Laura Ruiz Montes Gisele Pineau

A post by Peter Jordens.

As mentioned in our previous post, Launched: Spanish translation of Gisèle Pineau’s “L’exil selon Julia”, Cuban translator Laura Ruíz Montes won the biennial ‘José Rodríguez Feo’ Literary Translation Award for her translation of Gisèle Pineau’s L’exil selon Julia (1996) into Spanish for the Cuban reading market (El exilio según Julia, 2017).

Norge Céspedes of Mar Desnudo writes that Laura Ruíz Montes (1966) is a poet, essayist and editor whose translations, from French into Spanish, have appeared in numerous Cuban and foreign journals. They include texts by French authors such as Anne Hébert, Romain Gary and Sonia Anguelova, as well as Francophone Caribbean writers such as Gisèle Pineau, Gerty Dambury, Louis-Philippe Dalembert, Emmelie Prophète, Rodney Saint-Éloi and Dany Laferrière.

The ‘José Rodríguez Feo’ Literary Translation Award is a biennial award bestowed by UNEAC, the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. Laura Ruíz Montes is the first woman to receive it. The jury for the Award noted that Ruíz Montes’ work stood out for “the excellent solutions given to idiomatic turns and equivalents, as well as to the language level corresponding to the cultural context and age group of the characters, and the translator’s special contribution, i.e., the enriching footnotes that enable the diaphanous comprehension of the situations of exile and racism present in this novel.”

For the full, original news article (in Spanish), go to The above photo, showing Laura Ruíz Montes and Gisèle Pineau, is from the website of the French Embassy in Cuba,

Our readers with an interest in the art of translation may wish to take note of a recent article in Literatura: teoría, historia, crítica in which Ruíz Montes reflects upon her experience translating L’exil selon Julia. She explains that translating a diglossic text (French and Guadeloupean Creole) into a single language (Cuban Spanish) is challenging, considering that the contentious and hierarchical relationship that exists in Guadeloupe between French and Creole does not have a parallel in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. The approach that she used consists of: (1) employing different language levels (from colloquial to literary) within the Cuban variant of Spanish to translate certain emotional and conative uses of Creole, (2) using certain Cuban pejoratives for racist expressions in French, (3) consulting the author (Gisèle Pineau), and (4) making use of explanatory footnotes, especially when it is basically impossible to translate a particular Creole word or Guadeloupean concept. She states: “Trying to transfer and translate the diglossia of the Francophone Caribbean into Spanish entails gradually developing respect for the opacity of each culture as the only way to attain linguistic clarity in a translation. Taking the time and having the humility to construct language levels and create footnotes helps one to understand and ‘translate’ the untranslatable. […] Translating a Caribbean literary work from one [Caribbean] language into another adds meaning as it bridges, connects and situates the two languages and cultures as equals.” She also notes that translating a text such as L’exil selon Julia, which expresses the pains of exile and racism, becomes a political act.

Ruiz Montes’ reflection, “Traducir el exilio. Traducir el país natal: notas sobre una experiencia”, Literatura: teoría, historia, crítica 19.2 (2017): 275-290, is available at

[Shown above: Laura Ruíz Montes (left) and Gisèle Pineau (right).]

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