged communities, often from colonized to colonizing communities, often from "third world" to "first world" communities.7 I don't mean to abandon the study of those kinds of imperial relations but perhaps to suggest some of imperialism's nuances by shifting my investigation to look at two nations (or three, or four, depending where and how we draw our borders) where the cultural, economic, and political dynamics are perhaps less polarized. This investigation asks, thus, what can be learned about cultural imperialism through examining intercultural exchange between nations whose relationship is not strictly that of imperial power to colony-indeed, where imperial relations are considerably complicated, given Britain's (and thus Scotland's) imperial relation to both Canada and Québec, England's historical and ongoing cultural subordination of Scotland (however effective or ineffective), and Canada's imperial relation to Québec. And it asks what can be learned about imperial and other forms of cultural power through examining intercultural relations between nations which can be seen-through size of population, and geographical and geopolitical situation-as marginal, but also-through their location in "first world" historical, cultural, and economic contexts-as privileged.


All five Scots Tremblay translations are by Montrealer, Martin Bowman (the son of Scottish emigrants), and Scot, Bill Findlay. Both men intend their translations to promote and empower Scottish national identity and culture by liberating Scots voices and reinvesting the Scots language with national authority. Findlay has written that he and Bowman aim to "test and 'stretch' the language through translation work," to show Scots's "retention of qualities distinct from English," and to broaden the Scottish literary canon-the "limited national canon of dramatic Scots in particular"-to "help assuage [Scots's] 'if only' conjecture about the drama tradition we might have had" if historical circumstances had been different.8 Findlay particularly is interested in developing a "national theatre culture," which he suggests might partly be achieved by encouraging Scots writers by example: demonstrating the feasibility of using contemporary Scots for translation and for drama not ghettoized in kitchen-sink realism, and showcasing a successful playwright who works in another "minority" language ("Talking" 20). For Findlay, Tremblay sets the eminent example of being "a dramatist of international stature, with a growing body of critics regarding him as the leading playwright anywhere in the 'French' language today and yet he has achieved this whilst writing in a déclassé and in French language terms, 'minority' tongue." Findlay concludes, "If The Guid Sisters can show that Scots has the capacity adequately to convey Tremblay's genius with joual, the question we hope will therefore be asked is: What can a dramatist using contemporary Scots not achieve?" ("The Scots Language" 39). For his part, Bowman emphasizes that the Scottish national and local identification he and Findlay hope to promote through their translations is ultimately a means of achieving universal identification:

The parallel between Germaine Lauzon's situation in Montreal and her counterpart in a Scottish city is so exact that, by leaving [The Guid Sisters] unadapted we hope to enhance the universal significance which Tremblay and others have claimed for it. The more one is local, the more one can be universal. (52-53)

Bowman's vertical move from the local to the universal raises the much debated problematic of universalism. On one hand, universalism's critics- including feminists, black critics, and so on- suggest it masquerades as representing the values of everyone while representing chiefly the values of the dominant. On the other hand, some critics-also including feminists, black critics, and so on-ask why it is that concepts such as universality, and indeed nationality, should become untenable just when they are beginning to be claimed by the non-dominant.9 Along with making this vertical move to universalism, however, Bowman makes a horizontal move I'd like to explore further: by posing one culture as translatable into, and recognizable by, another the Scots Tremblay translations draw-and potentially enforce parallels between Québec and Scots cultures. Both cultures, the translations suggest, speak vernacular and culturally denigrated languages, are situated as marginal in a relationship with one or more dominant metropole(s), and express national identity but lack national status. Both are economically deprived, working-class identified, and dominated by a Church which fosters self-denial and guilt. Both demonstrate a nostalgia for a rural and linguistic past but are now predominantly urban. Both are matriarchal, at least domestically, but are also oppressive to women and gay men.10

We might ask a number of questions about what these parallels emphasize and obscure about both cultures, and thus what are the effects of creating cultural juxtapositions which engender the perception of such parallels. By delineating both cultures as I and others have done, do we empower these cultures by fostering their understanding of self and of others who share their conditions, or do we enervate these cultures by identifying, freezing, and thereby reinforcing assumptions about their oppression? What, for instance, are the possible effects of-not to mention motivations for-both the plays' and the translations' notable focus on working-class culture: romantic appropriation, even fetishization, of the "poetry of the inarticulate"? And by recognizing correspondences between Scottish and québécois theatre history and culture-correspondences such as a predilection for populist and burlesque elements, sentimentalism, and musicality11- do we appreciate the strengths of these theatre cultures or, again in delineating them, do we limit them? Is delineation restrictive or transformative? Further, as Kathy Mezei has suggested, by implying cultural translatability through linguistic translation, are the cultural differences between Québec and Scotland potentially diminished or even erased (12)? None of the answers to these questions is likely as blunt as my phrasing implies, but I pose these questions as dialectical hoping to suggest a range of meanings between their poles.

More specific textual analysis facilitates examination of how and with what effects the translations "site" their source texts (to borrow Niranjana's useful pun); that is, how the translations handle the material conditions of the texts' source culture by figuring, among other things, time and place. Maintaining Québec locations, original temporal settings, and character names, the translations construct historic Québec contexts for their Scots language texts. Where and when, precisely, does this place the characters in the translations? Susanne Hagemann, in an article on translating works from the twentieth-century Scottish literary Renaissance, suggests that "Dialects are inevitably associated with the regions in which they are spoken ... combining a target language dialect with a source culture context would therefore make the translations intratextually incoherent" (159-160). For Hagemann, dialect used to signify class may be translatable, but the translation of dialect used to signify place results in a significant displacement. While one very significant feature of the national identities of both Québec and Scotland-class-may thus be translated effectively, Hagemann's analysis suggests that other features may fare less well, and thus that the translation of national identity may be, as she says, incoherent.

Simultaneously inhabiting two cultures by virtue of their Québec frame and Scots dialects, do the Tremblay translations inhabit with stability no site and represent with accuracy no culture? Are they "intratextually incoherent"? Alternatively, might they suggest to a Scots audience that they are about a physically and temporally removed culture, a foreign-and potentially orientalized-culture? De-regionalizing, distancing, or orientalizing the culture they represent, do the translations dehistoricize, depoliticize, and sanitize the politically turbulent Québec contexts in which and for which Tremblay's plays were originally created?12 Or if, as the translators argue, the translations represent not a foreign culture but a universal culture, does this too neutralize the significance of, first, the source material conditions which were the context in which Tremblay's plays were created-from Québec's so-called Quiet Revolution to the Canadian constitutional debates (still unresolved) of the early 1990s-and second, the target culture material conditions which are the context for the translations' reception, contexts characterized by consistent Scottish alienation within a British government which has been Conservative since 1979? On the other hand, and with risks of depoliticization noted, might the translations' ambiguous figurings of place-their instability, their displacements, their incoherence-foster a productive tension between source and target locations, a tension which acts as what Homi Bhabha has called "jagged testimony of colonial dislocation," 13 provoking audiences to problematize their assumptions about how place determines identity? Might the translations be seen as, in Bhabha's sense, textually hybrid, producing a dramatic and geopolitical Scots/Québec middle terrain useful as a space of negotiation for the politics of both cultures? 14

If using the québécois dialect of joual on stage for an entire play in Montreal in 1968 was an indisputably political act, can the same be said of using Scots on stage in Glasgow in 1990? Not exactly. As there is a strong movement in Scotland towards acquiring national status within the United Kingdom and within the European Community, and as 1980s Scotland set a precedent of asserting national identity through cultural production, performing a play entirely in Scots in 1990 in Scotland-on a stage formerly effectively colonized by English-language and English-produced drama would have had some powerful political resonance. In other words, for Scottish nationalists in Glasgow's year as European City of Culture, 1990, there was some benefit in selling Scotland-as unique, as a nation-on and to the European market.

However, there was also danger of appropriation by that market. Scots poet and playwright Liz Lochhead, in her provocatively titled poem "Bagpipe Muzak, Glasgow 1990," questions why and for whom Glasgow "patter" suddenly became "street-smart, strictly state-of-the-art ... user-friendly," again raising the issue of the fetishization of working-class culture in particular ("Bagpipe Muzak" 24). A lurking question in 1990 was what version of Scotland was being sold. In a 1991 collection of Scottish women's writing, Lochhead suggests the "current major export" was "ersatz Glaswegian media-machismo" ("Women's Writing" 74). 15 To pursue what Lochhead implies, the use of Scots by Scots in movements for self-determination in the early 1990s was potentially undermined by British and European metropolitan media's coincidental appropriation and trivialization as fashionable of both Glasgow speech and, most insidiously, a macho/misogynist image of the city and people of Glasgow. In 1990, the use of Scots, especially Glaswegian, was indeed media-sexy--"authentic," attractive, marketable-as well as political. This is to say there may indeed be value in figuring a national language as sexy, but also to suggest that doing so runs the risk of falsely homogenizing the nation (with Glasgow standing metonymically for Scotland), naturalizing certain meanings of that national identity-meanings which may be racist and, as Lochhead suggests, sexist-and making that identity available for appropriation to counter-productive purposes.

The Scots Tremblay translations may usefully figure and advocate an autonomous and articulate Scottishness. But they may also reinforce a sexist Scottishness, a Glasgow-centred Scottishness, and a Scottishness which works less to advocate Scottish independence than to enhance a notion of Britain as colourful, variegated, but nonetheless integrated. The use of Scots in 1990 may have been emancipatory for Scotland in some respects, but it also functioned, contradictorily, to bolster the United Kingdom by producing for and selling to a market hungry for what Scots novelist Lewis Grassic Gibbon has called the "interesting English county of Scotshire." 16

Turning to the specifics of translating language, one of the most complex sites of translation or, importantly, non-translation is names. 17 What of Duplessis in The House Among the Stars? Untranslated and unglossed, the link to Maurice Duplessis, Québec's nationalist prime minister from 1936-39 and 1944-59, "almost universally known as 'le Chef' in recognition of his strong, though controversial leadership of Québec" (Black 637), and hence the ironies of this name's use for an imaginary pet feline, are potentially lost on the target language audience.18 This provokes the question: is this meaning, and others (including Duplessis' paternalism, his "disdain" for "most contemporary concepts of civil liberties" [Black 637]), recoupable for a nonQuébec audience? And if not, should another name be substituted? Should a translator's note in the programme define "Duplessis"? This individual meaning may seem expendable, but what is the cumulative effect of losing many names' multiple meanings through non-translation? And does the non-translation of names in an otherwise translated text contribute to "intratextual incoherence"?

Reading the plays' names, The House Among the Stars differs significantly from La Maison suspendue. Since being "among the stars" traditionally signifies in Western culture a dreamy removal, and arguably in Scottish culture, an idealized Highland past, 19 the "stars" of the Scots version's title potentially remove the house and the play to a romanticized, halcyon rural past. While Tremblay's original title is not without its own romantic connotations, disappointingly palliated in translation are its specific invocation of flux and transition, and its suggestion of political dislocation.

In the body of the texts, it is instructive to interrogate the translations' handling of words which appear in English in the original texts. Mezei points out that the word "cheap" acts as both signified and signifier of québécois cultural oppression in Les Belles-soeurs in Lisette de Courval's line, "Léopold avait raison, c'monde-la, c'est du monde cheap" (Mezei 16, Tremblay 59). Translating this line as "Léopold was right about these people. These people are cheap," the English Canadian translators John Van Burek and Bill Glassco efface the political significance of the encroachment-or imperialist "contamination"-of English in Lisette's French speech (54). Findlay and Bowman render the line, "Léopold was right. These people are inferior. They're nothing but keelies," using the English "inferior" and the Scots "keelies" to signify "cheap" (31). The original's English embedded in French is again lost, but is replaced interestingly by Scots embedded in English. The original suggests that while Lisette may have pretensions, she, like the other women, is oppressed: she speaks a colonized, hijacked language. The joual original thus problematizes a cultural present by parading some of the ironies of that present: its naïveté, its vulnerability to English language and culture. Scots language's inextricable bind with English means Scots people's linguistic colonization may be that much more comprehensive than québécois' but, paradoxically, that much more difficult to represent or emphasize precisely because it is so complete and potentially naturalized. That problematic acknowledged, the suggestion here that Lisette uses not a "new" word, imported to her language, but, in frustration, an "old" word, "authentic" to her language, may potentially naturalize Scots language itself. The translation may thus be seen less to problematize a cultural present than, nostalgically, to legitimize and naturalize a linguistic and cultural past.

Finally and briefly, it is germane to consider how translation affects characterization. Bowman acknowledges that in his and Findlay's The Guid Sisters, "Rose has in fact become coarser. Her sexual references are stronger; in fact, they are built in some times even when they don't appear in the original" (Salter "Who's Speaking" 44). Making Rose more extreme, does the translation make her more con-tic, her complaints about conjugal life-and her complaints in general-easier to dismiss? Does it, in other words, neutralize the original's explicit depiction, and implicit denunciation, of misogynist marital abuse? Further, does the translation exploit the working class and exaggerate its representation for reasons only too familiar in cultural production: to produce "coarse" "sexual" humour?

Textually, 20 both Tremblay's original plays and their Scots translations can be seen to act as tools of cultural legitimation. But while the originals locate themselves as products of a specific and politically volatile Québec culture in which language and identity are in jeopardy, and national and gender politics are unstable, the translations' political engagement and articulation is arguably less urgent. Perhaps as a result of their simultaneous (and possibly contradictory) vertical and horizontal drives towards broad universality and local specificity respectively, the translations bear features of "a-contextualization" and self-romanticization, again respectively. The translations, thus, do not precisely evacuate questions of cultural imperialism, identity, and hybridity, but they do potentially suppress such questions. And the translations' essentialized, sanitized representations of Scottishness-couthy, quaint, and ultimately contained-risk commodifying the Scottish self in a form vulnerable to assimilation-as an "interesting English county of Scotshire"-by and to a dominant British discourse. The translations' emancipatory value for Scotland is obviously questionable, if not spurious. What is less clear-and what is critically obscured through these translations-is their value for Québec, a nation for whom Britain is a former imperial conqueror and colonizer.


To explore whether the meanings I have identified through textual analysis are reinforced in production, I shall examine here three aspects of production, with particular emphasis on The Guid Sisters: speech, performance style, and use of space. Findlay has commented that regardless of the Scots dialect into which he translates Tremblay's texts-that of his native West Fife, for instance, which he originally used for The Guid Sisters-the dominance of a working-class Glasgow dialect in contemporary Scots literature, theatre, and actor training often results in the translations' actors adopting Glaswegian accents in performance.

There is a deficiency in the training of our actors in that the present generation, generally speaking, lack a command of the varieties of Scottish accents and dialects. When they come to do a part written in Scots, they almost automatically deliver the lines in a Glaswegian accent, even though they might not come from Glasgow themselves! This is partly because the strength in contemporary Scots writing-both in the theatre and in fiction in the past twenty years-has come out of Glasgow. (Salter, "Ancestral Voices" 56)

Thus a linguistic homogeneity, unintended by the translators, is nevertheless asserted through Glasgow's metropolitan dominance in Scottish literary and dramatic institutions. Not only is Scottish linguistic and cultural diversity suppressed, Scotland is again represented as urban and working class, and this representation is again routed through the currently media-fetishized Glasgow.

Institutional forces in the theatre may likewise homogenize performance style, certainly in The Guid Sisters if not the other plays. Two of the actors who have played the lead role of Germaine in the Tron's productions of The Guid Sisters, Una McLean and Dorothy Paul, are stars of Scots pantomime and cabaret. Productions of The Guid Sisters have been dominated by farcical, exaggerated pantomime performances, as exemplified by the broad comic postures of the Guid Sisters actors in plate one, Bowman's description of one Scots actor's performance as Rose-"an extraordinary coup de théâtre which really dominated the play in some ways" (Salter, "Who's Speaking" 44)-and the manic stare of Dorothy Paul's 1992 Germaine (see plate two). Scotland on Sunday's Julie Morrice admired the 1992 production's "splendid tragicomic performances" but warned, "some are in danger of tipping over into caricature." Although pantomime, farce, tragi-comedy, and caricature cannot be seen as precisely synonymous, institutional forces do seem to dictate a certain homogeneity of performance style here. What is less clear, perhaps, are the effects of this style's dominance. On one hand, this performance style-"tipping over into caricature"-might be seen to stereotype and trivialize its subjects, truncating their cultural complexity and dissipating their material specificity. On another, however, pantomimic performance might be seen to allow Bakhtinian carnivalesque cultural subversion, not so much reinforcing the translations' a-contextualizations and self-romanticizations as, potentially, lampooning, problematizing, and even re-politicizing them.

In terms of space, Tremblay's plays are distinctive for their use of physically and psychologically confined spaces, a visual trope for the insularity of the communities, families, and other intimate relationships Tremblay examines over and over again in his writing. The Tron Theatre ends The Guid Sisters by opening up the closed space of Germaine's kitchen to bring all the women parading through the rear wall-now a paper mural of a crucified Christ-and back on stage, each triumphantly clutching an item from Germaine's cherished catalogue (see plate three). Robert Lévesque lauds this staging:

[Michael] Boyd a eu cette idée de génie de faire disparaître les murs de la cuisine alors que, à travers une grande image du Sacré-coeur qu'elles déchirent en la traversant, entrent les belles-soeurs avec les appareils (tondeuse, télévision, lampe sur pied, etc.) que Germaine Lauzon croyait avoir obtenus pour elle seule!21

My concern with this staging is that it significantly alters Tremblay's original emphasis on a community's culpability for its own malaise. While the spatial and iconic dynamics of the Tron's ending usefully focus this malaise as rooted in materialism and institutional religion, they also allow these forces to be seen as external, potentially diffusing community responsibility. Admittedly and constructively, however, my concern can be countered with an alternative reading wherein "responsibility becomes--or could be read as becoming both individual and institutional in this (literal) move." 22 In this reading of the scene, responsibility is not diffused and diminished; it is, rather, extended and emphasized.

Thus, the translations' productions-or more specifically those of The Guid Sisters--can be seen institutionally, interpretively, and especially through the use of dialect, at least partly to perpetuate the production of meanings which homogenize Scottish culture and dilute the plays' political potential. However, they can also be seen, through performance style and staging, both to provide opportunities, and to exploit those opportunities, to complicate and extend the texts' meanings to produce dialogic performance. A political volatility restrained if not contained in literary translation is, here, potentially reanimated in performance.


This article set out to examine how the Scots Tremblay translations and their productions may differ from English Canadian translations of Québec writing and from other situations where the economy of exchange may be seen more clearly as one of appropriation. What these translations potentially offer is: the worthy example of attempting to share strategies of resistance against imperial domination; 23 cultural celebration through recognition that Québec texts are worthy of "being well betrayed"24 and Scots is capable of "betraying well"; cultural reassurance and empowerment through identification; the potential destabilization of national identity as a defining, and potentially isolating, cultural institution; and the migration and complex interdependence of cultural artefacts, institutions, and identifications. 25 However, what translating Tremblay's texts into Scots risks, at this time and in these instances, is: reinforcement of assumptions about both québécois's and Scots's cultural oppression; depoliticization of Québec culture; homogenization, idealization, and commodification of Scots culture for British readers' and audiences' pleasurable consumption; and thus, ironically, the consumption of Québec culture not by English Canadian culture but by British culture. 26 The context of exchange is not, perhaps, as simply bilateral as at first it might appear. And the translations' appropriation by greater British culture-historical imperial conqueror of Québec and still, in many cultural and political respects, an insidious imperial presence relative to Scotland-has potentially serious ideological implications for Tremblay's originals as well as the Scots translations. Again, this is not a question of value, nor of defending Tremblay's original texts because they are primary. But it is a question of power: a question of translations of Tremblay's texts having the power to neutralize the originals' political specificity and efficacy, not to mention their own; and, as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has phrased it, a question of practising, through "sanctioned ignorance," "translation-as-violation" (235). The benefits of cultural exchange are clear; but equally clear are the attendant risks of squandering cultural specificity and political potency. In the case of this investigation, it is perhaps performance which provides a multivalent site and a dialogic means for practising cultural exchange while maintaining cultural critique.


1 A version of this article was first presented to the Association for Canadian Theatre Research/Association de la recherche théâtrale au Canada in Ottawa in May 1993. 1 would like to thank Jane Sillars and an anonymous reader at Theatre Research in Canada for their helpful and constructive comments on earlier drafts of this article.
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2 The first production dates of Tremblay's original plays are: Hosanna, 1973; A toi, pour toujours, ta Marie-Lou, 1973; Le Vrai Monde?, 1987; and La Maison suspendue, 1990.
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3 Fisher's turn of phrase subsequently served as the title for Carl Honoré's article on the Scots Tremblay phenomenon in the Toronto Globe and Mail thus reaching a Canadian as well as a British audience.
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4 ["this tragi-comedy which is at the well-spring of modern québécois theatre."]
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5 Note the prominence of "manipulation" in the titles of editor Theo Hermans's The Manipulation of Literature: Studies in Literary Translation and André Lefevere's Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literature, as well as the celebration of difference in translation in the collection of essays Difference in Translation edited by Joseph F. Graham. Susan Bassnett-McGuire discusses this relatively new orthodoxy in translation theory in her preface to the revised edition of Translation Studies (see particularly xvii), and, in their general editors' preface to Routledge's "Translation Studies" series, Bassnett and Lefevere write, "Rewriting is manipulation, undertaken in the service of power. . . " (in, e.g., Gentzler ix, and Bassnett and Lefevere, Translation, History and Culture, ix).
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6 For Bassnett-McGuire, translation "involves a series of decisions being taken about the function of both [source and target language] texts in their several contexts," function which may be moral, political, or cultural, function which is in any case ideological ("The Translator" 37).
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7 In drama and theatre studies this focus is borne out, for example, in the plethora of critical work on Jean-Claude Canière's and Peter Brook's Mahabharata and Hélène Cixous's and Ariane Mnouchkine's Indiade ou l'Inde de leur rêves, and many of the articles in both Interculturalism and Performance: Writings from PAJ edited by Bonnie Marranca and Gautarn Dasgupta, and The Dramatic Touch of Difference: Theatre, Own and Foreign edited by Erika Fischer-Lichte, Josephine Riley, and Michael Gissenwehrer.
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8 Findlay "The Scots Language" 34-36, and letter to the author, 13 May 1993.
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9 This second position is neatly articulated by Nancy Harstock in "Rethinking Modernism: Minority vs. Majority Theories" (26).
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10 I draw these "parallels" largely from those drawn previously by other critics. See, for instance, Bowman (45-46) and Honoré.
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11 These correspondences were suggested to me by the Scottish playwright, translator, director and dramaturge, Tom McGrath, who directed "Encounter with Michel Tremblay" (a dramatized essay) by Annika Bluhme as part of the Traverse Theatre's "Windows on the World" Canadian theatre weekend, 24 October 1992.
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12 In "Ways Through the Labyrinth: Strategies and Methods for Translating Theatre Texts," Bassnett-McGuire remarks that translators' use of source language context to frame target language text frequently results in a stereotypical-and hence usually comic-representation of source language culture (90).
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13 "Interrogating Identity" 41, the emphasis is mine.
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14 For Bhabha on hybridity see particularly his "Signs Taken for Wonders: Questions of Ambivalence and Authority under a Tree Outside Delhi, May 1817." 1 am indebted to one of Theatre Research in Canada's anonymous readers for suggesting the applicability of Bhabha's notion of hybridity here.
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15 As Alison Smith points out, while Lochhead takes issue with the "City of Culture" phenomenon, she does not reject it out of hand:

Where such writers as [Jim] Kelman and [Tom] Leonard were outspokenly dismissive and controversial about Glasgow's year as City of Culture, Lochhead is refreshingly equivocal. "I mean, obviously these things are just marketing ploys and hype, but they didn't seem to me to be intrinsically wicked. I thought it'd be interesting to see what Glasgow was like afterwards, and whether the money would disappear. It was being done for cynical reasons, certainly, but I enjoyed a lot of the things I saw that year, and I do think the more European and multicultural Glasgow becomes, the better for all its citizens, even the most dispossessed. To me it's simply not a case of either-or, as in either have festivals or fix the dampness in Easterhouse. That's quite an unhelpful way to look at it." (Smith 16)

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16 In Gibbon and MacDiarmid (199), quoted by Thomas C. Richardson (177). Of course, as the use of Scots in art and media in the 1990s runs the risk of appropriation and political dilution, so does joual. For writer and translator David Homel, "[O]nce the liberating effect of joual was felt, once this language, so typically québécois in its contradictions, was celebrated and moved closer to the mainstream, it became less imperative to write in it. Michel Tremblay's use of joual in the 1980s is anything but shocking and revolutionary" (58-59). Again, however, Homel's statement begs the question, whose mainstream?
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17 Brigitte Schultze explores names' denotative and connotative meanings in translation in "Problems of Cultural Transfer and Cultural Identity: Personal Names and Titles in Drama Translation."
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18 Both Jan McDonald and Alasdair Cameron, Scots and theatre scholars who generously read and commented on an earlier version of this article, associated The House Among the Stars's Duplessis with Marie Duplessis, the courtesan whose life and death inspired Alexandre Dumas fils's La Dame aux camilias. This association is obviously redolent with meanings (about class, love, betrayal, and victimization) but ones which are presumably, and at least in part, different from those conjured by Maurice Duplessis.
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19 At "The Waggle o' the Kilt," an autumn 1992 conference on Scottish culture at the University of Glasgow, Colin McArthur argued, for instance, that the characters Marina (sea) and Stella (star) signify a better Scottish future through the preservation of the "natural" Highland past in Bill Forsyth's 1983 film, Local Hero.
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20 Other textual elements which might be analyzed include: information which the texts provide regarding what Patrice Pavis calls "language-body" (36), Bassnett-McGuire calls "gestural patterning" (Translation Studies 132), and might simply be called "body language"; and handling of deictic units (particularly the dual forms of the French second person pronouns) and their effects on both characterization and the power dynamics of 25 character interaction (Bassnett-McGuire, "Ways Through. . . " 95ff).
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21 ["Boyd has had the idea of genius to make the kitchen walls disappear so that, tearing through a huge image of the Sacred Heart, the good sisters enter with those appliances (lawnmower, television, standing lamp, etc.) that Germaine Lauzon believed she had secured for herself."]
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22 I am indebted for this second reading to an anonymous reader at Theatre Research in Canada.
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23 The Guid Sisters' director Michael Boyd refers, for instance, to the "guiding principle ... that the anger and resentment of peripheral Québec and peripheral Scotland need not be channelled into either maudlin self-destruction, or escapist self-delusion, but can instead be sung with intelligence, dignity and bite."
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24 The phrase is that of Québec novelist Jacques Godbout (85).
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25 I adopt this note of enthusiasm from Edward Said (57).26 I recognize that, within the U.K., only one Scots production of a Tremblay translation (LadderMan's Forever Yours, Marie-Lou) has been taken outside of Scotland. When I write of British audiences and readers, I mean to include Scots who may identify as Britons.
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26 I recognize that, within the U.K., only one production of a Tremblay translation (LadderMan's Forever Yours, Marie-Lou) has been taken outside of Scotland. When I write of British audiences and readers, I mean to include Scots who may identify as Britons.
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