This book traces the remarkable journey of Hébert’s shifting authorial identity as versions of her work traveled through complex and contested linguistic and national terrain from the late 1950s until today. At the center of this exploration of Hébert’s work are the people who were inspired by her poetry to translate and more widely disseminate her poems to a wider audience.
Exactly how did this one woman’s work travel so much farther than the vast majority of Québécois authors? Though the haunting quality of her art partly explains her wide appeal, her work would have never traveled so far without the effort of scores of passionately committed translators, editors, and archivists. Though the work of such “middle men” is seldom recognized, much less scrutinized as a factor in shaping the meaning and reach of an artist, in Herbert’s case, the process of translating Hébert’s poetry has left in its wake a number of archival and other paratextual resources that chronicle the individual acts of translation and their reception.
Though the impact of translation, editions, and archival work has been largely ignored in studies of Canadian literary history, the treasure trove of such paratextual records in Hébert’s case allows us to better understand the reach of her work. More importantly, it provides insight into and raises critical questions about the textually mediated process of nation-building and literary canon formation.