The death of Marie-Claire Pasquier, translator and specialist in American literature

Long a professor of North American literature and a translator involved in theatrical adaptations, Marie-Claire Pasquier died in Paris on August 29, at the age of 90

The death of Marie-Claire Pasquier, translator and specialist in American literature

Long a professor of North American literature and a translator involved in theatrical adaptations, Marie-Claire Pasquier died in Paris on August 29, at the age of 90.

When Marie-Claire Pasquier was born in the same city on July 7, 1933, her family was in mourning, the grandfather of her mother, Lucile, President Paul Doumer, having been assassinated on May 6, 1932, less than a year later his entry into the Elysée. If his great-grandfather came from a modest background, the child grew up in a middle-class, traditional and cultured family. During the war, she moved to Vendôme (Loir-et-Cher) for a time, before returning to Paris and the 7th arrondissement – ​​she entered the Victor-Duruy high school in 1943, where she completed all of her secondary schooling. If she undertook a hypokhâgne at the Fénelon high school, she especially then made her first stay in England, a year at a boarding school, a detestable experience but which ensured her an excellent level of language.

When Marcel Pasquier died in 1950, his widow remarried the deceased's older brother, Jean Pasquier, an associate professor of classics, then in charge of the French Institute in Naples, where he invited André Gide to give his last "talk". When the family left for Italy, Marie-Claire stayed in Paris to study at the Sorbonne. A degree in English, then the diploma of higher studies (1954) then required to present the aggregation – which she obtained in 1958. But soon a Fulbright travel grant and a Smith-Mundt grant from the United States government allowed her to spend a year and a half at Cornell University (New York State), where she received her Master of Arts in June 1955. She then decided to stay across the Atlantic for a while, becoming a representative for a photography agency and travels through the Western States. This exceptional experience sealed his love for the country.

Heading for Algeria

Returning to France, she set sail for Algeria at war, her first post as an associate trainee taking her to the high school for young girls in Kouba, near Algiers (1958-1961). A new, turbulent period of discovery, where she became friends with soldiers from the contingent, sympathizers of the Algerian cause, the philosophers Solange Mercier-Josa (1931-2015) and Jacques Derrida (1930-2004), who had just married his friend the psychoanalyst Marguerite Aucouturier (1932-2020) and is about to return to Europe, the high school student Leïla Sebbar, who will remain a very close friend. Like the photographer and director Chris Marker (1921-2012) whom she met then.

Returning to Ile-de-France, she taught in Mantes-la-Jolie, then in Sèvres, and there again formed decisive and lasting friendships. With the philosopher Elisabeth de Fontenay, who will be the godmother of her son Emmanuel and will co-sign with her Traduire le parle des animaux (L'Herne, 2008), taken up in a volume of two lectures given during the Assises de la Traduction in Arles in 2006 Arles, where Marie-Claire Pasquier is fully involved by inviting Jacques Roubaud like Michel Deguy, Hélène Cixous and Barbara Cassin, Jacques Derrida too, of course, and above all by providing translation workshops.

The opening of the University of Paris-Nanterre in 1964, to relieve congestion at the Sorbonne, offered Marie-Claire a position in higher education. Appointed assistant in 1965, she lived there in May 68 and participated in the transformation of the university that followed. Assistant professor (1970), lecturer (1988), full professor (1993), she spent her entire career there until becoming emeritus in 2001.

Involved in an international feminist group

When she defended her state thesis, “Gertrude Stein, theater and theatricality”, in February 1991, Marie-Claire Pasquier had already established herself as a specialist in avant-garde theater. Author of an essay on The American Theater of Today (PUF, 1978), she collaborated with Cahiers Renaud-Barrault, created by her friend the director Simone Benmussa (1931-2001), with whom she worked on Camera obscura (1982), a play based on the texts of Gertrude Stein and quotes from her companion, Alice Toklas, translated Lear, by Edward Bond (1972), edited by Patrice Chéreau at the TNP in 1975, or even Faust ou la electric fairy, by Stein, for Richard Foreman in 1982.

The field of fiction also owes a lot to her: she notably translated Jack London, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Kennedy, Norman Maclean, Philip Roth (Exit the Phantom, Indignation, The Fallen, Nemesis), Virginia Woolf (Mrs Dalloway), Oscar Wilde...

Engaged in an international and interdisciplinary feminist group since the 1970s – she herself had chosen to have a child “on her own” – the Anglicist directed the collective work Stratégies des femmes (Tierce, 1984, published in the States -United in 1986) and collaborated on a number of feminist magazines. Linked to Antoinette Fouque and the Librairie des Femmes, it is in her translation that Catherine Deneuve gave her voice for the audiobook Mrs Dalloway (Editions des Femmes-Antoinette Fouque, 2020).