This thesis analyzes Ying Chen's Les Lettres Chinoises through the lenses of literary translation, migrant writing and epistolary genres, as well as through critical theory of Chen's poetics in order to inform a translation of said novel from French into English. This theoretical groundwork is accompanied by analysis of the process of the translation, including specifications, methods used, and justifications for translation decisions. Les Lettres Chinoises is Ying Chen's second novel, written in French rather than her native Chinese language. Spanning a fifty-seven letter exchange between Shanghai and Montreal, Chen's choice to write in language other than her first, as well as the themes presented in the novel such as emigration, exile, identity, and Otherness, render Chen's novel ideal for critical discussion in the domain of migrant writing theory. Translating any exophonic text presents particular challenges for the translator and the analysis of these difficulties enrich both the translation as well as an understanding of the migrant writing genre. Inherent in these challenges is negotiating transparency (foreignization versus domestication) in the translation of cultural traces that speak of other traditions and realities. Chen's Les Lettres Chinoises is unique among migrant texts however, because she privileges voice through the use of the epistolary genre, a form that bespeaks a 19th century Western tradition. Her choice of this genre provides insight into the literary and cultural traditions that shaped her writing and encourage the reader as well as the translator to consider, or rather reconsider, the novel's intent. Les Lettres Chinoises contributes to the migrant and epistolary genres, redefining and enhancing each respectively. Chen's prerogatives as viewed through these lenses are varied: through her three letter-writing characters she reenacts literal and existential exile, creates a space of enunciation through letter writing, all while defining her own poetic style in another language. I negotiated these prerogatives in the translation by creating three subtly distinct and evolving voices for each of the characters. I used existing translations of Chen's works to create consistency in style and accuracy. Included as well are excerpts from my final translation.



College and Department

Humanities; French and Italian



Date Submitted


Document Type





Les Lettres Chinoises, Ying Chen, exophonic translation, migrant writing, epistolary novel, exile, foreignization, domestication