A Provisional Life (Oberon) by Andre Major (translated by Sheila Fischman) got me thinking about the difference between a balcony and a porch. I read a lot of translated literature so I can usually overlook the occasional odd word usage, but when the main character walked through the countryside to his cousin's house and then left his muddy boots on the balcony to dry, I couldn't ignore it. If this were the only flaw in an otherwise well-translated story, I wouldn't even bring it up. But several more times while reading A Provisional Life I stumbled over the language, particularly in regard to the pronoun he. 'The main character with the muddy boots is never named, so when he encounters other people of his gender, it is often difficult to determine just who "he" is.
Even this irritation would not have been worth mentioning if, upon finishing A Provisional Life, I had not read The Blue Circus (Cormorant) by Jacques Savoie, also translated by Sheila Fischman. Same translator, different story. Here the prose flows smoothly from start to finish, and even features the word lexiphone, which I have never heard in any language. So was Fischman just having a bad spell, or did the text somehow elude the red pen of an editor, or were the editor's or translator's suggestions refused by the writer? In any case, here we have two more books about men trying to find themselves, but read them anyway: A Provisional Life because the characters are interesting and complex and are living through an eastern Canadian winter, and The Blue Circus because it will take you into a whimsical place of circus, books and poetry, all accompanied by the weird but beautiful music of the lexiphone.