Brébeuf et ses frères : A French translation of Brébeuf and His Brethren by E. J. Pratt
I must first explain why I decided to translate into French a poem which may appear to be dated, old-fashioned and uninteresting for the modern reader. Edwin John Pratt's Brebeuf and his Brethren, which was first published in 1940, is a long narrative poem relating the story of the Jesuit martyr Jean de Brebeuf in 17th-century New France. So, one might ask, why would anyone want to read a French version of a relatively old rendition of an old tale? Well, first of all, E.J. Pratt's reputation as a poet stands higher than that of most other poets in English Canada. And, to the best of my knowledge, none of his work has been translated into French. In addition, according to Pratt's admittedly partial judgement, even though the story is three hundred years old, "it is contemporary. It will always remain with its own message in every age. "But what drew my attention to that particular poem was the fact that Pratt, an English Protestant, had decided to devote his longest poem to a Catholic Frenchman, to whom only a few lines would normally be devoted in an English history textbook. As Henry Wells puts it, one singular aspect of Brebeuf and his Brethren is the fact that it is "the story of Roman Catholics told by a Protestant, thE story of Frenchmen told by an English Canadian. "I was also fascinated to learn that, before writing that poem, Pratt had totally immersed himself in the religious world of the Jesuits, in order to become completely familiar with their philosophy and practice. "To get inside Brebeuf," said Pratt, lived for a year practically with the Jesuits, observed the Mass, spent hours and days in the Cathedrals before the altars."As a result, the poem was widely acclaimed by English and French Canadians alike. Guy Sylvestre, a literary critic and anthologist, wrote: "Poème d’une exactitude historique absolue, d'une objectivité constante, d'une rare élévation d'esprit, Brebeuf est une oeuvre authentiquement canadienne, non pas seulement par le sujet, mais aussi par l'âme. "And in The Bush Garden, Northrol Frye goes so far as to say that Brebeuf "is not only the greatest but the most complete Canadian narrative. "Whether we share that critical assessment or not is irrelevant, since translation and evaluation are not fundamentally parallel activities. However, on must admit that these views grant Brebeuf and his Brethren a certain status in Canadian letters.