"Quora despareissèron lu colombs": translating a Finnish bestseller to a minority language of France
Du 16 au 18 décembre 2013, l'Université de Helsinki accueillait un congrès de sociolinguistique intitulé Language revitalization in a Russian and European context: Exploring solutions for minority language maintenance
. À cette occasion, Sébastien Cagnoli et Miquèl de Carabatta ont présenté un projet de revitalisation d'une langue minorée de France par le biais de la traduction littéraire : la traduction du dernier roman de Sofi Oksanen en occitan niçois (avec le soutien du FILI
(cliquer sur les images pour agrandir)
À Helsinki, aujourd'hui, les noms de rues sont généralement bilingues (finnois-suédois). Près de la place du Sénat et de la statue d'Alexandre II, on trouve même une plaque trilingue, vestige du Grand-Duché de Finlande :
Pour Noël, la Cathédrale (luthérienne) offre une exposition de circonstance, consacrée au Presepio
, "l'art italien de la crèche" :
Pendant ce temps, au Théâtre national de Finlande (Kansallisteatteri
), on joue Quand les colombes disparurent
(Kun kyyhkyset katosivat
), la pièce tirée du roman de Sofi Oksanen, avec surtitres anglais et estoniens :
Quora despareissèron lu colombs: translating a Finnish bestseller to a minority language of France
November 2009, today’s two major Nissart and Komi theatre companies met in Syktyvkar,
where they performed plays in their respective languages. This experience led
to an unexpected comparison of the
theoretical and practical statuses of minority
languages in two different multilingual
cultural areas of Europe – France and Russia – with the examples of an
Occitan language in Nice and a Finno-Ugric one in Komi.
France and Russia are two of the few members of the Council of Europe that have
signed but never ratified the European
Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Whereas regional languages of
the Russian Federation have been theoretically favoured by the fundamental laws
but often actually depreciated, the French Republic constantly reaffirms the
denial of any official status to its regional languages
although some recognition may actually exist (e.g. opening of a Nissart-French
bilingual elementary school in September 2013).
languages are usually an obstacle to communication between distinct peoples, international
“folk” events are often limited to music, dance and visual arts rather than
drama. The success of the Nissart performance in Syktyvkar revealed that
language, far from being an obstacle, can be the very reason for the unexpected
meeting and understanding of two distant peoples.
This observation incited Nissart activists
to keep exploring ways of using their language as a means of international
cultural exchange. Thus was born a new literary project: translating into
Nissart a book of contemporary foreign literature, Sofi Oksanen’s latest novel Kun kyyhkyset katosivat.
this presentation shall explain the origins of the project. Why translate into
Nissart a book that is to be sooner or later available in French and English? As
a matter of fact, Occitan literature already has a long history, from the
medieval troubadours to the romantic revival of the 19th century and
Frédéric Mistral’s Nobel Prize; but the trans-cultural benefits of translation were
yet to develop.
we shall explain how this translation work was planned and realised. The team had
the constant preoccupation of always translating from Finnish to Nissart, the
French language being a mere tool among the persons involved in the process (one
of the translators can read Finnish and Nissart but cannot write the latter
properly; the other cannot read Finnish but is native in Nissart). An
interesting aspect of the choice of this contemporary text is that work began
as soon as the author finished writing her novel, a couple of months before the
original Finnish publication.
this presentation, we will make observations and conclusions about the effects of this work among the Nissart
and Occitan communities. The Occitan version was published under the title Quora despareissèron lu colombs in April
2013, a few weeks before the French one. It was the first translation of this
novel available outside Northern Europe. This project thus demonstrates that
the Nissart language is not just some “heritage of France” but a cultural tool which
can prove itself definitely alive and independent.
CAGNOLI Sébastien, Ńobdinsa Vittor et Francis Gag – Le théâtre au service de la langue,
Nice : Serre, 2011, 120 p. ill. [ISBN 978-2-86410-553-4]
OKSANEN Sofi, Quora despareissèron lu colombs [Kun kyyhkyset katosivat], translated from Finnish to Nissart
(Occitan) by Miquèl de Carabatta and Sébastien Cagnoli (with preface),
Nice : IEO-CREO PACA, 2013, 392 p. [ISBN 978-2-9530712-4-5]
ROMAŠIN Andrej, «В
Сыктывкаре французы с курицей “съели” русский колорит на уникальном языке» // КомиОнлайн, 27.11.2009. http://komionline.ru/news/17988
 In 1860, the “County of Nice” was
annexed to the French Empire and lost the status it had enjoyed since the 14th
century: its population was then partly exiled to Italy, partly merged with the
neighbouring population of Provence into a new administrative entity called
« département des Alpes-Maritimes » (a reference to the Roman Empire,
already used during the French occupation of 1792-1814). On the contrary, the
land of Komi, under Russian domination since the crusades of the 14th
century, gained autonomy in 1921, after the fall of the tsarist Empire; today
it is a Republic within the Russian Federation.
 Since 1992, the Constitution
declares French the only language of the Republic (art. 2 : « la
langue de la République est le français »). Since 2008, art. 75.1 (sic)
mentions « regional languages » as part of the cultural “heritage of
France” (like wine, cheese or the Palace of Versailles).
 “[T]he play did not
raise major problems for the
audience [...]. The performance presented by the actors from Nice – featuring
life of peasants, relationships between
young people – were very close and
understandable to everyone in the hall.” Romašin 2009.
“The reactions of the Komi audience are
significant. ‘You made Chekhov closer to us!’ exclaimed some spectators. Indeed Chekhov’s drama features Russians, landowners, people whose way of life is totally alien to
Komi. In transposing Chekhov’s comedy for the Nissart audience, in adapting it to the life of a rural house among the vineyards, Laurent Térèse has created characters in whom the Komi recognise themselves, characters more familiar to them than Chekhov’s Russians are. This encounter between Nissart and Komi dramatic arts has thus proven a
genuine mutual revelation.” Cagnoli 2011, p. 88-89.
(photos : Marie Casen & SC)