Pierre Furlan’s Bluebeard’s Workshop & Other Stories is translated from French by Victoria University lecturer Jean Anderson.This book is a wonderful collection of stories about the games we play and the tales we tell.
Furlan is the author of five fictional books and a number of short literary essays. He is also a leading literary translator, who has interpreted works by Alan Duff and Elizabeth Knox amongst many others.
He won the 2006 Laure Bataillon prize for the best translation of a work of fiction into French. As writer in residence at the Randell Cottage in Wellington in 2004-2005 he followed that as literary advisor to the Belles-Etrangeres tour of France, by New Zealand writers, in November 2006 and won the Laure Bataillon prize for the best translation of a work of fiction into French the same year.
The title story, “Bluebeard’s Workshop”, tells the story of a group of writers involved in a writer’s workshop, exploring a story which has sold three million copies, along with how story ideas are used, reworked and transformed.
Three of the stories were also written and set in New Zealand – ‘Night Shift’, ‘Paekakariki’ and ‘My Boxing Career’. The former is a story set in Dunedin about the writer’s friendship with Will Somerville (who can read all European languages, fluently speak five or six of them and has a crush on a German secretary). The latter two stories are based in the Wellington region. The first narrates an afternoon trip to Paekakariki, and ‘My Boxing Career’ describes Furlan’s own experiences of being talked into joining a friend in the boxing ring.
One of the surprising and refreshing aspects I discovered of Furlan’s writing were the small yet telling depictions of New Zealand’s history. For instance, the Wakefield Company allocated land so steep that only goats were able to climb it. Furlan also illustrates the way that the 1860’s Maori wars were portrayed in more recent times.