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Residencies In Review: Villa Gillet

Residencies in Review highlights international residencies for writers and translators of French by sharing the experiences of past participants. Some of these programs provide literary artists with structure, scheduled workshops, meetings, and excursions, while others provide the time and space to work away from the concerns of day-to-day life and let the writers and translators plan their own work schedules.

In this edition, Marjolijn de Jager shares her experiences at the Villa Gillet in Lyon.

Born in Indonesia, raised in The Netherlands, and residing in the USA since the age of 22, Marjolijn de Jager translates from the French and the Dutch.  Francophone African literature has a special place in her heart.  She is retired from a lengthy career in teaching French and Francophone language and literature, and translation is now her full-time occupation.  Among her honors are an NEA grant, two NEH grants and, in 2011, the annually awarded ALA Distinguished Member Award received from the African Literature Association for scholarship, teaching, and translations of African Literature. She has translated books by Leïla Sebbar, Assia Djebar, Calixthe Beyala, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, Tahar Djaout, and many more important Francophone authors. Her recent translation of The Past Ahead by Gilbert Gatore (Indiana University Press, 2012) received a French Voices Award.

Dates of your residency:1 – 30 September 2007

Project you worked on while at the Villa Gillet:The novel Riwan by Ken Bugul.  She is a Senegalese writer, of whom I had already translated a previous book, Le baobab fou (The Abandoned Baobab, University of Virginia Press, 2008).  The American publisher who had indicated a serious interest in the Riwan project was subsequently unable to follow through, alas.

Please tell us a bit about your experience at the Villa Gillet:The guests are housed in Les Subsistances, a former seventeenth-century convent on the river Saône, in the heart of the city of Lyon.  One’s room is thus a former nun’s cell with high ceilings, thick walls, and tall windows.  The atmosphere is serene and silent, perfect for working in solitude.  The honorarium is sufficient for covering local transportation and groceries, and one can cook in the small kitchenette that was part of my room, at least, which was perfectly comfortable for one person and perhaps even a visitor.

Lyon is an amazingly walkable city, with a wealth of parks, museums, churches, theaters, and an opera house.

My daily schedule was to work all morning, then go out for lunch (either to eat out in a local bistro or to have a picnic on a park bench), take a long 1- to 2-hour walk and then return for an afternoon of work.  I usually prepared dinner in my own room, occasionally eating at the Subsistances Restaurant (excellent food).  My evenings were spent at some of the performances or lectures at the Villa Gillet or at the Subsistances itself, at a theater, or else in the room with a book or my knitting, listening to concerts or lectures on the radio.

It was undoubtedly one of the finest months I have spent in France! 

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York and La Villa Gillet in Lyon offer a one residency each year for translators who seek to devote a period of uninterrupted work to a current project. Whenever possible, the Villa Gillet also organizes one or more public events with the translator.

Support goes to translators of both fiction and non-fiction projects.

Contemporary projects are favored. Translators may submit projects only when the foreign rights are available.

Only translators living in the US may apply. If interested, please contact anne-sophie.hermil@diplomatie.gouv.fr for more information and to submit an application.

For more information about the Villa Gillet and other residency programs, please visit the Residencies in Review homepage.