Prairie Fire publishes second bilingual issue


Arts - prairiefire1

Canada’s two official languages have united this winter in Manitoba’s literary world.

Prairie Fire, an award-winning literary magazine in Manitoba, launched its second bilingual issue on Feb. 10.

“This is a rare intersection of the French and English worlds,” said Andris Taskans, editor of Prairie Fire.

The winter issue is a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Manitoban publisher Éditions du Blé, Western Canada’s first French-language publishing house.

“What we’ve done is a very tiny, little attempt to crack the door open,” said Taskans. “[It’s letting] people have a look inside about what some of these people in the other linguistic world are doing.”

The issue’s name, Rendez-vous, means “gathering or meeting” in French. It features 13 French-speaking authors whose work, originally written in French, is translated into English. Both the original and translated writings are published in the issue.

“If one isn’t fluently bilingual, then one is always at a disadvantage in this country because there is a whole literature going on that is inaccessible,” said Taskans.

According to Statistics Canada, 8.6 per cent of Manitobans are bilingual. Rendez-vous allows English-speakers to enjoy writing they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to, said Taskans. But it didn’t come easy.

Éditions du Blé’s 40th anniversary was in 2014, but it took time to sort through the difficulties of publishing in two languages.

“It’s a lot of trouble to publish in two languages because there is always the need to translate. And for us, funding in this country tends to favour magazines in either language,” said Taskans.

Jordyn Weselake, a bilingual 21-year-old student at Université de Saint-Boniface, said she’s happy Prairie Fire took the time and effort to translate the writings.

“Right now, they do the opposite. They translate things from English to French,” said Weselake. “There is obviously such a huge shortage of French papers and stories compared to English because French isn’t our first language.”

Weselake is a native English-speaker, but spends a lot of time with Manitoba’s Francophone community as an aspiring French immersion teacher.

“I think this issue will help integrate the French and English speaking Manitobans because at least then we’ll see French writers being more well knovwn,” said Weselake.