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Concordia’s Judith Weisz Woodsworth wins a Governor General’s Literary Award

The retired professor earns the honour for her translation of Histoire des Juifs du Québec by Pierre Anctil
November 25, 2022
Smiling woman with short, dark hair, wearing a brown leather jacket and a black shirt, sitting on a park bench amongst autumn leaves.
Judith Woodsworth: “It was both a delight and a privilege to have translated Pierre Anctil’s masterly history of the Jews in Quebec.” | Photo by Owen Egan and Joni Dufour

Judith Woodsworth, a recently retired translation studies professor from the Faculty of Arts and Science, is celebrating a big award.

Her English translation of Pierre Anctil’s Histoire des Juifs du Québec (Les Éditions du Boréal, 2017) received the prestigious 2022 Governor General’s Literary Award in the French-to-English translation category.

‘A form of writing unto its own’

“It was both a delight and a privilege to have translated Pierre Anctil’s masterly history of the Jews in Quebec,” says Woodsworth, a former Concordia president and professor in the Département d’études françaises.

Her English translation, History of the Jews in Quebec, was published by the University of Ottawa Press in 2021.

“Book translation, including the translation of literary non-fiction, is a form of writing unto its own,” says Lara Mainville, the press’s director. “Judith Weisz Woodsworth is amply deserving of this award.”

Woodsworth reveals that she was a fan of Anctil’s work before she signed on to translate his book.

“I first became acquainted with Pierre Anctil when he gave a talk at Concordia about translating historical documents from Yiddish to French,” she says. “I was intrigued by his passion for this language in decline and struck by the way in which translation provided him with a new window on the past.”

A spontaneous offer leads to a collaboration

The two met again at an awards ceremony where Anctil was being honoured for the book.

“Once again, I was fascinated by his interest in the culture and history of the Jewish community. The content of the book resonated with me, as a new Canadian and Québécoise by adoption,” says Woodsworth, who was born in Paris and grew up in Winnipeg before coming to Montreal to study at McGill University.

Woodsworth bought the book and agreed to translate it into English on the spot.

“A double affinity — with the author and with the subject matter — was the impetus for taking on what proved to be a far-from-simple but always riveting translation,” she adds.

New projects

Woodsworth already has new projects in the works.

She will be translating another historical text for the University of Ottawa Press, this time related to teaching history through media such as film, television series and videogames. Plus she is planning to translate a new novel.

“All of which makes for a busy retirement,” Woodsworth admits. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Learn more about the
Governor General’s Literary Award as well as Concordia’s Département d’études françaises.



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