This week I’m going over the final copy edit of my novel, Black Rock. The (terrific) copy editor, Jen, has put all the French in italics. So, the opening line of the book is:
Constable Eddie Dougherty climbed up the iron work of the Victoria Bridge onto the railway tracks and said to his partner standing by the radio car,“Yeah, c’est une bombe”
This is the traditional approach.
When I wrote the first draft I didn’t put the French in italics. It’s mostly in dialogue, the main character, Dougherty, has an English father and a French mother and he moves easily between the two languages so I felt that the words on the page should also move easily between the two languages.
For Canadians, anyway, I don’t think there’s anything in the book that would be too hard to understand with at least high school French and for everyone else I think it’s evident from context. Or maybe it’ll be a little frustrating, just like it can be to live somewhere with more than one language being spoken – which is pretty much everywhere now, isn’t it?
There is also this kind of thing in the book:
“You know a taverne dans le Point, s’appelle Nap?” he said in his Franglish and Dougherty said, “Yeah, Nap’s — Napoleon’s. I know it.”
And Delisle said, in English, “Go down there and get Detective Carpentier.” Being in Westmount must have thrown him off.
One of the bomb squad guys standing nearby packing up equipment said, “Is he drunk again?”
Delisle said, “Bring him au dix.”
I guess without italics the line, “Bring him au dix,” would be strange.
Then I came across this quote from Junot Diaz:
"Motherfuckers will read a book that’s 1/3 elvish, but put two sentences in Spanish and White people think we’re taking over."
But he didn’t say anything about italics. So what do you think?