The other day, a dear friend gave me the address of a blog written by a French woman, a freelance translator like me, who, like me, lives in the UK. I logged on to it and found it an interesting read. I then looked at some of the comments and, to my horror, noticed a name I never wanted to see or hear again in my entire life.
Back in the 80s, before computers and even electric typewriters, I worked at the BBC French Service for a few months as a part-time translator and reader of news bulletins. When that man and I worked together (we usually worked in pairs), he would take one look at my translation and instantly crumple the piece of paper up and chuck it in the bin. All the while, puffing on cigarette after cigarette and making me cough. He’d been there for years so was supposed to supervise me. There was nothing wrong with my translations, by the way; he was just an arrogant misogynist and a bully. What we call a goujat, in French.
But, then, the whole culture of the French Service encouraged that type of behaviour: the newsroom was a noisy, smoky, stuffy place, which tried very hard to be reminiscent of old-fashioned newspaper offices, except that it was peopled with bitter losers – French would-be journalists who couldn’t make it in France. Some of them had been there since the war. Most of the time, the ones who had talent left after a few months, after they had acquired enough experience, and ended up working for prestigious radio or TV stations. Some of the others, well, they’re still there and I’d rather not be reminded of them.
So, I’d like to slap XK for making my life a misery and for setting a bad example to others who might have behaved a little better without him. Or maybe not.