Those mistakes that make us drop a book

Are there mistakes that we are more forgiving than others when we encounter them in a book?

Posted at 7:00 am

Laila Maalouf

Laila Maalouf
The press

Chantale Cusson had reached almost three quarters of the Beirut Syndrome, a novel by Alexandre Najjar when she stopped reading. The author then referred to Haiti as “that island in the Pacific.”

“It’s such a big mistake,” she says indignantly. Although she enjoyed the last 200 or so pages, she has no intention of reading again. Because “that kind of error,” she says, makes her question the accuracy of the rest of the content.

But the woman, who has been a reviewer amidst magazines for more than 30 years, says she’s lenient when she finds typos in a novel. Despite “the urge to scream” when these multiply.

Marie-Anne Poggi, avid reader and initiator of the Club des Irrésistibles, who has already run about twenty monthly book clubs in Montreal libraries, believes she has noticed an “exponential” increase in errors in novels published by “renowned” French publishers were published. She now notes all the errors that occurred while reading and forwards them to the house in question – despite the lack of feedback.

So it’s the in Your absence is only darknessby Icelander Jón Kalman Stefánsson, she noticed 14 mistakes – missing words, wrong chords, etc. – which she stated at the very end of her review of the book posted on the Irresistibles website, even though she “enjoyed” reading it.

We know it happens, mussels. But sometimes I find it really shocking. If the error appears every 10 pages, something is wrong. It bothers me when reading. I think of the person who pays $25 or $30 and then stops reading because it shocks them too much…

Marie-Anne Poggi, initiator of the Club des Irrésistibles

As early as 2016, translators and proofreaders in France demonstrated to express their dissatisfaction with their working conditions and to denounce the decline in quality that the book is threatened with. Too fast working speeds imposed by the translations of highly anticipated novels like those in the Millennium series or Harry Potter, was also highlighted by the French literary magazine ActuaLitte. One proofreader in the publishing world had even revealed that “some publishers sometimes skipped the proofreading stage”.

Quebec is fine

In Quebec, on the other hand, the situation is very different. “There are at least three pairs of eyes reading the entire text — an editor, a proofreader, and a proofreader,” and all houses work in a fairly similar way, notes Renaud Roussel, deputy publishing manager at Boreal.

Many Quebec publishers go as far as naming proofreaders and proofreaders, particularly at the end of the book, at La Peuplade, or on the cover at Libre Expression, Marchand de Feuilles, Druid, Québec Amérique, XYZ, or even Stanké, among many others.

Olga Duhamel-Noyer, literary director of Éditions Héliotrope, evokes “praise for the slowness” from the Montreal house, for taking the time to do things well.


Olga Duhamel-Noyer, literary director of Éditions Héliotrope, in 2014

The editor, the proofreader, like the author or the author, everyone will try to catch typos, mistakes, mistakes to make it as clean as possible and as correct as possible.

Olga Duhamel-Noyer, literary director of the Éditions Héliotrope

As a rule, the corrections are initially made quite quickly in the digital editions, which are subject to updates; in a second step, they can then be used in possible reprints or new editions in pocket format.

“When I got into the business about thirty years ago, everything was much more improvised; The profession has become much more professional in Quebec and the delays are longer than in the past,” adds Le Boréal Publishing Director Jean Bernier.


Jean Bernier, publishing director of Le Boréal, in 2013

According to him, there would be an American influence to do things for Quebec publishers. “There is a rather delightful book by [l’écrivain français] Jean Echenoz on Jerome Lindon [son éditeur durant plus de 20 ans]who talks about her conversations with him. They went to a very nice restaurant for dinner to discuss his book and they talked about putting a comma at the end of the meal. I’m exaggerating, because of course there are French publishers who work much more rigorously, but American publishers have very intrusive teams. And since we’re in a North American environment in Quebec, there’s something of that more interventionist nature that we have to adopt. Writers expect that,” he says.

“What is certain is that the demand for perfection, which we never achieve, is even greater for a book because we basically have the time to do things well,” adds Jean Bernier. A book is always important and must be given all the care one can give it. We must not forget that there are people who will read it in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years; hence it has this somewhat definitive character, which is both a great challenge and its great strength. »

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