CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 4. . . .September 27, 2013
Millions for a Song is Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou's translation of André Vanasse's Des Millions pour une chanson, which was originally shortlisted for the Governor-General's Literary Award in Children's Literature in 1988. Millions for a Song tells the tale of Nexxtep, a young francophone band that finds early success only to be duped by a shady manager who steals their first album.
Nexxtep consists of Alex, Mélanie, Bruno and Jean-François, four talented teens who work hard to create their album. After their initial successful gig, they are approached by Tom, a slick manager who promises multiple performances and stardom if they sign a contract with him. Though wary, the band members agree to sign with him, believing that they could likely get out of their agreement through a loophole. Tom pulls through and fulfills his end of the bargain by arranging multiple performances. The performances and initial taste of fame distract the band from realizing that Tom has stolen the rights to their first album.
The story is told in the first person according to Alex’s perspective. Morelli and Ouriou’s translation easily conveys the band’s passion for music and song writing as well as the affection and attraction amongst them. However, despite the pair’s able translation, there are awkward passages which reflect the fact that Vanasse wrote the novel 25 years ago, namely in terms of culture and technology. While hipster teens may appreciate the reference to The Box given the recent resurgence in New Wave culture and the seemingly timeless use of Macintosh computers, they may cringe at the mention of Nickelback within the same line as Dire Straits, The Police and U2. Likewise, they may be puzzled by the mention of Les Classels, Marjo and Corey Hart.
In the interview notes within the back of the book, Morelli and Ouriou, themselves, acknowledge the challenge of translating the original story which was set in the mid to late eighties and updating it to a modern context. Given that Vanasse specifically wrote the book to discuss contemporary youth culture, they developed their translation based on the principles of staying true to the author’s intent and ensuring readers were left with the same images and emotions they would have had if they read the original rather than producing a literal translation.
However, despite the outdated cultural references, the novel is still a good introduction for teens to the concept of copyright and its practical use. Given that music today no longer has a physical manifestation and is easily transmitted and replicated, teens should be aware of the issues with piracy, the value of content and authorship, copyright reform and violations. Moreover, although Vanasse only touches on the topic of language politics briefly in the initial pages of the novel, it provides teens with a glimpse of francophone culture and the complexity inherent in residing on a French island within an anglophone sea.
The brevity of the novel and its easy-to-read format would be recommended for reluctant readers. Its content may appeal to musically inclined teens.
Jenice Batiforra was previously a Branch Head Librarian at the Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.