Friday, April 18, 2014

Inside the Des Voix Mind: Kimberly Jannarone & Erik Butler on Christophe Honoré and "Un Jeune se tue"

Christophe Honoré's work has been haunting this translator for years, although I didn't know it until I woke up in a panicked sweat in an apartment in Paris last Fall, rushing to turn on the lights, trying to shake off the most intensely frightening dream I'd had in years.

I'd just landed in France the night before, and before I went to bed, I'd finished reading "Un Jeune se Tue," one of the plays we were considering for Des Voix.  I wrote in my assessment that it was a powerful play, "a look at youthful fear and aggression through the prism of sex and death," one that emanated intelligence, rawness, and a distinct poetic sensibility.  A dark road late at night; a car crash; a severed arm; a ghost; young friendships re-evaluated; life.  I was drawn to it.  I thought we should do it.  I said so, and I went to sleep.

And then, hours later, in my jetlagged dreams, the ghost of the young girl, Gaëlle, turned to me and spoke.  She wasn't nice—she wasn't happy about dying so young.  She embodied youth's anger, desire, scorn, frustration. They were radiating out from her in relentless waves.  To deal with her, I had to wake up.  I called Erik, back in California, and told him we had to do this play.

It's rare to encounter a play that climbs so insidiously into your psyche, whose impact you don't even reckon until your unconscious alerts you to its presence.  Honoré had crafted such a piece.  And it turned out he'd done it before.

Several years earlier, I was sitting in a different apartment in another area of Paris.  I was watching late-night tv.  A movie came on: Isabelle Huppert.  George Bataille.  Deviance, sex, and death.  It was "Ma Mère," and I watched it alone at 2am.  It haunted me.  I never spoke to anyone about it.  It wasn't until Gaëlle's ghost woke me up last fall that I realized "Ma Mère" was Honoré's work.  It was another master feat of atmosphere, character, and storytelling.  The intensity of desire.  The immediateness of youth.  The poetry of menace.  The fear and allure of death.  The heartbreak of beauty.

Back in California, Erik and I read the first scene of "Un Jeune se tue" together, hooked by the uninhibited thought, the audacity of the plot, the genuineness of the characters, the immediacy of the language.  We sought to convey some of that power in our translation, so that you, too, might be haunted by the dark brilliance of Christophe Honoré, at least for a while.

- Kimberly Jannarone & Erik Butler, Des Voix Festival Translators

"Un Jeune se tue" or Death of a Young Man by Christophe Honore will be presented in two staged readings the weekend of May 8-11 at the Tides Theatre, part of the Des Voix Festival. 

Des Voix...Biennial 2014: A Festival of New French Plays and Cinema features the American Premiere of Communiqué n˚10, three new French Plays in translation, five french film screenings and a Bal Littéraire, a New Play Night Club.  

Purchase a Full Festival Pass here and gain access to every event available in Des Voix!

Check out the Des Voix Festival website for more information, including links to buy tickets, a full festival schedule and directions on how to find where the Left Bank Meets the Left Coast.  

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